BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha hands-on

Behold the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha. Research in Motion is now following in the footsteps of tech giants like Nokia, Intel and Qualcomm by pushing out a device solely dedicated to serve the needs of its developers. Considering the level of importance RIM is placing on the launch of its latest OS, the QNX-based BlackBerry 10, this is a critical move for the Canadian company as it works to recruit interested parties from other platforms while strengthening its existing relationships. Emulators and development kits are nice, of course, but they can't take the place of an actual working device -- and the Dev Alpha will be the primary vehicle to drive BB 10 developers until the final production smartphones begin shipping sometime this fall.

Our time with the Dev Alpha was brief, and we weren't able to glean much out of the experience. Why? When we were given the opportunity to play with it, the device was more of a miniature PlayBook than a BB10 phone. In fact, it even had PlayBook OS 2.0 loaded rather than the next-gen BlackBerry platform. So what did we find out about this mysterious device?

One of the areas in which we were most intrigued was the display. The Dev Alpha boasts a 4.2-inch screen (it's still unclear what type it is, and if it's PenTile) with a stunning resolution of 1280 x 768. This packs in more horizontal pixels than the standard 720p panels, meaning this may very well be one of the best displays we've seen in a phone to date. And in our limited time with the handset, we could easily tell that the screen is top notch. We couldn't pick out any pixelation, the colors seemed to be well saturated and the viewing angles were above average (the panel began to fade as we attempted to see it on-edge). Still, when considering the fact that this is simply a limited-edition device designed with the needs of developers in mind, we're hoping this will be indicative of what we can expect from this fall's lineup of BlackBerry phones -- up to par, if not better, than the vast majority of competing smartphones in the market.

We weren't able to glean a lot of specs from our time with the Dev Alpha, but we learned that it houses 16GB internal storage and 1GB RAM. It also features a slot for microSD cards microSIMs and a mini-HDMI port on the left side. On the top you'll see the 3.5mm headphone jack, power key and mic, while the right side offers a three-stage volume rocker -- the mute button is in between the up and down keys. Looking at the front, we discovered a front-facing camera next to the speaker, as well as a large bezel for gesture support. The back is made of the same matte and rubber found on the PlayBook, which is very easy to grip, even though the phone's square body made it a bit uncomfortable to hold on a long-term basis.

While we were hoping to get some quality time with the OS that RIM is putting so much stock into, it was at least satisfying to see the company putting a lot of heart and soul into a dedicated developer device. The BlackBerry maker seems to mean business, and it has an ideal recruiting tool to flaunt. We'll keep you updated on the latest BB10 information as it comes out this week.

Update: We were originally told the slot was for microSD but have confirmed with RIM it is actually for a microSIM. Thanks to @turubar for the heads up.

Joseph Volpe contributed to this report.