> Just point and shoot, BlackBerry's camera evolution
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Just point and shoot, BlackBerry’s camera evolution

By April 17, 2015BlackBerry, Lifestyle

I was recently on vacation visiting a friend who is currently studying across the pond in Scotland. Now naturally this meant I would often visit different castles, sights and other touristy places on my own. I have absolutely no issues with travelling on my own, it’s actually quite a laid back feeling, but what does often concern me is whenever I have to ask the “can you take a picture of me?” question to a random stranger. It’s not so much the asking that’s the issue it’s the fact that A) I’d have to rely on a complete stranger not to drop my phone into Loch Ness on a rocking boat, and B) I’d have to rely on them being able to focus and capture a decent picture within a short span of time (you obviously don’t want to bother the person for too long). This got me thinking about my mobile device and how the BlackBerry 10 camera app has evolved over time.

On the most recent OS 10.3.1 the camera app requires a user to tap a blue photo icon or click the volume + button to capture an image. On the Passport you can even snap a picture using the space bar. In order to focus on a particular spot you simply tap where you want to focus on the screen. This layout and functionality is aligned with other mobile OS’ like iOS and Android. Easy peasy. What startled me prior to BlackBerry 10.3, though, is that many people failed to grasp how the original BlackBerry 10 camera app functioned. To their credit I admittedly understand where the confusion came from. The app didn’t even have a camera button on-screen, it required users to just tap the screen and tap and hold to focus. This resulted in many MANY people tapping like crazy out of frustration not knowing how to focus or why photos were being taken or why photos weren’t being taken because the app required an image to be in focus before capturing.

Scene of the crime, blurry image a fellow tourist took for me

Scene of the crime, blurry image a fellow tourist took for me

After a few dozen blurry images of myself on previous trips I almost all but gave-up on asking people to take pictures of me.   Something as simple as a camera app shouldn’t be confusing or jarring to use. The latest BlackBerry 10 camera app is a very simple app to use. And so it got me thinking about how we’ve been seeing some alignment of BlackBerry 10 features with other industry standard players like Android and iOS. The notion of being different for different’s sake isn’t necessarily beneficial when it comes to features and functionality that are available in an almost standardized way throughout the industry. Take the original BlackBerry 10 call screen, it used to be an up or down swipe to accept or decline a call but has been changed for a left or right swipe. This is another prime example where simple standard features don’t need to revolutionize the way they are handled they just need to work and be familiar to users regardless of if they’ve had the phone for a day or three months.

There are areas where changing the way we interact with our devices is absolutely pinnacle to providing a superior experience like the BlackBerry Hub. The Hub is such a central aspect of BlackBerry 10 and it improves upon the segmented messages and interaction of having to click on multiple different apps to reply and interact with notifications. But that’s just it. Requiring a user to tap on the screen instead of a button in a camera app, or requiring a swipe up or down instead of left or right to answer a phone call doesn’t really give a value-added. The trade-off of making those features unfamiliar to more people doesn’t really pay-off when they’re giving at most, minimal aesthetic and ergonomic advantages.

I appreciate the efforts BlackBerry is making to align with its competition, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. As a Blackberry enthusiast I don’t want to be punished for having a weird camera app that doesn’t really provide a benefit for the sake of being different, especially when it comes to asking people to take pictures of me, I want it to be different yet instantly familiar to prospective purchasers. Provide those differences where they count and provide that familiarity where it’s needed.


Brandon Orr

Author Brandon Orr

Professional Transportation Planner & Blackberry 10 Developer part of the open source BB team.

More posts by Brandon Orr
  • Berrymagnet

    @Alex: if you use that argument then we’d have a bloody home button as well. Seriously, how do swipe gestures that are unknown to most people fit into that paradigm

  • Sakazuki

    Waiting for the slider. Interested to know how much they have improved its camera with next upcoming flagship

  • Great article Brandon. This is what I have been countering to people who have been complaining about missing the old camera app for a while now. We have had little discussions about it on Upstream before too. You build the scenery and explained it really well. That blurry image you show completely encompasses the article in a nutshell aswell. I know not everyone will agree with this article and thought process, but as a UI/UX designer, I have to agree that you hit the nail on the head. People don’t always understand what they want or what is useful/the smart way to do things. It’s up to the company/developer of the product to do that for us. That’s why UI/UX is SO important. Just because you want to be different doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the RIGHT way.

  • Merritt Cluff

    Nice article. I completely agree with your view. I also think the BlackBerry camera app, and camera function has improved a lot. Now in good light I take some excellent shots with my z30. Low light performance is not so good, but now I don’t count on it. Indoor shots on my phone are usually outdone by other phones like g5 or iPhone or HTC. That bothers me less now than before. How the phone works is less important than how well it works. I do fault BlackBerry for lack of attention to its camera. As a former enterprise user I needed a good camera often. To me it’s one of the most important features and can certainly be a killing feature. The fact that you can pass it to someone else is also important but all cameras are still different and this is risky!! Hope you saw Nessie.

  • Edrian0624

  • Berrymagnet

    I can’t reply to @QNXbbx as I’m not a registered user, but I just want to say that, even though I pethaps don’t feel so strongly about it, I definitely agree with the sentiment. I much preferred swipe up for calls as it ws more intuitive with other gestures in the OS, and I loved the convenience of taking photos by tapping anywhere I liked. I think both changes were retrograde steps, and in some ways a lack of faith in their system when it was superior. I say stick to your guns, although some of the enhancements in 10.3.1 are excellent (the instant actions for delete, file, Mark unread etc in the hub). Still love my BlackBerry even though I’m being forced into an iPhone 6 next work at work (don’t get me started), just wish BB would grow some balls and believe in their way sometimes.

  • Barrabas Theone

    Hago mías tus palabras, QNXbbx. Bravo.

  • Big Chief

    I do miss the originality of how things use to be for the 10.0

  • Byron

    My argument isn’t so much about BlackBerry having to conform to OS standards or function standards,my irritation is that they didn’t leave the space for choice. If you change something let me have the ability to change it back……customization please.

    • James Nieves

      Agreed. I miss some of the old design implementation.

  • Lloyd Naylor

    I agree that BlackBerry has stepped up its camera game and that it stills needs improvement in the area of low light photography, focus speed of the camera and being able to better improve picture quality.
    I disagree with changing the call screen or how we took pictures by tapping on the screen, while these were minor changes I didn’t see the need for changing when there were other things that needed improvement,for example, the double contacts issue.
    BlackBerry provided tutorials as to how things worked on the phones so I didn’t see the need for change.

    • QNXbbx

      Never had any troubles understanding how to answer a call or take a picture on 10.1.
      Bb10 was absolutely intuitive from day 1 with the exception of the hub which was clearly standing out from the competition…something new!

      The violence comes all with 10.3.1 !

      After the upgrade the first time you try to place a call you believe the f.ckg phone app is not working anymore!? Laggy like hell… is it an android port?

      Same happens when you try to take a picture !
      Laggy and NOT working !! Frustrating ! … but wait… what is this terrible prominent blue button in the center of the screen? Don’t tell me I’m forced to push it to take the picture… we’re running on QNX Neutrino rtos. We’ve been rocking a great camera app with unsurpassed responsiveness up to 10.2.1… are we facing now yet another android port?

      Finally, let’s see what is running on my z10…
      WHAT ? The Android player process ?
      These Geniuses now run Android on QNX By default ??
      The f.ckg android drone? …and even its companion android media app? 80M ?
      But wait… I have never installed any android phishing app on my system ! How comes this f.kg crap is up and running now !?… and even shows networking activity every now and then !?
      This is a CRIME !!
      Uuh there are two apps: amazon app store and the games app that possibly require the drone! but cannot be uninstalled !?

      In a world where people are slooowly getting into manifesting some privacy protection concerns, BlackBerry was standing out in a privileged position… thanks to Bb10 on QNX. A masterpiece os for mobiles.
      Not anymore… instead of partnering with real engineers like Microsoft, (btw. Cyanogenmod is partnering with Microsoft to make android independent from Google services) they partner with those data miners script kiddies !? And they help them secure their channels to securely collect and mine data of the naive fart sercices consumers!?

      BlackBerry is a Canadian company ?!
      They were in a unique position to really stay AGNOSTIC !
      But looks they’re screwing ! They’re not confident in the superiority of bb10 anymore, they speak the monetizing Wallstreet language… they conform to the marketing standards.

      So, Where is BlackBerry driving QNX ?

      Should QNX better be sold to Microsoft or Samsung?
      BlackBerry can then really sit back and become yet another insignificant software company, subsidiary of the US government like Gooooooooooogle, Facebook, Yahoo with the difference that will help them to spy better inside b2b thanks to BES.

      Anyway, with 10.3.1, honestly, we have the feeling we no longer run a QNX powered device, but a fucked up droid-camera and even worse a fucked up droid-phone !?
      And all this crap in the name of an unexisting phantomatic standardization that should attract users from other platforms !?

      Well bb10 deserves more respect!
      … and also who loved it because of its unique AGNOSTIC Nature !
      Thanks for your patience

  • Bla1ze

    Clearly, you just need a selfie stick B-Dogg lol.

  • Endgame

    Improvements in phones over the past 10 years don’t particularly interest me. I am not particularly interested in apps and games. I am honestly not too worried about web browsing and download speeds. Hover, the camera functionality is valuable to me. I have so many precious pictures taken casually when I wouldn’t think to bring a full fledged camera. So, I am glad the BlackBerry has improved their game in that area, and I do hope that they continue to improve. They need to make more 13MP camera and handle low light situations better.

    I do know what you mean about people not knowing how to use it. My wife spent a long time complaining about how her Z10 took horrible pictures, but it was because she was taping anywhere on the screen, not in the green focus square. I am glad that they made it more user friendly.