The phones. The new BlackBerry touch-screen model has a sleek design and two physical controls: a power button at the top and a volume/pause rocker switch on the right side. This is the only platform besides Android that supports phones with a physical keyboard.
Older BlackBerry phones still on the market can't run the new operating system, but they'll be supported for a while. They have strong points, including a Send button for making calls (increasingly rare on smart phones) and an end (hang-up) button, which also serves as the Home button. Controls include a menu button for summoning task options, a return key for backing out of the most recent action, and often a trackpad or trackball for scrolling and selecting.
The interface. The BlackBerry OS and phones have been radically redesigned, centered on a simpler interface with square-shaped, iPhone-like icons that provide more direct access to core functions and fewer options for fiddling with settings. You can use gestures and swipes to enhance e-mail and messaging, key functions for many BlackBerry fans.
The control system, called BlackBerry Flow, relies on finger sweeps and other gestures made on a touch screen. For example, sliding your thumb up from the bottom of the screen and then to the right takes you to the Hub, a list of calls, messages, and calendar alerts received by the phone. Slide your thumb to the right again to filter messages--say, by Yahoo or Gmail account. To access wireless connections, alarms, and settings, slide your finger down from the top of the screen. To access the virtual buttons for launching the phone or camera while in an app, slide your thumb up from the bottom of the screen. You can organize apps into folders. Instead of backing out of apps using a Home button, you shuffle between them by swiping and other gestures. For example, getting to the desktop's main app Home screen often takes two swipes: one up, and another to the left. That's not as obvious as pressing a dedicated Home key, as on Android, iPhones, and Windows models.
The virtual keyboard has a predictive text tool that lets you "flick" suggested words up into a sentence. The keyboard's Flick feature suggests words it thinks will be next, based on what's already in the sentence. For example, type the word "Here" and the words "we," "you," and "is" will appear over their respective first letters on the keyboard. The keyboard can handle multiple languages at once, making it easier to insert foreign words into sentences. The keyboard also handles more traditional predictive-text tasks, such as completing a word after you type a few letters. You can press and hold the period key to engage the voice-to-text feature, or the space bar for text formatting, such as boldface, italics, bullets, and font size.
BlackBerry Messenger now supports video conferencing and lets you share what's on your phone screen (such as a photo or spreadsheet) with the person on the other end. Maintaining its business bent, the BlackBerry OS lets you separate business and personal data so your IT department can control corporate info while you control personal materials. You can easily switch between both.
Searches & navigation. To share something you found online, you can post it to a social network with a few gestures. You can also view Web pages in the less-cluttered Reader mode. You can search files, settings, apps, help, and more by typing a search term on the Home screen or within an app. You can narrow the search to include only specific apps or extend it to include Internet sources. You can search and perform functions such as creating appointments by speaking commands, but it isn't always as smooth as on other smart-phone platforms.
Apps & more. BlackBerry World, the primary source for content, has more than 70,000 apps, games, music, videos, and more.