Thoughts on BlackBerry DevCon 2010 Keynote

Yesterday kicked of BlackBerry DevCon and the opening keynote included a number of big announcements.

  • BlackBerry PlayBook – RIM announced the BlackBerry PlayBook based off of the QNX OS. Personally I am still not a fan of the form factor, however, the hardware stats are pretty impressive. We really know almost nothing about the software and won’t for another few months so there isn’t really anything to say yet.
  • Native Advertising Service – This is something that RIM needed to do, and at first look implementing this code appears to be really easy. However, RIM has yet to get back to us after applying for the service so it is hard to say right now how it will go.
  • In-app payments – another feature that will be very useful. Applications like Hockey Scores and Twinkle may be using this in the future as a way to pay a dollar to remove the advertising. However this will require AppWorld 2.1 which probably will not be out all that soon.
  • BBM API – This will be very useful, but isn’t going to be rolled out until next spring and will probably require an update to BBM.

Overall the announcements look to be promising but all carry the warning that these are things to be excited about in the future, rather than features that will be in applications very soon.

10,000 Farkle upgraded to Version 1.2

10,000 Farkle has been updated to version 1.1 adding some new features. 10,000 Farkle is a dice game that requires both skill and luck. Points are awarded for various dice combinations, but if a roll fails to contain any combinations the turn ends with no points awarded.

Version 1.2 of 10,000 Farkle makes the animations run faster, adds support for the BlackBerry Torch, adds the ability to reset statistics, and reduces the file size by over 17%.

Faster Animation

Version 1.2 of 10,000 Farkle smooths out the animation of the dice allowing the game to run faster and smoother.

BlackBerry Torch Support

Also new to version 1.2 is support for operating system 6.0 and the new BlackBerry Torch.
The new operating system makes it possible to include additional features, such as a signal strength indicator.

Reset Statistics

It is now possible to reset all statistics, win percentages, high scores and achievements. These can either be reset all at once or in groups. This may be done through a menu option in the high scores screen.

Smaller Application Size

Version 1.2 of Farkle is 17.44% smaller which allows for more efficiency and frees up more room for other applications on your BlackBerry.

How to play

Farkle gives you six dice to roll and awards points for a straight, three pairs or three or more of the same number. Fewer points ares also awarded for each individual 1 and 5. Any dice that do not score can be re-rolled for additional points. If all 6 dice can be scored, all of the dice can be re-rolled on the same turn.

The skill in this game comes from knowing how far to push your luck, and which scoring combinations to take, and which to re-roll.

The default game mode gives you 10 turns to score as many points as you can. The 10,000 point mode is the traditional way to play, where the goal is to reach 10,000 points in as few turns as possible. The two competitive game modes “vs Friend” and “vs Computer” both use the traditional race to 10,000 points.

Supported Devices

10,000 Farkle requires a minimum OS of 4.6 and supports the 8330, 8350i, 8520, 8530, 8900, 9000, 9300, 9330, 9500, 9520, 9530, 9550, 9630, 9650, 9700, and 9800.

More Information

Video Demonstration

Where is BB OS 6?

Research in Motion launched their newest BlackBerry operating system (version 6.0) with the release of the BlackBerry Torch 9800 on August 12th. At the time they promised that the OS update was coming soon to some other devices such as the BlackBerry Bold 9700 and 9650. However, now well over a full month past the release of the Torch there has still been no release of OS6 for any other devices. The new webkit browser was showed off on the 9700 over 7 months ago, there is really no reason not to have these releases ready to go.

Instead we have plenty of BlackBerrys that are “OS6 ready”, but only actually have OS6 on a single device, that is currently only available in a single country, from a single carrier. The Torch is selling well enough, but is still a small segment of the market for the reason mentioned above. As a result there are very few devices that currently support OS6.

The end result is that as a developer all of the new features and APIs that OS6 offers will go unused. There are alot of cool options in the new operating system, but if the vast majority of users are unable to use them, then it is impossible to justify spending time learning and developing for OS6. Features that a super majority of users can not use is not a good reason to delay the launch of an new release.

It is not that I don’t want to offer these new options, it is that I need the market share in order to do so. All RIM needs to push out an update to the 9700, 9650, and 93xx devices and that would be a significant amount of users. Until then the advantages of OS6 will not be seen, even by those that already have the Torch.

The limitations of the SpinBoxField

BlackBerry operating system 5.0 added the new SpinBoxField ui component. This is a slick looking and useful graphical element that also forms the basis of the DateTimePicker. An example of the DateTimePicker as used in the Twinkle application is pictured.

However the SpinBoxField has some major limitations. Unlike the ObjectChoiceField the SpinBoxField does not display over the other elements and therefore requires large buffers above and below it in order to give its intended look. As a result it can only really be used on a very sparsely populated form, or within its own popup screen, which the documentation actually suggests. This severely limits the usefulness of the object and prevents designs from using what would otherwise be a fun and good looking element.

OS 5.0 adoption on the Storm 9530 nears 90%

The BlackBerry Storm was one of the earliest BlackBerry models to have an upgrade option to operating system 5.0 available for it. Tracking real world operating system use through downloads of Pixelated (the second most popular game in AppWorld) has shown the gradual decline of the older OS4.7 as the newer OS5.0 has become more popular.

Adoption of OS 5.0 on the BlackBerry Storm 9530 in August climbed up to 89.9% of all users. This is up 3% from July and is the largest month-to-month increase since May. At this point there is little reason for developers to worry about pre-OS5 touch screen devices, as there are hardly any left (although this is not yet true for non-touch screen devices such as the 8520 and 8900).

BlackBerry, the first choice game platform?

Traditionally the BlackBerry is seen as a more serious business device, while games are seen more as a strength of the iPhone. However the most recent app store report from Distimo actually points to game companies targeting the BlackBerry first.

In a section showing the application count of the top five cross platform publishers three (Gameloft, Electronic Arts, and Glu) all showed more applications available for BlackBerry then any other platform. A fourth (Handmark) showed BlackBerry even with iPhone and well ahead of Android. Perhaps BlackBerry is not quite the games wasteland that it is often thought to be.

Regardless with Pixelated and 10,000 Farkle both doing well, BlackBerry has proven to be a reliable gaming platform for Ebscer. So much so that a third game is on the way…

Is the BlackBerry Pearl already dead?

It is now a few months after the release of the new BlackBerry Pearl (9100 and 9105) but almost no one is buying this model. There are plenty of reasons for this, the primary one being the fact that it has been picked up by none of the major US carriers. But even more so the reviews for the phone while positive, always carried the hint that the Pearl was the perfect phone for “someone else”, and that they were obviously not going to give up their Bold for it. As such the Pearl is almost unused. Pixelated was one of the first applications to support the Pearl, but use of the Pearl has remained minimal. A look at downloads from late August show the Pearl still not doing as well as obscure models such as the 8350i and the GSM version of the Storm1. It is also not doing as well as recently launched models such as the 9800 and 9300. At this point there looks to be little reason for RIM to continue working on this line, and we may have already come to the end of this form factor’s life.