The folks at BlackBerry have had a rough couple of years. After taking its time to launch a tablet and updated smartphone OS, some thought that the company was headed towards the graveyard. However, earlier this year, the company announced two new phones: the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10. These two smartphones are run off of the BlackBerry 10 operating system that has been rebuilt from the ground up. I’ve had the past couple weeks to play around with the Z10, the full-touch, keyboardless variant of the BlackBerry 10 ecosystem. Below is my in-depth review on the Z10’s hardware and software.
The screen is one of the Z10’s strongest points. During my time with the device, I’ve found that the Z10’s screen is on par with my iPhone 5’s Retina Display and has proved to be quite enjoyable to use when watching movies, YouTube videos, as well as general web browsing. This is due to the Z10’s semi-spacious 4.2″ screen with a resolution of 1280×768, which brings it to a resolution of 356ppi. The screen is also relatively bright, which makes it nice for both high-light situations and low-light situations.
I’ll be honest: I have a love-hate relationship with the Z10’s design. I do think that the Z10 features a clean and high quality design, and I’m a fan of the soft plastic finish that the device has to offer as well. The rear-end of the Z10 is pretty basic as it features a simple BlackBerry logo and a unique bumpy pattern. The top and sides of the device, however, are made out of a more rigid material. The front of the device houses the screen with relatively large screen borders. All of these design aspects come together to make the Z10 look basic, yet professional and classy.
Though the Z10 may look nice, the device, minus the screen, is completely crafted from plastic. This makes the device feel cheap and makes me wish that it had incorporated some sort of metal like what we’ve seen in the iPhone 5, HTC One and even the BlackBerry Bold 9900.
The BlackBerry Z10 has a surprisingly decent camera. It features a 8 mega-pixel sensor with 1080p video recording capabilities alongside a bright flash. Aside from the hardware, Z10’s Camera app makes your photos really shine. The app features numerous filters, scene settings as well as shooting modes. I’m a huge fan of the burst mode which is built into BlackBerry 10 as well as TimeShift. TimeShift snaps multiple photos automatically, and allows you isolate faces and go back in time with them. This allows you to get perfect group and action shots.
Design And Features
BlackBerry 10 is a very interesting operating system in terms of design. It has a similar look and feel to that of HP’s WebOS due to its mostly button-less navigation and gestures. However, I think that BlackBerry has done a good job of making the OS easy and intuitive to use due to its many unique features such as BlackBerry Hub and the improved BlackBerry Keyboard.
BlackBerry Hub is a hub that shows all of your text messages, BBMs, emails, and social notifications in one place. When you first swipe into BlackBerry Hub, you’ll be able to view all of these notifications in one continuous list, though you can also single out feeds if you’d like. BlackBerry Hub is accessible from anywhere within the BlackBerry 10 OS, leaving you connected your family, friends, and coworkers at all times.
BlackBerry Keyboard is BlacBerry’s new and super-intuitive software keyboard. From the naked eye, it may look like any other mobile keyboard, but the changes become apparent when you start to use it. When typing, the keyboard will attempt to predict words for you. These words hover over letters on the keyboard, and can be selected by simply swiping up on them.
Since all BlackBerry 10 devices are completely free of navigation buttons, all actions are performed via different types of swipes and taps. For instance, if you want to close out of an application, all you have to do is swipe up from the bottom of the screen. When doing this, a small preview of the application will be moved to your device’s homescreen where it will reside with the rest of your recently used applications. If you’d like to open an application that hasn’t been recently used, just swipe to the right to bring up your full list of installed apps.
The folks at BlackBerry have added all of the standard BBM messaging features to BlackBerry 10 that were offered in previous iterations of the OS. For instance, BlackBerry users can still send free text messages and voice messages back and forth. However, with BlackBerry 10, BBM has been enhanced to allow for free video calling and screen sharing between BlackBerry 10 users. This allows BlackBerry users to take their BBM conversations to a whole new personal level as they can share photos, documents, and whatever else is on their phone’s screen.
While the BBM ecosystem may be decent, the app ecosystem is lacking. Though the operating system launched with 70,000 apps, and recently announced that it hit 100,000 apps, none of them seem to be extremely good. Sure, the standard Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn apps may be decent, but as you get further through the BlackBerry Word store, you’ll begin to realize that some major apps and games that are available on iOS and Android are missing. For instance, Instagram, Netflix, Dropbox and Rdio amongst others have yet to make their way to the BlackBerry World for BlackBerry 10. As someone who uses all three of these services on a daily basis, I found it difficult to use the device nonstop over an iPhone or even Android smartphone since I use these apps often.
BlackBerry 10 has been very good to me in terms of responsiveness. The device quickly responds to most touch-actions and quickly opens apps, documents and multimedia files. When multitasking, I’ve found that one can easily switch between apps without worrying about a stutter or other form of lag. The only form of lag I’ve found when using the BlackBerry Z10 is in the web browser. For instance, when loading and scrolling through web pages, I’ve experienced some stuttering and general slowness.
While the BlackBerry Z10 may feature a promising new OS and a decent set of internal hardware, I cannot recommend the device at this time. This is due to the fact that BlackBerry 10 is missing some crucial third-party applications and the fact that the external hardware feels cheap on the device. However, if you’ve had your heart set on purchasing a BBM-capable device, then this may be your only modern option.