Will BB10's software keyboard be the best of the best?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: December 15, 2012

Late last night, a new BlackBerry 10-focused video made its way online. This one was intended to show off one of the new features of Research In Motion’s upcoming mobile operating system; one of the new features that probably matters the most to anyone who wants to buy an all-touchscreen device. It would seem, based on the video and from what we’ve seen before, that RIM is trying very hard to make sure that the software keyboard is up to par with the hardware variation the company has made famous (or vice versa) over the years.

Indeed, Vivek Bhardwaj, Head of Software Portfolio at RIM, pointed out the aesthetic similarities between the new software keyboard in BlackBerry 10, and that of the hardware ‘boards we’ve seen on devices in the past. They did do a good job of making sure that the software keyboard looks like the hardware counterpart, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit I’m still a little skeptical. The differences between software and hardware keyboards are both obvious and drastic, so if RIM has made their software keyboards “as good” as the hardware options, that would certainly be impressive.

With that skepticism firmly planted, my opinion on RIM’s newest efforts hasn’t changed with this video. (Yes, it is that precarious. I have faith that RIM can come back, but it’s going to take a lot of effort and innovation.) After a rocky few months, my excitement for what Research In Motion has coming down the pipe is at an all-time high. There’s no doubt in my mind that this latest video, focused on the keyboard and all of its cool features, was meant to build that excitement.

After all, with cool features like “space inference,” how can we not get excited? The idea really is a cool one: no matter how fast you type (and RIM suggests you all type quickly), if you miss a space somewhere in the middle of your long rant, the BlackBerry 10-based keyboard will be able to infer what you meant, and include spaces on its own. That’s right! Missing the space key will no longer mean you’ll have to go back, get that text editor icon in the right place, and insert the space key on your own (so you don’t look like a crazy person to the person you’re talking to, obviously). The keyboard will do it all for you.

Bhardwaj does use some of the video’s time to point out the “feature” that the software keyboard looks like a hardware keyboard, with the white “frets” in between the rows, along with the capitalized white letters on black keys. I’m not sure this is a feature, or at least not one I’d highlight in a video trying to woo potential customers, though. It looks cool, sure. But…

Also, if you watch the video in Alex’s coverage of the keyboard, you’ll probably notice the same thing I did: they don’t really show the keyboard. Sure, they’ve got a few snippets of Bhardwaj using the keyboard, but the camera is pretty far off, and, at least when I watched it, the important details were lost in blurriness. (Even after I upped the quality to 720p, I still felt the video was lacking.) They are supposed to be showing off the keyboard, and I’d much prefer to see it happening, in detail, rather than see some blurred, far-away visuals while someone talks about it.

Talking is one thing. Show it to me, in real-time, working as flawlessly as the customer will expect it to work when it lands on store shelves next year.

Still, I think BlackBerry 10 is going to be quite impressive in its final form, as long as RIM can include some hardware that not only entices the eye, but doesn’t frustrate the user over time with usage. If Research In Motion can obtain all of that, then there’s a real shot at them climbing the market ladder. It would be a sight for sore eyes to see people carrying BlackBerry-branded devices again.

How do you feel about BlackBerry 10’s keyboard after watching the video, and hearing about the new features? Is it going to be the next best software keyboard on the market? Or will the new features not add up to much, do you think, when connected to BB10 and the hardware? Are you excited to use BB10 yourself? Or have you already decided to skip it? Let me know!