I had the pleasure of upgrading my Blackberry to use the latest version of RIM’s operating system (version 4.5) last Friday. I had intended to do it myself, but I discovered that if your Blackberry is connected to a Blackberry Enterprise Server (i.e. can you check your corporate calendar/email on your Blackberry? If so, then you are) then your IT department has to do the upgrade for you. At the time, I was annoyed, but in retrospect it’s not that surprising considering how RIM promises enterprise IT department control over each device.
And, I have to say, it looks good.
- Revamped email system – No more ugly text-only emails, Blackberry OS 4.5 supports rich text emails and formatting so that the email on your handset looks like what you would see on your desktop/laptop screen; RIM claims that this new system also lets you open/edit Word/PowerPoint files, but I have yet to test that feature so I can neither confirm nor deny it
- Enhanced browser – I haven’t gotten rid of my Opera Mini, but the new Blackberry browser looks infinitely better than the old one – now that, by default, it packs a cursor (I know, revolutionary), what looks to me like better stylesheet support, and its main screen even has an address bar and a search bar built in
- Video record – I always wondered why it was missing in the old Blackberry OS!
- Voice notes – You can now record voice notes and save them for later use!
- Improved font handling – I’ll admit that I’m not a font expert, but the new Blackberry OS fonts just look nicer (have they enabled better anti-aliasing?)
I’ve also revised the list of applications that I’ve currently installed on my Blackberry to my current must-have’s:
- Google Mobile App – This lovely upgrade to the original Google application suite manager now provides a central interface to do Google searches, now with new location-specific searches and voice-searching features, and manage my Gmail and Google Maps applications
- Gmail – Provides you with almost the entire Gmail interface in the form of a rich application – access your Google contacts, star conversations, and access your messages in the threads you are used to
- Google Maps – Full access to Google Maps – including search, Google Latitude, public transit data, traffic, and even street view. It also has the location-sensing which enables you to pinpoint your location, even without GPS, by tracking the nearest cell phone tower
- Opera Mini – Still, probably the best Blackberry browser out there
- Google Talk – Access to your Google Chat via your Blackberry
- Vlingo – A creative application which allows you to voice control multiple features on your Blackberry – including voice dialing, voice-enabled search, voice commands to open up applications, update your Facebook/Twitter status, and (if you pay for the premium version) the ability to compose emails via voice
- WeatherEye – an application which brings weather for a particular region right to your Blackberry; the icon of the application changes based on what the weather is like (for example, when its night time, a moon will show up, when its day time, a sun will show up, if its cloudy, you will see clouds, etc), and gives you ready access to long-term and short-term forecasts
- Ubertwitter – Although still in beta, it’s a very solid Twitter app that I would recommend to anyone who Tweets and is a Blackberry user
And, now, with the new Blackberry App World application (and now that my Blackberry is actually compatible with the newest applications), I aim to test a lot more new applications.