Leaked Images of BlackBerry 10 OS Show Numerous Refinements

It’s unclear if a series of leaked pictures that were obtained by BlackBerry-centric site CrackBerry will represent RIM’s final vision for its next-generation BlackBerry 10 operating system or if the images are concepts that are still being tuned and developed. Whatever the case may be, the images depict numerous refinements and enhancements to the BlackBerry operating system similar to what Nokia Belle offered to the Symbian^3 platform.

At a glance, visually, there is now a shortcut tray at the bottom of the screen that will house three shortcut keys for search, phone, and camera. Curiously, as many BlackBerry smartphones have four hardware or capacitive touch OS navigation buttons at the bottom (Call send, BlackBerry or Menu, Back, and Call end), the phone button would seemingly duplicate some, if not all, of the functionality offered by the Call send navigation button. Having a quick shortcut key to the camera would help to make BlackBerry smartphones more consumer-friendly, especially from stiff camera competition from Apple’s iPhone, Samsung’s Galaxy lineup, or Sony’s XPERIA lineup. With Windows Phone 7 supporting a dedicated hardware camera key for quick launching the camera, the on-screen camera key would at least position RIM as at least trying to listen to the interests of its consumer customers. It’s unclear if the navigation shortcuts at the bottom of the screen will be user programmable.

The icons for BlackBerry 10 will also be more smart. For instance, the icon for launching the Pictures or gallery app now shows a stack of photos, with the most recent photo downloaded or captured by the user on top. This is similar to the photo stacks as shown on Apple’s OS X iPhoto application.

There’s also a new and more refined call screen, giving users easy touch-based access to important features and functionality when within a call, such as activating speakerphone, muting a call, adding another caller to the call, or activating the keypad.

The email app has been modernized and refined and does support, as BlackBerry devices have in the past, universal inbox functionality.

There’s also more subtle changes to how folders are displayed within BlackBerry 10 OS. Now, like on iOS, Folders are dynamic and will show the content of the apps or shortcuts contained within them.

BlackBerry 10 OS will be a major step for RIM, much like how Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich was for Google. The platform will begin merging the smartphone OS and the tablet OS found on RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook OS. In doing so, BlackBerry 10 will be based on the same QNX OS framework that the BlackBerry PlayBook was based on, and will help RIM tackle multitasking, multimedia, and processor-intensive applications.

A leaked new touchscreen-only smartphone called the BlackBerry London is expected to debut the BlackBerry 10 operating system when launched.