In this post, we will look at why testing more than one Blackberry version or device may be the better way to go.
Blackberry phones, some of us love them, a lot of people don’t, but they are important to your development and testing. The Blackberry user base is quite large in the UK, but also has a solid global audience, it is mostly a non touch device group with limited screen resolutions and size. The choice to make an app for Blackberries is also a tough one for many companies, so your responsive website may have an edge in this market.
The picture above shows 3 different versions of Blackberry OS(BBOS), from 4 to 6. From the left, Sharon is OS4, Kenny is OS5, Len is OS6 and the final devices is also OS6. What these devices represent is the most popular Blackberries that are used on the site, but also the different versions that look to test against. OS7 has had a small impact so far, but as it picks up we will move to test it more.
What is also very important to take from the picture is how the different screen sizes and resolutions affect the end result of loading a webpage. You can also see how the page is different based upon the version, smartphone or featurephone. The OS5 device has a good screen width, 480px(reports as 465x304), so to use the extra space, the text wraps beside the image, rather than using the single larger top image. This is different to the OS4 featurephone, which uses the standard design with the top image. The OS4 device has a 360px wide screen, but a reasonable 305x224 reporting rate, which although low, means that you expect a certain level of content on the screen. When testing, it is important to have a eye for the detail, looking at whether you agree with the layout, or if you think it needs changing.
The Smartphones are quite different in the look and feel, Len, a 360px (reports as just 320x167)screen is actually receiving a much different experience. The image and font are the obvious two things, producing a smartphone experience on a very low resolution device.
Len is the more budget Blackberry, it is part of the curve range, which also feature lower resolution displays. While you may want to focus on the lovely Bold 9900, the budget range are the more popular. If you are going to buy Blackberries to test against, i would suggest getting a low resolution device, this will help ensure that users with OS6, which features a webkit browser, will get a satisfactory experience. If the Nokia N95 was the lowest horizontal width screen, the Blackberry 9300 is our lowest vertical, which is why we chose it for testing against our site. In a way, it does fall outside of what some would call an usable experience, especially for a smart phone, but it has to be considered.
I think there should be a prudance decision made on whether this type of device affects your development, but also whether certain features are required to look the same as on an iPhone. If you really don’t think Blackberries are a potential market, then sticking to the more common Bold series may be better, offering a more usable experience with higher reporting rates.
Knowing the difference
As we have discussed, unlike iOS and to some extent, high end Android phones, Blackberries are limited by the vertical height of the viewport, so you may choose to design around this to get more content on the page. This is seen on the Blackberry called Kenny, which uses the extra width to add the summary text next to the top image, but other elements like menus could be used in this space. This has a counter effect though, with more than one design, more than one layout, more time testing Blackberries is required.
The same hardware with a different OS will be different, the same OS with different hardware will also be different in some cases. This is where the extra Blackberries will help to ensure the best compatibility with the platform.
But no one uses Blackberries right?
According to some figures, RIM is in the decline, but the existing user base is compared to iPhone users in that they are very happy with their devices. This, combined with your locations stats, should give you an indication on whether testing and developing for the Blackberry platform is a high priority or not. If it is, getting more than one Blackberry should be something you decided quickly.
Food for thought
Blackberry users with OS6 and above may be the ones to catch you out in your testing, they have the capable browser, but the viewport is a big limiting factor. While supporting and testing Blackberries may seem a low priority for some, if you put in the time, ensure a solid experience, they may become a solid part of your userbase.
David Blooman - Twitter: @davey_blooman