BlackBerry Z10 Review

It’s no secret in the mobile industry that BlackBerry, formerly RIM, has needed a drastic change of direction to halt what has been a rather ungraceful decline in recent years. The release of BlackBerry OS 10, built on the foundations of QNX purchased by RIM in 2010 and powering the ill-fated, although generally critically well received PlayBook, has been plagued by delays and now arrives a full 18 months since the release of the last BlackBerry device – an eon in the fast lane lifecycles of smartphones.

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No-one can be sure when the final decision was made to drop the company name RIM and drive forward under the single banner of BlackBerry, but if the Z10 box that states in small print “2013 Research in Motion Limited (“RIM”)” is anything to go by, it seems like it can’t have been too long ago. It makes perfect sense from a consumer point of view to drop the RIM brand; the average consumer likely didn’t know the difference between the two anyway and it is this type of consistency that helps to show a clear direction for a company which looks to be in desperate need of one.

Enter the Z10, a handset with a new operating system for the modern landscape of devices dominated by Apple and a whole dessert cart of Android flavours. Could a BlackBerry be the final fruit to sweeten the market? Or will it leave a bitter taste in the mouth and be the last time it gets ordered?

As the Z10 and BB10 are completely new entrants in the current environment, I’m going to split this review in two. The first section will take a look at my first impressions of the Z10 and the standard smartphone hardware features a review generally covers. The second part is going to take a more in depth look at BB10 itself and how navigating and operating the new interface impacts on the experience of using the Z10. So read on for my full review.

PART 1

First Impressions – design, build quality and hardware

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If box design counted any ways towards the quality of a device then the Z10 would score some points here. A retro typeface emblazons “Z10” in deep blue across a jet black background; fashionable and eye catching for the few who might be swayed by a box in store. The same can be said of the Z10 itself, after lifting the lid to reveal it. The styling of the Z10 has been picked apart since images first leaked many months ago and so there’s little to add to the debate as many readers will have made up their minds at this point anyway. What can be said is that there is definitely a very Apple feel here in my opinion. The industry numbers may be starting to change but Apple are still very much at the forefront of many consumer’s minds when they think of new phones, so who better to take your ‘inspiration’ from?

The design is sufficiently different however to give the Z10 a certain individuality. Also images of the white unit I have seen give off more of a unique BlackBerry feel than the black slab I’ve been reviewing for the past few days (this also seems to be the colour doing the rounds on TV advertising in the UK right now – a good sign the BlackBerry have invested somewhat in getting the Z10 ‘seen’ by more than just techies). The lack of a physical home button will stop any direct comparisons to the iPhone 5, although one would be forgiven for mistaking the two at a distance given the similar screen sizes.

IMG_20130208_113128[1]Z10 is a very pleasant weight in the hand and feels like a well-engineered phone, which to be fair is only to be expected from a BlackBerry. The style, weight and size put it a good distance above much of the Android camp, including the continuously flimsy Samsung, about on a par with HTC and mid-tier Sony devices but not quite at the premium heights of say the Xperia Z or most Apple units.

BlackBerry opted to include a 4.2 inch screen on the Z10. I’ve said before how this is about my favourite form factor on a smartphone, however here BlackBerry have added a relatively wide bezel on all 4 sides of the screen and a thick black plastic edging on top and bottom too. The end result is a device which is practically identical in size and thickness to my daily phone: the 4.7 inch screen Nexus 4. Now this isn’t actually a bad thing – the weight is comfortable and someone designing the Z10 seems to have figured out the right fractions of for the bezel to stop it from being ugly on a 2013 flagship, whilst being able to operate completely as a one handed user. The end result is of something that wouldn’t look out of place in the hands of a user in any demographic, definitely a big step in the right direction.

IMG_20130208_113303[1]The rear of the device has a wonderfully tactile embossed and rubberised finish which adds a lot of grip to the Z10 and makes it sit comfortably in the hand. The back cover is removable, something which divides a lot of users. Devices with removable covers never feel as ‘premium’ as sealed units, however I always see it as a sign of thinking about the user. Even if I may never feel the need to swap a battery, the fact I can is always appreciated – as is the ability to pull out the power source should a device ever hang indefinitely for some unknown reason. The cover is thin, but unlike Samsung’s recent devices it doesn’t feel brittle and I never thought I was in danger of snapping it like I do every time I open an S3. It also houses the NFC chip (sitting behind the metal BlackBerry logo in the centre) that gets its power from two gold pins on the main device body.

Overall the Z10 gives off a great first impression for a device that needs to hit the ground running. Comparisons to iPhone 5 are likely to be made and I think this is probably good for BlackBerry. For them to recover ground in the industry and remain a serious contender for ‘third place’ against Microsoft then it makes more sense to try and take some of Apple’s share than take on the seemingly ever expanding Android juggernaut spearheaded by Samsung. In direct opposition to Microsoft who have chosen the ‘fun and funky’ look with WP8 devices and interface, BlackBerry have built a unit that seems more serious. This has all the smartphone features consumers want, but it’s not to be confused with an expensive toy.

IMG_20130208_113858[1]Raw specs wise, the Z10 is a mixed bag, on the edge of top tier without completely reaching it. A dual-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon is running the show alongside an Adreno 225 GPU, a meaty enough combination to keep everything flowing smoothly. Those hoping for a quad-core BlackBerry may have to wait until the next generation. BlackBerry probably made the right choice here; very few applications make use of quad core functionality and those that do are generally games. BlackBerry appears more focussed on providing a quality core experience – this includes multimedia but shies away from high end mobile gaming which is still quite niche. 2 GB of RAM helps keep everything ticking over smoothly and no doubt helps the multitasking on the device. 16 GB internal storage is a standard, middle of the road amount, which can thankfully be expanded.

My only gripe is with some of the button and port placement. The power / lock button is on the top of the device in the centre. This seems totally out of place for a handset this size and for perfect one handed use should be on the side by the volume buttons. Also the micro USB port finds itself on the left hand side of the unit next to the mini HDMI. This is a more personal choice than the power button positioning, but for me it would be better on the bottom, especially as its position on the side means that any future desktop cradles are likely to leave the phone resting in landscape mode.

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Display

The Z10 features a 4.2 inch display with a very impressive 355 ppi. This size and pixel density makes for a very clean interface when using system apps and text is sharp at all times (made better with system font size as an option within the settings). This shows when browsing also, zooming right into small text on non-mobile optimised sites still results in easily readable text.

Brightness is a bit of an issue on Z10, I put it next to my Nexus 4 and whacked both devices up to full brightness to compare. Checking out a few sites with white backgrounds on Chrome and the BlackBerry Browser showed up the Z10 screen to be considerably darker, with a slight yellowish hue. Brightness is certainly acceptable when using the Z10 all the time and without a comparison device and most aren’t likely to take any issue whatsoever. However for screen aficionados who need their ‘whites to be white’ and ‘blacks to be black’ etc. then Z10 probably isn’t going to meet your grade.

That said, the colour grading seems to be of very high quality, and the overexposed / washed out effect that can happen on brighter screens such as Samsung’s isn’t apparent. Sitting the two next to each other reminded me a lot of trying to show the differences between plasma and LCD televisions years ago.

There is also no option that I could find for automatic brightness, which is a very odd omission. Original reports that BlackBerry would use Corning Gorilla Glass on the screen have now been shown to be untrue. The screen has been toughened though and is using Touch on Lens technology with touch interfacing on the back of one screen panel to keep the screen thin and lightweight.

Audio

I’ve often shied away from listening to music on smartphones which almost always have a weak speaker with a tinny sound. The native music and video players have a decent interface and will scan the appropriate folders in the BlackBerry file system for content. BB10 actually provides a pretty decent file manager application out of the box so you can move, copy, rename and even zip up files from the core folders if you want to make things easy for the multimedia applications.

IMG_00000072IMG_00000073The Z10 can definitely kick out some noise – during my tinkering with the settings I left the notification sounds on full volume and vibrate and I knew when I had a message when I was 2 or 3 rooms away from the phone! Oddly, notification volume is controlled in the settings, which also sets the ringtone volume. It seems that the volume buttons on the side of the handset and the master volume setting are only used for in call volume and the speaker for music and video. Confirmed, from BB10 settings options –

  • Notifications includes settings for sound profiles (Normal, Phone Calls Only, Vibrate Only, Silent and All Alerts Off) as well as a volume slider for audible alerts. Here you will also choose your individual alerts for native and third party apps that support notifications. The volume of a profile is now global for all alerts tied to that profile – you can no longer set the volume for individual alerts within a profile.
  • System Volume provides a slider for the master volume on the device which is used for media. You can also choose to use the volume rocker buttons to control music tracks.

There are only a few stock notification and call sounds which can be easily added to from the settings with downloaded or transferred audio files. One note is that the stock alarm sound I was using was beautiful, starting off quietly and rising louder and louder without the jarring, ‘jerk you awake’ noise of a lot of alarms.

Connectivity

IMG_00000070Z10 has all of the standard connectivity expected on a flagship, including Wi-FI, NFC, DLNA and Bluetooth 4.0. DLNA in particular is catered for by BlackBerry’s Play On, so you can stream media directly from the handset to a DNLA certified player such as my Samsung Smart TV. This worked out of the box with no issues whatsoever. A direct connection with a mini HDMI cable is also available for non DLNA capable displays. The cable isn’t included; however they are generally cheaper to obtain than the MHL adapters used for microUSB – HDMI connections in competing devices such as the Galaxy S3.

Standard storage on the Z10 is 16GB of which about 4GB is taken up by BB10 and the system applications. This can be expanded with a memory card; Z10 supports micro SDXC cards for the opportunity to add an extra 64GB.

As should start to become standard on UK handsets this year, the Z10 is 4G LTE ready, my review handset being compatible with LTE bands 20, 8, 3 and 7 (EU 800, 900, 1800, 2600 MHz). This means Z10 is LTE compatible on the current EE network and future offerings from the other UK network providers.

Camera

An 8 megapixel snapper adorns the rear of the Z10, which sits right in the middle of an acceptable specification for a flagship device right now, as does the 2 megapixel front facing module. It’s getting quite difficult to differentiate the results from a lot of smartphones these days and unless a device really pushes the boat out in terms of megapixels and sensor size then the results are going to be more or less the same and more than acceptable for the average user.

The camera performed well in the few situations I tested it in: a dimly lit restaurant, a spacious auction house and outside on the walk to Clove first thing in the morning. As is often the way with a lot of smartphone cameras, indoor performance was not brilliant, underexposing in low light and overexposing with the LED flash however this is the story with a lot of device cameras. The images produced were still acceptable with good definition and detail; it is also possible that the relatively dim display clouded my opinion when reviewing the images as I have been treated in recent times to the super bright displays on Samsung devices and my Google Nexus 4. Outside, or with better lighting conditions was a much better story. There are a few images here to take a look at although a supplementary post on camera performance should be available soon.

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BlackBerry have marketed Time Shift on the camera application as a unique feature and it definitely works as advertised. Effectively shooting a burst of images with face detection enabled, Time Shift allows you to select any face and use a circular winder to pick a section of the photo at any point in time during the burst. This is useful for when one person in a group blinks or looks away for instance. Time Shift works well, and the interface is slick, however after playing with it for a little while, one does wonder how often it would get used. You have to manually switch to Time Shift mode and the ‘shifting’ can only be activated on detected faces, not just any particular section of the image. This only makes it useful for portraits or group shots where people are trying to stay still and pose. Still, the feature works and it’s good to have it for when the opportunity arises.

Physical buttons are a bit odd for taking pictures on the Z10. The volume buttons and central voice search button are in prime place for zoom and capture respectively however they are not used like this. Both volume up & down will take a picture and the central button does nothing. Zooming is completed by a pinch action on the screen much like web browsing, although like every other smartphone camera I’ve used, the digital zoom results in a pretty awful picture after just a few magnification powers. The camera is very quick to respond after taking single images though, the lag in converting and saving the image to being able to take the next short is one of the shortest I’ve come across.

Reviewing pictures in the pictures app reveals an edit option. This launches a photo editing application that hides a whole host of options. From here you can apply filters, adjust white balance, colour saturation etc., crop the image and more. For a stock editing app it’s well featured and a pleasant surprise to find hidden away.

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Battery

Battery life is unfortunately not the greatest on the Z10. I wouldn’t generally consider myself a power user although I worked the device quite hard on my review days. On a day when I was travelling between towns I kept mobile data on to keep a solid connection. This drains battery quicker than WiFi connections of course (I also went through rural areas so patchy signal and searching for signal drains quickly as well) but I couldn’t help being a little disappointed by an almost empty battery by around 6pm, having left with a full charge at 11am. The screen was set to about 1/2 brightness, there doesn’t seem to be an option for automatic brightness and I did hardly any browsing and no YouTube that day – it was mostly voice calls, texts, emails, testing out the camera and some downtime on Facebook. A real benchmarked battery test wasn’t completed although my experiences seem pretty consistent with other reviews. If you consider yourself a power user then access to power throughout the day at work or in-vehicle etc. is probably going to be a necessity, as will a spare battery if you plan to be out and about away from power; a good thing BlackBerry made the battery removable.

 

PART 2: Software / Ecosystem

The big question on everyone’s lips is how well BB10 performs and if the development time has resulted in a polished, final experience. I’m pleased to say that for the most part BB10 is clean and simple to use, even surprisingly intuitive at times. There are a few minor gripes to detail, although considering this is the first major release of a QNX built BlackBerry OS since the PlayBook, almost all of these can be forgiven as updates to smooth out certain issues can surely be expected.

Navigation through BB10 is purely gesture based and I have tried to make it as clear as possible which gestures are used and when they are needed throughout sections of this part of the review. The truth of the matter is it will take having a Z10 in your hand to truly understand some of the navigation elements. Before heading into BB10 I will say that it did not take long at all for many of the gestures to become ingrained and I found myself attempting to use them on other devices after finishing with the Z10. What may feel a little clunky at first becomes very simple with only a little practice.

Home screens and app management

IMG_00000065The BB10 home screen begins with a 4×4 array of app icons. Having undergone big changes during development, these are now of a pleasing size and have a totally consistent feel; each rounded tile takes up exactly the same space on the screen and the ‘icon’ is an image within that tile. This avoids the jarring placement issues that can occur on Android devices with oddly sized icons sitting in peculiar tile areas, that can look awful sat next to each other.

A swipe from left to right on the first home screen takes you to the open app tray, where shortcuts to the one up to 8 allowed open apps (more on that later) are available to resume where you left them. If no apps are open, or you take another swipe then you will find yourself in the BlackBerry Hub, the one stop shop for all of your notifications. Apps can be arranged on the home screen, allowing for a degree of flexibility, although customisation options are scarce. A long press on any app icon begins an odd animation where all of the icons will begin to ‘bounce’; I suppose this is BlackBerry’s way of providing visual feedback so you know you can move icons. Leaving the screen alone for a few seconds stops this, holding an icon lets you shift it around or drop it on top of another app to create a folder. Inside a folder the same process is used to remove an app from the folder by dragging it to the bottom of the screen.

IMG_00000074Icons are forced from top to bottom and left to right, and always take the first available space. This means for instance you can’t have a row of 4 at the top and 4 at the bottom of the screen – you would have all 8 filling the first two rows. You can leave empty space and dragging an icon to the right edge of the screen will take it to the next screen or create a new one for you if you are at the last screen. You can continue to create new screens in this manner seemingly ad infinitum (I got bored at about 15 home screens when I also realised I would have to drag the icons all back one by one). The reason for this multiple home screen madness is that there is no equivalent of an app drawer for you to review all of your apps on BB10. Instead the home screens are a unified drawer / home screen combination. You can completely delete apps from the screens during the ‘bounce motion’ and any new app that you download will fill the first available space, starting from the first home screen; if there is no space then a new screen will be created. Clearly there must be a hardcoded upper limit on the amount of screens but this must be a number sufficiently huge enough that a user could never find themselves in the position of downloading an app and it having nowhere to go. From a usability and simplicity perspective this is fantastic; there are no long menus or settings options to manage applications, everything is right on the home screens. The only issue I have with this is that system apps, which cannot be deleted, are not able to be removed from the screens. On my count there were 26 app icons which could not be removed from the screens, resulting in me creating a single folder to dump most of the non-essential ones in and remove clutter. It’s a design choice that some will love, others will hate and most won’t be bothered over, and the solution of being able to move app icons to some separate hidden tray would defeat the object of this design.

For the most part, the home screen environment is clean, simple and easy to navigate; as the number of screens increases, so does a dot counter at the base of the display which you can use to quickly slide and shortcut to a particular screen – very slick. The two annoyances I found were during the movement of an icon. First off the bouncing motion, although good feedback, actually makes it a little difficult to drop an icon in the right place, as when the icons bounce ‘up’ (towards the screen) and appear bigger, it becomes very easy for BB10 to mistake you dropping the moved icon on top of another and creating a folder instead. This happened a fair few times during my review time and could be sorted in a number of ways (increasing space between icons, reducing the hit radius for creating a folder etc.). Also, the edges of the screens are very sensitive and it can be difficult to drop an icon at the sides without moving to another screen. Normally high sensitivity is great but in this instance it can prove a little frustrating.

IMG_00000052When at a home screen a pull down from the top of the screen will bring up a shortcut menu to access the full settings app, the notification profiles and Wi-Fi settings (from within the settings app), alarms (from the clock app), and toggle Bluetooth / rotation lock. Personally I would have preferred Wi-Fi to be a toggle on/off option here, rather take you into the full settings however many of BlackBerry’s design decisions with most of BB10 seem to side with the more technical user which is no bad thing. A mobile data toggle on/off would have been nice here also as you need to dive into the network options within the settings app to get at this. Rotation Lock seemed broken or at the least very buggy on my device. The option should stop the screen from flipping to landscape when the device is tilted but in my experience this simply didn’t happen when I pressed the option. BlackBerry Hub and the Browser would always flip to landscape when tilted, although on occasion the transition was noticeably delayed; I couldn’t be sure if Rotation Lock was causing the delay or if it was lag on the device. Either way I should have been sure and the lack of indication that Rotation Lock was active or not wasn’t useful.

IMG_00000064BB10 has a limit of 8 open applications, each time a new app is opened and minimised it will be left in the app tray to the left of the home screens so you can resume from where you left off. Each new minimised app will be placed at the top of the list pushing the previous ones down, an ‘X’ icon is available on each minimised app should you wish to close it. By having this limit, should you open a 9th application, the first app opened and minimised into the tray will be force closed. This is clearly a design choice to ensure resources are not wasted by having too many apps open at once however it could be a bone of contention for users wanting to do some serious multitasking. I tested this by opening TuneIn Radio, downloaded from BlackBerry World and having it play a radio station. Opening a further 8 apps (which can include even small system apps like Clock or Settings) unceremoniously force closed TuneIn Radio, halting the music. Re-opening the app found it back at the welcome screen, meaning I had to navigate back to the station I was listening to. Clearly how an app closes is up to the designers, and should you have work in an office style application it is up to the app if it saves this work when closed by the system (as any well designed application should). 8 apps should be enough to satisfy most users, however this could frustrate some.

Synchronisation

Initial set up of the Z10 was pleasantly simple, with synchronisation with accounts made very easy. Email accounts are managed in the settings for instance, and a basic synchronisation to my personal Gmail account was up and running in just a couple of minutes. Discovering my Gmail account gave me options to synchronise any of email, contacts and calendar. Once synchronised, tapping on the account information from the settings menu provides a whole host of advanced options to edit including IMAP and SMTP server address, password, port, encryption and path prefix. You can also change the screen name of an account so you can differentiate between them in the BlackBerry Hub.

IMG_00000077These options aren’t difficult to find by any means and further consolidate that BlackBerry want to have the Z10 seen as a serious device that doesn’t alienate their enterprise users. In a similar fashion a quick look at the ‘About’ option in the settings provides all sorts of IP address, MAC address and encryption information about your connected networks that you probably didn’t know about. The option to use IPv6 for Internet connections was thrust at me almost as soon as I connected to the Internet which is a good sign also. Once again, the Z10 is not a toy and anyone scratching just below the consumer friendly surface will find a host of ‘proper’ technology options. Best of all this information and the options to edit it is very well presented – the BB10 settings menu is incredibly easy to navigate, something that Android could learn a lot from.

BlackBerry Hub

The hub will consolidate all of the notifications from your synchronised accounts into one place. The Hub can be accessed by swiping to the far left of the home screens and open app tray or by using a gesture from within any application. From the bottom of the screen glass, swiping up a short amount will half minimise the app you are using to ‘peek’ into the hub and see how many notifications you have (this can also be done to check the time, battery status etc on the top notification bar). Sliding the ‘peek’ back down will return to the app you were using, however sliding to the right will minimise the app to the app tray and drop you into the hub.

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This flick up from the bottom is also the default return-to-home gesture that you will invariably use a lot during BB10 and is in place of any physical or soft home button. The home gesture can be used from inside any application to minimise and return to home. Once you find the sweet spot to start the gesture (start from the bottom of the glass on the BlackBerry logo under the usable screen), it becomes natural and should be an ambidextrous action for right or left handed users. After a day it was second nature and I found myself trying to swipe up to return home on my Nexus 4 (which of course doesn’t do anything).

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Any synchronised email will be delivered to the associated account in the hub, as will SMS messages, call history information and notifications from linked social network accounts including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can select each individual stream of information separately or view the entire stream of notifications as one.

BBM is also still a big feature of BlackBerry devices although its relevance has waned somewhat in recent years with the advance of WhatsApp and similar applications. I’ve never been a BBM user so I can’t really comment on any changes or updates to the service, all I can say is that BBM is still here for those BlackBerry die-hards still using it and integrates into the Hub as well as any other account.

Although similar ideas have been put forward in some Android skins, BlackBerry Hub is well polished and offers one of the best notification centres I have used. Incoming notifications of differing types can also be given their own sounds to differentiate between them. Types of unread messages are listed on the lock screen as well so a quick tap is all that is needed to see what the flashing notification LED on the Z10 is referring to. As stock this doesn’t flash different colours for all types although there are apparently apps in BlackBerry World to change this.

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A few navigation and management issues are to be found in the hub, mostly in email management. A long press on an email brings up a list of icons to the right for reply, archive, delete etc. which is fine once you have learnt what each of them mean, but a little confusing at first. Also selecting multiple messages requires this hold to bring up this menu, followed by a press on the ‘more’ icon for a further list to find the ‘select more’ option by scrolling down. A few too many presses and scrolls for what is generally a highly used feature. Missed calls remain in the hub as notifications until deleted through this menu interface – the natural inclination to just tap on the call information to see what to do resulted in me calling people back a few times before I changed habits. Again, no interface is perfect for all users and overall navigation through the hub is pretty intuitive.

Browser

Simply put, the new BlackBerry Browser is fantastic. This was an area that BlackBerry really needed to deliver on, having been lacklustre in previous versions. The browser has been touted as being the most HTML5 compliant mobile browser available, which means newly coded sites and HTML5 applications all render and perform perfectly. Adobe Flash is also supported for sites that don’t support HTML5 video or for those wanting to play Flash browser games, although Flash is turned off in the settings by default. The URL bar uses Bing as the search engine and the settings option provides simple access to manage history, cookies, privacy, text encoding, font size and more in a simple interface consistent with options across the BB10 experience.

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Browser navigation is fluid, pinch to zoom responding fluidly on sites and tab management simple. An icon on the bottom left of the screen pulls across a menu from the left to access bookmarks, history, open tabs or create a new tab. A long press on a link in a page pulls across a menu from the right with icons for options in a manner consistent with options in the Hub. Once learned the options are simple, including open in new tab and bookmarking. Bookmarks can also be given tags, so if you get in the habit of bookmarking too many pages and links, you can then filter through using your own search criteria.

Keyboard

IMG_00000063BlackBerry have clearly put a lot of effort into the new soft keyboard on the Z10, this being the first BlackBerry device not to feature the iconic physical keyboard. Response to the keyboard has generally been positive and so was my experience. I’ve got used to using a Swype style interface in recent times so going back to single button presses for each letter did feel like a step backwards, however I know that many people either haven’t had the chance to or don’t get on with Swype style input so I attempted to approach the new keyboard keeping Swype out of my mind.

The keyboard is surprisingly accurate, especially in portrait where I’ve often found my big thumbs making a hash of soft keyboard input over the years. The keyboard does a very good job of correcting mistakes and features learning algorithms like many of the best paid for keyboard applications. Although I probably didn’t have the review unit long enough for much of the learning to take effect, I did notice some very good correcting happening when in the more difficult portrait mode. Words are also predicted as you type; this is BlackBerry Keyboard’s most unique style having the predictions appear in small print above the next letter you might type. A quick flick up from that letter will ‘throw’ the word into the text box. Possible following words for the sentence are then presented as options to flick up. Very. Very. Nice. All in all typing in BB10 is as good as it gets on a soft keyboard.

BlackBerry World

Last of all we come to BlackBerry’s new application storefront BlackBerry World. More than 70000 apps have been touted by BlackBerry as being available and while a large number of these are casual games and throwaway ‘silly’ applications, there are some serious tools available. The front page of BlackBerry World shows off the kind of ‘editor’s pick’, trending and top applications we have come to expect from storefronts. A slide down the page and BlackBerry World also showcases music, movies and television. BlackBerry have clearly seen the opportunity and need to provide a level of multimedia services in the modern age, taking them out of their traditional comfort zone.

IMG_00000055IMG_00000056IMG_00000057IMG_00000058When searching, content other than music is categorised first into apps, games and movies, each followed by a suitable sub-menu or two to narrow the search. Navigation is as simple as anywhere else in BB10 although the number of different sub categories in World is a lot to wrap your head around and it could lead to apps getting buried if they aren’t uploaded by developers into as many categories as possible. Search will quickly become your friend if you are looking for a particular app or style as looking through all the categories in case you missed something can become tiresome.

Once in a suitable sub menu of apps or a search result then the displayed list is a mix of free and paid sorted in popularity by default. It took me a minute or two to realise that you can pull down the hidden filter options sorting by popularity, alphabetical or age, free / paid or both and finally the user rating.

Conclusion

BlackBerry really needed to deliver with the Z10 to continue to remain relevant in the mobile space. I am very pleased to say that as far as I’m concerned, the Z10 does the job admirably. As well as looking the part on the outside, BB10 has all the functionality expected wrapped up in a very fluid experience.

IMG_00000054For new or casual smartphone users, BB10 should be easy to pick up (and the included tutorial apps will no doubt help); the transition for those more invested in other systems is of course going to be harder. If you are a power user heavily invested in either the iPhone or Android ecosystem then I would definitely recommend taking a long look at BlackBerry World to make sure the apps you need are available. Current omissions such as WhatsApp and Skype, although on their way, could prove costly in these early days.

Really the only indication of whether the Z10, BB10 and future devices that will be running it will prove successful is in how well they are adopted by consumers. In the modern world this means serious advertising and brand management, as well as carrier support. BlackBerry has a reputation to restore and bridges to rebuild with customers who may have jumped ship long ago. The Z10 and the BB10 OS are definitely the mix to get the job done; all it needs now is for people to start believing it.

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About Josh Bethell

Josh joined Clove part time a few years ago whilst studying Computing at Bournemouth University. Since finishing his studies he has remained at Clove in a full time position, involved in sales, returns and social media.

Involved with both consumer electronics and software since the mid 2000s, keeping up to date with industry developments is as much a hobby as it is a job.

Easy going but never afraid to share an opinion, Josh can often be found in his spare time listening to some heavy rock or at a local gig as well as playing with the latest gadgets and video games.

Comments

  1. 2013 it will BlackBerry Year

  2. i cannot get a ringtone downloaded though – can you help

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  1. [...] A lot has changed since the release of BlackBerry’s last keyboard flagship, the Bold 9900.  The Canadian firm has changed its name from RIM to BlackBerry, it’s launched a new version of BlackBerry OS (10) and its also released its touch screen flagship, the Z10 (read our Z10 review here). [...]

  2. [...] You can read our full review of the Z10 here. [...]

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