Time to abandon the Pearl and Style

Way back in September I declared the BlackBerry Pearl to be dead, and now five months later see no reason to change that assessment. Despite (finally) being launched on AT&T, the market share of the 91xx series remains remarkably small. In the month of December the 9100 and 9105 combine for 0.7% of all downloads of Pixelated, and 1.1% of all downloads of the Hockey Scores application. For both applications this is a smaller percentage then the Nextel branded Curve 8350i, and for Pixelated is tied with the GSM version of the BlackBerry Storm 2. Additionally it is already significantly behind the Bold 9780 which was hardly even released by this time.

The only other BlackBerry model with such a small market is the 9670 Style. Given that it has an identical screen resolution, the BlackBerry Style should really be thought of as a Pearl Flip. In December the Style accounted for 1.1% of Pixelated downloads, and 0.2% of downloads for the Hockey Scores application.

The good news is that it looks as if RIM does not intend to carry on with this unsuccessful form factor. Leaks of RIM’s plans by BGR and CrackBerry in the last few weeks included a variety of devices, but nothing that could be considered to be the next version of the Pearl. As a developer this is now a screen resolution that is not worth spending time supporting for most new applications.

Using the graphics class to draw a thick curve in BlackBerry applications

The Graphics class is the heart of the paint() method for BlackBerry Java applications. However, occasionally a common action such as drawing a thick curved line, is more complicated then it should be. If having a thickness of a single pixel is acceptable, you can use the following code.

byte[] pathPoints ={
int[] xPts = {17,17,17,27,48};
int[] yPts = {39,24,14,14,14};

However, trying to give this line any thickness complicates things a lot. Using the normal work around of placing a number of lines next to each other works great for the straight segments, but falls apart on the curve, where the layout is less predictable. As a result, the best way to draw a thick curve is to use the drawFilledPath() method, and essentially draw and fill a shape.

The following code draws the same line/curve/line segment as the code above, but gives it a thickness of five pixels.

byte[] pathPoints =
int[] xPts = {17,17,17,27,48,42,27,22,22,22};
int[] yPts = {39,24,14,14,14,19,19,19,24,39};

Hockey Scores updated to version 2.3

The Hockey Scores application has been updated to version 2.3 adding keyboard shortcuts, and backups via BlackBerry Desktop Manger among other enhancements.

Keyboard Shortcuts

The Hockey Scores application now supports keyboard shortcuts on all full-qwerty devices. Pressing ‘e’ or ‘enter’ expands the currently selected game to show details. Pressing the ‘n’ key moves the selection to the next game, while ‘p’ moves the selection to the previous game.

Links & Information

Don’t get excited about magnetometers

Last week Boy Genius Report leaked images and specifications for most of the BlackBerry devices that will be released in the next half year or so. One new piece of hardware included on each of them is a magnetometer, better known as a digital compass. Given that the iPhone has had a magnetometer for a while now it is not all the surprising that RIM felt the need to eventually add it on their devices. That said this is a pretty useless addition of hardware.

In a year and half of the iPhone having a digital compass only two uses have been found for it. The first is to point North. The second is for augmented reality. Personally I have a good sense of direction and therefore no need to use a compass to know which direction is North. Augmented reality is the use that people get more excited about, but that is pretty useless as well.

First of all augmented reality is very cool. It is awesome that the technology exists to do this. However in the end it is nothing more then a tech demo. So while it is impressive that you can do this, it is not useful that you can do this.

The leak also indicates that the next generation of BlackBerrys will come with hardware for NFC (near field communication). NFC is the technology to actually get excited about.

AppWorld reviews flooded with BBM PIN spam

Over the past few months the reviews on BlackBerry AppWorld have been overwhelmed by people leaving their BBM PIN’s instead of actual relevant reviews. The image to the right (full size) shows a few recent reviews of the puzzle game Pixelated. Only one of these reviewers does not post their BBM PIN, and despite the generally high ratings, most spend very little text actually reviewing the game.

Furthermore, publicly posting your PIN is just asking for trouble. The 24 year old girl pleading for perverts not to send her nude pictures is going to be disappointed. She could have saved herself (and the people who have to read through these reviews) a lot of effort by simply not posting her BBM PIN at all.

These types of reviews do not help out somebody actually trying to use them for their intended purpose of learning what other people think of the game. In this case the application is free, so they can simply download it with no risk, but these BBM PIN reviews are starting to become common in paid applications as well.

Given how out of control the situation is, I propose that RIM needs to step up and automatically deny any AppWorld review that contains a BBM PIN, in the same manner that they are already blocking reviews containing select curse words. It would be a drastic step, but the situation needs to be taken under control.

BlackBerry OS usage over time

The above chart shows BlackBerry OS usage since April 2010. Note that usage of OS 5.0 or higher has increased from 59.6% to 77.7% in the past 8 months. Also both OS 4.6.0 and 4.7.x have both decreased from around 5% to almost nothing. Usage of OS 6 meanwhile remains relatively low, but has seen larger growth in the past month (partially due to the release of the 9780).

As usual this data is taken from the very popular BlackBerry strategy game Pixelated. Data starts from the release of version 2.0 in April of 2010. See also Novemeber OS usage as seen by the Hockey Scores application.

PlayBook attracting a variety of developers

In many ways the QNX OS is a risk for RIM, because it has no existing applications, and must attract developers so that it can offer a variety of applications at launch. In order to make sure that the BlackBerry PlayBook launches as a success, RIM has done their best to attract a variety of developers to the platform. Best I can tell, they have done a good job doing this.

Besides those developers who have traditionally supported BlackBerry, there is also significant interest from the Adobe community. There are a surprising number of developers who are interested in the PlayBook, who have no history at all with developing for BlackBerry, or working with BlackBerry AppWorld. These represent new additions to the BlackBerry ecosystem who had beforehand ignored RIM.

While it is still to early to tell if RIM has attracted enough developers to offer a large number of applications at launch, at the very least they have succeeded in getting a variety of developers interested in the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Why to (still) not worry about the PlayBook’s battery life

Given some of the crazy rumors regarding the battery life of the unreleased BlackBerry PlayBook it appears to be needed to remind everyone why it will not be an issue. My post last night on BerryReview.com is a direct response to these claims, and a follow up to my original call not to worry from way back in October.

Put simply, as a micro-kernel based OS, QNX is ideally suited for a mobile environment. Add that to the devices lack of GSM/EVDO/CDMA radios, its low heat design, and RIM’s excellent history of battery longevity, there is no reason at all to be concerned.

Upgrades to OS6 have still not happened

Instead of looking at upgrade rates to OS 5, which are mostly unchanged from last month, here is a look at the percent of users who had upgraded to OS 6 by December.

Device% at OS 6

In short, almost nobody. What this is really telling us is the percentage of users making use of leaked operating systems (which is actually a bit higher then I would have guessed). RIM still needs to push OS 6 to these devices, and give these users the new features that they deserve. It has been five months since I first saw a Bold 9700 running OS 6, so the percent who have upgraded by now should be closer to 80% then 2%.

This data comes from December downloads of Pixelated, the second most popular game in BlackBerry AppWorld.