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.
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.