Finally, the much anticipated BlackBerry Z10 entered into the smartphone boxing ring. Being a current BlackBerry user myself and looking to update my phone, I was keen to get my hands on the Z10 to see if BlackBerry would be able to convince me to stay on their team. I was quite fortunate to get my hands on the rare white version and immediately peeled off those “fresh device” plastic covers protecting the screen and battery cover.
Setting up the phone was a breeze and BlackBerry takes you through the ins-and-outs with an interactive video, teaching you how to use the new device. The Z10 has no buttons on the front of the phone, and it takes some getting used to to unlock the phone merely from the touch-screen. This was quite a change for me with most BlackBerry devices having a keyboard with which to navigate around the phone. BlackBerry’s previous success was strongly based on making e-mails easily accessible and I found that they’ve put a lot of effort into letting you set up your e-mail accounts without any hassle. Even with my e-mail accounts at lesser known service providers, it was just as easy as setting up my Gmail account.
After Apple won the design lawsuit against Samsung, I could imagine that other smartphone companies had to be extra wary not to fall into the same position. Although BlackBerry’s operating system does differ, the icon layout seems to be similar to its predecessors. Flicking through the menu is effective and much better executed than previous touch screen BlackBerry phones.
In terms of browsing the internet, previous BlackBerry versions didn’t lend themselves to a particularly user friendly experience but the Z10 changes all that. Browsing is easy and the multi-touch screen makes zooming in and out a joy. I’ve primarily used wi-fi for browsing and downloading sites was just limited by the connection speed. All in all – a lot faster than the previous BIS based browser.
BlackBerry has added an extra menu with a set of thumbnails representing your most recent activity. Although this might be handy when you quickly want to return to an app, when I open new apps, the phone briefly jumps to this menu list before opening the app that I chose. This is confusing as there’s a moment when I don’t know whether the phone is opening the app that I want, or not. Apart from that, the phone runs very smoothly and I couldn’t find any lagging while browsing at full speed.
Another feature that I am immensely pleased to announce is that BlackBerry finally gave some attention to its maps and GPS navigation. It is much more accurate and the 3D navigation helps you get to your location. My current BlackBerry is an absolute nightmare and I’ve been lost more than once using the previously bundled mapping service.
BlackBerry is renowned for making sure that you get that message…NOW. As with previous models, the famous red LED notification light stayed in the top right corner of the device for instant message updates.
Although it’s not exactly something new, BlackBerry applied something they call the “Hub” to the Z10. This is the place where all your messages (including Facebook and Twitter) go and where you can see if there is anything that you’ve missed. In previous models they’ve just called it “Messages”. Admittedly I didn’t find the “Messages” function very useful on my old BlackBerry, but the new “Hub” does have a certain allure. I constantly found myself going to the “Hub” for my messages instead of checking out each individual inbox. This did indeed make my replies to messages quicker and more effective. The negative thing about the “Hub” is that it doesn’t indicate from which e-mail inbox the message is from if you are setup for more than one e-mail account thus sometimes delaying a reply.
Look and Feel
Although the Z10 uses a plastic cover, it didn’t feel cheap at all and the advantage is that it only weighs 136g. When you put it in your pocket, you only realise it’s there when it vibrates. The 4.2” 1280 x 768 screen applied to the Z10 is just the right size to comfortably type in landscape mode. The 8MP Autofocus camera handles low-light surprisingly well with its F2.2 lens (especially after the latest software update). The colours taken by the camera are very natural. Some might call it flat, but that is because it stays true to life and there are enough apps to make changes to the contrast and colour at a later stage. Playing media on the Z10 is much more fun than on previous BlackBerry models due to the larger screen and the fact that it plays an incredibly large variety of video and music formats.
Using the phone constantly during the day does have an impact on draining the battery. I could use the phone for about a day and a half at a time until I would need to recharge it. Most of the times that I activated the phone; it starts at your “recent events” menu. The reason that I’m not fond of this is that the thumbnails indicated in this menu are small screen shots of the apps after they’ve been opened. What would have been more helpful is if they had rather displayed the original icons as they appear in the menu, so I would have known exactly what was going on at a glance. Although BlackBerry World doesn’t come with as many apps as Android and iStore, I did appreciate the choice of pre-loaded apps like Facebook, Twitter, Adobe Reader, Docs to Go and DropBox integration.
The corporate social divide
As an entrepreneur myself, I have quite a few e-mail accounts running on my current BlackBerry device. The solution: One phone dividing work and personal life. The Z10 can be set up to divide your work content from your personal content, illuminating the problem of having two phones to do that. Although it may not seem like such an innovative idea, it did make a big difference in my day-to-day phone activity.
As a current BlackBerry user I am excited to see a device that can finally properly compete in the touch-screen smartphone race. The new operating system and specs on the new Z10 are certainly impressive and messaging is a breeze. However, BlackBerry’s original success was based on the likes of its previous physical QWERTY keyboard and we saw competing manufacturers like Nokia and Samsung building similar looking phones to stay in the competition. I type almost double the speed on my old BlackBerry than on the Z10. As a whole the Z10 is an astounding upgrade from its predecessors. Personally, I am going to hold out for the BlackBerry Q10 with the keyboard and similar internal specs.