I am beginning to miss the universal inbox from BlackBerry OS

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: June 11, 2012

I'm part of a dying breed; I actually miss the BlackBerry days. While I'm finally starting to get over the waning importance of the physical keyboard, there are quite a few features of BlackBerry OS that I find myself missing more each and every day.

For one, as if getting used to typing on a soft keyboard wasn't hard enough, losing all of the pre-programmed shortcuts was terrible. Almost every key on the face of a typical BlackBerry (read: one with a physical keyboard) has a separate function from the home screen. To name a couple, pressing M launches Messages and pressing N launches BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). There were also keyboard combinations for rebooting the device, copy, paste, caps lock and alt lock. And Word Substitution (formerly known as AutoText) is one of the things I miss most, although iOS offers a very similar feature. (It just isn't the same without the physical keyboard. It was a lot more functional.)

Two weeks ago, I purchased a used BlackBerry Bold 9930 from a friend, just to play around with and to take a break from the iPhone. (I had been using the iPhone 4S straight since it released in October 2011, and I was beginning to get antsy for something new or different, if only for a couple days.) Since I'm a heavy email and messaging user, I chose a BlackBerry.

Research In Motion has always had a knack for messaging and email. It's what they do (or used to do) best. While the Gmail experience on Android is arguably better, there are a few idiosyncrasies of BlackBerry OS that I wish other operating systems (and their developers) could take note of and learn from. During my short-lived time with the 9930 and after switching back and forth between that and my primary device, the One X, there was one feature that truly stuck out to me: BlackBerry's universal inbox.

On Android, all of my Gmail accounts are kept separate. To access SMS, there is a separate Messages application. For Google Voice messages, there is also another app. Facebook and Twitter notifications, other (non-Gmail) email accounts or any other notifications are accessed through their respective apps.

On BlackBerry, however, the Messages application displays all messages. And it often – depending on the application and how the developer coded it – displays notifications from other third-party apps. I could access all emails, Facebook, Twitter, SMS, Google Voice and all other messages (Gtalk, for one) straight from one place, a universal inbox. All of these messages can be accessed from individual apps, too.

For what it's worth, there is a way to get all email in one place on Android. By using the Email app instead of the dedicated Gmail client on Android, you can have all your various email accounts show in a single inbox. But that doesn't include non-email messages. And Samsung offers Social Hub, which can be used for SMS, Facebook, Twitter and email. But it's not quite the same as the BlackBerry method. All the various types of notifications are gathered and displayed in a single application, yet they are separated by type instead of all being given the same priority and showing in the same list.

And a universal notification shade isn't quite the same either. Both Android and iOS have universal notifications. All of my new emails, text messages and other notifications display in the notification shade on Android or Notification Center on iOS. They all can be accessed and dismissed from the same place. It's very similar to, but not the same as, viewing all types of messages in a single inbox. 

Because of this, clearing out my notification shade – which somehow always gets cluttered after no more than 10 minutes of standby – can be time consuming and tedious. I can't just dismiss all of the unimportant notifications at once. I have to open each individual application and parse the notifications from there, one by one. 

As unlikely as it may be, this is one feature I seriously wish other platforms would adopt. I've been keeping an eye out for substitutes or equivalents for other platforms and have yet to find anything quite like the universal inbox of BlackBerry OS. I've got my fingers crossed for a similar feature in Jelly Bean or iOS 6, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

Do any of you former BlackBerry users miss the universal inbox in today's popular platforms? Do you wish they would adopt the feature? Or have you gotten used to the compartmentalized inboxes?