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Closing in... Goes Hands-On with BlackBerry OS 4.3.1

The wild and crazy guys (really, should meet them and you’d understand what I mean) over at have obtained a copy of the BlackBerry OS 4.3.1 beta for the BlackBerry Curve and BlackBerry Pearl devices. If you haven’t heard about OS 4.3.1, then you will be in for quite a surprise with just what’s being added. While we’ll still have the naysayers who want to bash RIM and BlackBerry for it’s lack of novel and practical functionality found in the other all-in-one-even-gives-you-a-reach-around devices, this particular device OS upgrade will be very powerful once released.

From my own personal experience with OS 4.3.1 for the Curve 8300 and 8310 devices, an earlier version than what is being shown on, I did not have the video recording functionality. Upon that observation about a month ago, I jokingly stated to someone I was showing, “Yeah, it didn’t unlock the video recorder, darn it!” Well, if what we’re seeing is the truth, video recording was apparently enabled a few revisions later. Also added to this version is DataViz’s Documents To Go Office Suite, a very popular Palm application that has had us patiently awaiting it’s arrival on the BlackBerry since DataViz’s official announcement nearly six months ago at the Wireless Enterprise Symposium in Orlando. Full OS 4.3.1 feature list, after the jump!

Feature List of OS 4.3.1:

  • Upgraded, enriched e-mail formatting (in layman’s terms, HTML email support …with an asterisk)
  • Face-lifted address book and contacts management (added fields for instant messaging handles, Activity Log search for detailed contact history, etc)
  • DataViz Documents To Go (Word To Go confirmed in some capacity)
  • Browser upgrade (crisp fonts and emails, new bookmarks entry point, Desktop and Cursor modes enabled by default, etc)
  • *Video Recording enabled for legacy devices (holding my breath while patiently counting – 1, 2, pass out)
  • Voice Notes recorder and clip management
  • Wireless OS upgrades (again, with an asterisk)

Okay, where’s the bubble buster, you ask? From my preview of OS 4.3.1, I came to the conclusion that a lot of the new features were simply laying the groundwork for unleashed-in-all-their-glory enhancements when combined with updates from the BES and BIS platforms. For example, while we have an HTML/Rich-Text engine installed for email (net_rim_bb_rich_email.cod) and we have a new look and feel when reading emails, the fireworks are only unleashed when BES or BIS will support the parsing of in-line images or font and stylesheet support within the email application. Huh?! Currently, as of BIS 2.4 and BES 4.1 SP4, email will still be parsed and delivered to a device running OS 4.3.1 as plain-text, which we’ve all come to love and hate since 1999.

The same concept of framework can be applied to the wireless OS upgrade technology (OTASL, or over-the-air software loading, for those who have heard this rumored for the last year or so). This technology was released, in part, in BES 4.1 SP4. When a device running OS 4.3.1 is activated on the BES, a new service book, Desktop [OTASL], is pushed to the device and ‘Wireless Upgrade’ is now a working albeit currently useless option due to the lack of a management interface to configure the OTASL packages.

For a preview of the OS update and a few more screenshots, jump on over to!