It doesn't really matter if you're a BlackBerry addict or an iPhone die-hard, the new BlackBerry 10 platform is shaping up to be something special.
The company has been running developer jams throughout the world, with Europe, Asia and North America all getting in on the action.
Fortunately, South Africa also played host to a jam, with over 250 developers flocking to the Cape Town International Convention Centre on 31 July.
On the sidelines of the event, RIM held a special media briefing for their new platform, allowing journalists to get their hands on the device.
The hardware itself
The BlackBerry 10 Alpha device, codenamed London, was first unveiled at the BlackBerry World event in May 2012, introducing a very touch-focused interface.
Possessing a similar matte finish and square form factor to the BlackBerry PlayBook, the Alpha handset could easily pass for a finished product.
The handset was pretty full featured at this stage already, featuring a mini-USB port, mini-HDMI port and a pretty sharp screen. Adorning the front of the device was a barcode, one of the only clues as to just how cutting edge it is.
But, of course, it's an alpha device for a reason, with the RIM team understandably keen to emphasise that the software was far from complete.
The handset's software is built using the same DNA as the BlackBerry PlayBook, with no legacy code from previous BlackBerry handsets being used, according to the BlackBerry team.
So intertwined is the PlayBook and BlackBerry 10 that the new handset also mentions "PlayBook" and "tablet" in the settings menu.
In fact, when you delve into the settings menu, you're greeted with impossibly tiny text and layouts, further proof of the unfinished nature of the handset. Things like that cool Scalado camera were not featured in the prototype either.
A touch-oriented device
The team was excited to show off some key features anyway, with the user-interface being the first stop.
Looking like a cross between Windows Phone live tiles and Android widgets, the main BlackBerry 10 homescreen features your last used applications and services. Up to four icons are visible, with four more accessible by scrolling down.
"From research, we've seen that those connected people typically have four or more activities at the same time," Rui Brites, product director for Africa elaborates.
Again, much like the PlayBook, users are able to swipe upwards to close apps and laterally to switch between tasks.
Aside from the main screen, you have an email inbox screen and a full app list too.
The prototype on hand was a full touchscreen handset, with no QWERTY keypad as seen on previous BlackBerries. Now, BlackBerry addicts might express shock at this factoid, but a quick hands-on proved that the keyboard is just fine.
"Because of our heritage of the keyboard, we also were very focused on making sure that we had the best touchscreen keyboard. Because at the end of the day, the BlackBerry 10 [platform] is built for BlackBerry people," said Alexandra Zagury, Managing Director for BlackBerry South and Southern Africa.
As we typed on the handset, little words would pop up above the individual letters, with users only needing to swipe upwards to use them. For instance, typing "lov" would see "love" appearing above the "e" key and "loving" above the "i" key.
A heat sensor is also used to calibrate the keyboard, Brites explains.
"So maybe I keep touching the 't' at the top-right hand corner... so what it does in the background is it starts learning that that's my style and it calibrates the keypad to that centre so that I never miss the 't' button."
It takes mere seconds to get used to the keyboard and we can quickly see the swiping gesture becoming second nature.
Although the keyboard was intuitive, there were a few times when key-presses didn't register, but it's to be expected considering that the platform is still at least six months from release.
The company confirmed that physical keyboards, the bread and butter of the BlackBerry range, will be a focus with BlackBerry 10 as well.
A future-proof strategy?
Brites also mentions that there will be a baseline for tablet and BlackBerry 10 devices, with a dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM being standard.
"We're not compromising on that user experience, because we've seen from other competitors, when they try and go down [in terms of price and hardware specifications - ed] then certain apps and functions don't work," Brites explains.
So does that mean we'll see BlackBerry 10 handsets targeted at the lower end of the market?
"It will filter through," Brites reiterates, while refusing to comment on timing or particular devices.
"I think the key aspect is that we don't want to compromise the user experience at any level."
But at the same time, Brites confirmed that BlackBerry OS 7 handsets will still be a feature for some time.
"There will be a coexistence with both [BlackBerry 10 and OS 7 - ed] and both will be supported."
But when will we see the first wave of BlackBerry 10 phones hitting the market in South Africa?
"We've announced that it's the first quarter of next year that we'll be launching... In terms of whether South Africa is in the first wave, definitely, this is a priority market for us," Zagury says.