Review: The Blackberry Z10 - In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king
I've been hating my iPhone lately and I've got a love-hate relationship with my Lumia 920 so my buddy at AT&T loaned me a Blackberry Z10 for a month to try out. This is the same buddy who loaned me an AT&T Unite Hotspot in May. These are loans, I don't keep them.
Imagine a world where there is no iPhone and there is no Android and there is no Windows Phone. In this world, the Blackberry rocks. Not just rocks, present-tense, but rocked, past tense.
I mean, seriously, the RIM 950 had an Intel 386 and 4MB of RAM. That thing ran for a week on a AA battery and changed my life. Blackberry connected me. That was truly innovative. Research in Motion changed mobile forever.
The Blackberry Z10 changes nothing. It pains to me to say this, truly it does. I'm sure that in some parallel universe Blackberry is on top and Mr. Spock has a beard. But on this planet, Mr. Spock has an iPhone (or probably a rooted iPad Mini that runs LCARS).
But, still, I ran with a Blackberry Z10 for a month and I tried, I really did. It's a lovely device, the Blackberry Z10, make no mistake. But, it's a Blackberry-iPhone. It's evil Spock, not Spock - a mirror if you will.
Don't we all appreciate the innovation in phone design that's happened since the introduction of the iPhone?
But is it a Blackberry? Kind of. It has BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) but that's where it ends. It actually feels more like the lovely HP TouchPad's webOS than like anything I've seen in the Blackberry universe. It's certainly more visually polished and consistent than any Android I've used, has more clarity and depth than a Windows Phone and is some how as fluid as an iPhone.
You can move in and out of apps within a grid of four running apps. It's similar to the row of thumbnails you see on iPhone iOS7 or Windows Phone, except in a grid. One nice touch is that some apps, like the NYTimes for example, can opt-in and draw a custom tiny thumbnail of their own. Apps that choose not to just show a standard thumbnail. This is a small but under-utilized touch that has potential if it takes off with developers.
You swipe left and right between the Blackberry Hub on the far left, the running task list, and the actual app launch takes up the remaining screens.
The browser is excellent. It supports much of HTML5, CSS3 and Media Queries and modern sites like my blog and podcast site rendered great. It's not quite Mobile Safari but it's very close. Fonts render clear and clean and the 1280x720 screen is fantastic.
The calendar has such potential, although the Month View is useless, as it is on literally ever smart phone I've ever used. It's all birthdays and wasted space. Week View tips over quickly as well once you start having anything that resembles a normal person's schedule.
Email and The Hub
The one differentiator that this Blackberry has is the omnipresent "Hub." It is always off to the side and accessible from any app. It's Email and Facebook and Twitter and Texting all in one.
- Mini HDMI connection - I'm not sure I'd never use this, but I love that I have the chance. However with things like the Chromecast (and Miracast, AirPlay and Wi-Di) there's just no reason to have a physical connection to a large screen anymore. Or at least there soon won't be.
- Feels great in your hand - It feels like an iPhone 5. It's weighty, but not heavy, firm and well built. Even though the back comes off (a plus, so you can swap batteries) it still feels tight.
- Fast - It never lagged, swipes were recognized and responsive
- Blackberry Hub - Everything (Twitter, SMS, Email, etc) is all in one place. Reminiscent of the Windows Phone People Hub, but more "swiss army knife" with all your messages in one giant list, my only complaint is that the swipe to access the Hub is not-intuitive. You swipe up from the bottom, then turn 90 degrees and keep swiping to the right, like a right-turn sign.
- Browser - I was really impressed with the browser. It supports CSS3 media queries nicely and scrolls fast.
- Smallish battery - I never made it a full day without having to charge. To be clear, my iPhone barely makes it past 2pm, but I somehow expected more from a Blackberry. This battery is only 1800mAh.
- Small App Ecosystem - The Angry Birds, Twitters, and Facebooks are all here, but once you start digging it's clear that this is a paper dragon of an AppStore.
If you're #teamblackberry and you have #iphoneenvy then this is likely the phone for you. However, there's no compelling reason to switch if you already have a smart phone. If you're in the market for your first smart phone, I'd consider one of the top three phones, as I just don't see Blackberry winning. Still, it's an impressive first outing.
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
At this point, what *would* be considered innovative? Not everyone can be Steve Jobs and have the foresight to come up with a game-changing device.
Blackberry is in a precarious position - on the one hand, it has to come up with something new and exciting to differentiate itself from the pack, but on the other hand if it goes too far it risks alienating everyone and the company's existence is literally at stake.
At least MS tried to go their own direction with Windows Phone.
Scott, I'm curious as to why you didn't mention the on-screen keyboard in this review. In every other review I've read, that's the part people are most excited about as the OS lets you complete words by swiping from the pressed key rather than lifting your finger up and touching elsewhere on the screen.
I had bought a Nexus 7 to replace my Kindle Paperwhite (which my son inherited) so I could check out Jelly Bean in its unmodified form. I found it to be unexpectedly snappy, intuitive and generally pleasant to use. So, when I ditched my 920, I replaced it with a Nexus 4 which is now running 4.3 (not rooted). I very much prefer it to my old iPhone 4 or Lumia 920. If you get the opportunity to try out a plain vanilla Android 4.3 device, I highly recommend it.
What's wrong with the iPhone? After 6 months pain with my Nexus 4 and because of the missing essential apps in the winmo universe the iPhone 5S is my last hope. Btw I was also thinking about this BB, but it is a dead-end, not a real option compared to the MS and Apple worlds.
Any sense of the Z10's management functions? Might be impossible to tell if you're not part of a managed device network.
(And yes, that does mean that your IT department is run by Evil Spock. Are you really surprised?)
I offered to get her a touch screen phone, but she has no interest in it.
I have a Lumia 900. It's unlikely I'll buy another Windows Phone ever again. I'm not a fan of iPhone, but maybe if they make a slightly larger screen... otherwise I'm curious about the new Moto X. I've still got many months left on my contract.
I disagree with @Smangla who says you are writing to many reviews. I enjoy the reviews. To me you are reviewing products a developer is likely interested in.
Michael - I find the 920 a little slower in switching apps than my iPhone. I tend to move very fast, move into email, process, then tweet, etc, and there's always a...pause...on the 920.
Sam - Every other week my Wife gets a Mommy Day where she can just "punch out" and go do whatever. She's off the clock. I get one on alternating weeks.
Gargol - Thanks, fixed!
A long long time ago, in an ecosystem far far away, Nokia had a problem. Symbian's APIs and general developer friendliness was horrible. Programmers hated to program for it (I still shudder at the memory). And most of Nokia's own employees had a love-hate relationship with it.
Until one day, the Symbian gods demanded that Nokia's web services division turn a Symbian smartphone into a full fledged web server. They were forced to port Apache, MySQL et al onto a Symbian smartphone, than they had to make it so that their own web services can run on an array of Symbian phones (albeit in a reduced capacity).
It was a herculean task, took years and was never fully completed. Many developers quit in the face of such adversity. Yet after that, Nokia finally weeded out the weak willed of their developers, forced themselves to completely rework the APIs and the user interface, and convinced themselves to splurge on QT to improve developer friendliness.
Mind you, Windows Phone can get a lot better, if Microsoft forced itself to port all its products to it. IIS, ASP.net, SQL Server, Visual Studio, the whole shebang. You guys would hate the experiance so much the windows phone would be fixed of all its issues ;)
Every time I use someone's non-vanilla android phone I feel like the "polish" added by manufacturers actually detracts from the experience (especially Samsung's gaudy skin). And for that reason it would be interesting to see how you feel about vanilla vs non-vanilla android!
Keep up the good work
No, but a workaround that I've found is to just develop for Android then port it over to Blackberry 10. BB10 will be having Android 4.2 emulator running on it very soon. Only problem with doing the work around is that you can not really take advantage of the features of BB10.
@Scott you mention the lack of apps I wondering did you try side loading apps? There is a chrome extension that allows you to side load them over almost effortlessly. Can read more about it here : http://crackberry.com/sideload-apps-your-blackberry-using-google-chrome
Knowing that you can do that(sideload android apps) plus having the 4.2 emulator would that change your outlook on BB10. Seem like the only problem with it then would be smallish battery. Which I agree I expected more from BB with regards to battery life.
Is your Dad really the target demographic for your reviews? Haha
Yep, the Z10 body under a different OS would be great. Like you, just can't see this getting any more than low single digit market penetration WRTO other available options. Nice enough and a quality piece of hardware, but too little, too late. These days, it's the software that makes the difference. Cheers. Basil.
The gesture system is practical and easy to use once you get the hang of it. Good clear phone quality, perhaps a little tininess to it.
As a side note, neither HTC nor iPhone could meet what BB and Samsung offer. Although a thumbs up to Apple's Siri (still the best there) and their gaming if that's what you’re into. Love my Z10 and the wife likes her S4, mainly because she likes Candy Crush.
Ask President Obama.
The smooth WP8 integration of accounts and data into one continuous stream tightly integrated into the Calendar/Agenda/to-do is absolutely awesome. FB events come up in my calendar for me to accept or decline... that's cool.
I spent 6 months as an Android Developer and I'll say device/build fragmentation was a nightmare as was the completely kludgy 'Google we build it as we go along' UI.
The WP hub is great and I can't see how the BB implementation is any better, to me it looks again kludgy.
As a student of Operating Systems I suspect the elegance of QNX to be way beyond the Droid in many areas (Multtasking for one as seen on BB10) and I will always fight for the underdog... but this is too little.. too late.
It's hard to see where they will go from here, if Developer traction is impossible for WP you can be sure it'll be beyond the impossible for BB10.
Saying that I loved my 9900....
and since the Z10 prices dropped (180£ in UK for new, simfree) it makes probably the best phone on the market :)
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