BlackBerry today announced the full details of the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 devices – its new devices that will be running on the brand new BlackBerry 10 operating system.  Little information was given about the hardware; however we were told that the Z10 has a 4.2-inch touchscreen (which is in line with smartphone user requirements) and the Q10 keeps the full BlackBerry QWERTY physical keyboard – so consumers will have options.

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From the hands-on experience I had with the device, plus what was shown during the launch demos, BlackBerry 10 has a very sleek UI. Transitions are slick, and it looks great - you can see the work that has gone into it from The Astonishing Tribe (the design capability that RIM gained via its acquisition of TAT).

BlackBerry Flow and Peek provide users with a real-time multi-tasking experience. This has been designed to provide a very innovative experience, and is something that has the potential to be extremely useful for the end user - they can now quickly glance at updates in the BlackBerry Hub before deciding whether to move to the Hub, or continue with what they are already doing.

One of the biggest challenges that BlackBerry needs to overcome is the potential steep learning curve that a gesture driven UI provides. BlackBerry has consciously decided not to include a 'home' key, and in the short time I used the device, every time I wanted to end an application and find my main menu of apps, I found myself looking for this key. The other challenge with gestures is their intuitiveness, and how easy they are to discover. I am told that a tutorial at the start will help users to discover and learn these gestures, as well as educational advertising, and that once familiar, navigation and accessing applications is quick and straightforward.

The other big challenge is the ecosystem. BlackBerry has been working extremely hard to help develop this, and at launch, BlackBerry 10 will have around 75,000 apps available. This is a great number for the launch of a new platform, but is still lacking considerably behind Apple and Android - will consumers be prepared to give up their current platform and switch to a less complete eco-system?

On the face of it, BlackBerry 10 seems a very viable alternative smartphone operating system. It has some great innovative features, and BlackBerry Flow and Peek look like they provide a fresh new approach to the user interface. Time will tell if BlackBerry can persuade consumers to give BlackBerry 10 a try?

*A full UX benchmark of the first devices will be available to WDL clients shortly after launch.

- Paul Brown