BlackBerry Z10 review
By Al Sacco | CIO US | Published: 11:41, 31 January 2013
BlackBerry Hub also lets you filter messages and notifications so you see only the items you want. For example, when you're in the Hub you can pick Email to see only email messages, or you could choose Facebook to see only messages and notifications from Facebook Friends. Developers can build applications that integrate with the Hub, and the more Hub-compatible apps you use the richer the information you find there.
The application home screens are similar to what you find in iOS or Android, and you can customize your screen to include as many panes as you want. Each panel fits 16 apps or folders, with four icons in four rows. To create a folder, you just hold your finger on an app for a few seconds and then drag it on top of another app icon.
BlackBerry 10, the BlackBerry Hub and BlackBerry Flow are truly unique. As such, they take some getting used to, but after a week with the Z10, I find myself flying around the device. It's very easy to check messages and notifications using the Hub, and I love that I can check any new notification without having to open up the inbox and leave the app or pages I'm using. Overall, I'm a big fan of the new UI and navigation features.
My single favourite feature in BlackBerry 10, and on the Z10, is the virtual keyboard. It's the best touch-screen, virtual keyboard I have ever used, hands down. When it comes to accuracy, ease of use and predictive-text features, it puts the stock Android and iOS keyboards to shame.
The on-screen keys are large, and the keyboard's rows are separated by virtual "frets," which add some space and provide more touchable area per key. The keyboard literally "learns" your typing behavior and adjusts accordingly. For example, if you have large hands and you constantly hit the "P" key when you're trying to tap the letter "O," the keyboard learns your pattern and adjusts itself. You can even type in different languages in certain applications without changing any input settings, and the keyboard predicts words in both languages.
The BlackBerry 10 keyboard's predictive-text features are what truly set it apart from other touch-screen keypads. When you start typing, the software predicts what it thinks you'll type next. But unlike other keyboards, the predicted words appear directly above the next letter in the word you're typing. To finish the word you just slide your finger upward from above the letter you're on. And the software inserts a space after the word you slide up, so it also eliminates another step.
The Z10 virtual keypad also it takes predictive text a step further. In the past week, I've send a lot emails to RIM staffers asking questions about the Z10, and I closed many of these messages with a standard: "Thanks very much for your assistance." (Thanks again, Ruth!) Now, when I start typing "Thanks," on my Z10, it not only predicts that word, but "very" automatically appears above the "V" key. And if I slide my finger up to type "very," the word "much" appears above the "M" key and so on.
BlackBerry 10 still supports some of the keyboard shortcuts BlackBerry users know and love, but not as many as I'd hoped. RIM tells me it plans to add more keyboard shortcuts to BlackBerry 10 in the future. I've been using two smartphones, a BlackBerry and an Android device, for a long time. I've enjoyed the application selection, better UI and performance of Android, but I couldn't part with RIM's physical QWERTY keyboard. Yeah, I'm that guy who says he can never use a virtual keyboard. Or I was. The BlackBerry 10 virtual keyboard changed that, though I admit I'm still very interested in the BlackBerry X10, which runs BlackBerry 10 and has a physical keyboard.
An awesome new camera feature in BlackBerry 10 is the TimeShift camera setting, which helps you capture better pictures of groups of people - particularly children, who may have trouble sitting still. TimeShift takes a rapid series of images and lets you isolate the faces of the subjects in your photos. You can then tap the faces in the picture and "fast forward" or "rewind" them to find the best facial expressions.
Another new multimedia feature that's worth nothing in BlackBerry 10 is Story Maker. Story Maker lets you create multimedia video montages using images, video and music stored on your device. You just pick the media you want to include, arrange it the way want and then choose from a handful of Instagram-like filter and effects. You can save your Story Maker clips in HD 720p or 1080p resolutions.
The BlackBerry 10 browser is a huge improvement over past versions of RIM's web-surfing software. It's speedy, easy to use and it has all of the common features you expect in a modern mobile browser. It is particularly adept at handling HTML 5 websites, and it supports Adobe Flash.
RIM's BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) app also got a significant upgrade in BlackBerry 10. You can now use BBM in BlackBerry 10 for video calls, in addition to voice and text chats, over Wi-Fi and cellular networks. I only used the BBM video chat feature briefly, but in my experience it was intuitive and the quality was decent over LTE. BBM in BlackBerry 10 also lets you share your device's screen with video-chat participants, so you could initiate a video chat with a colleague to show them a presentation or chat with a long-distance loved one while showing them pictures of your recent travels. IT folks could also use this feature to help resolve problems with users' devices; employees could share their screens and then follow IT's instructions to identify and solve handheld issues. (Note: BlackBerry 10 is required for video chats; you cannot chat with users of older BlackBerrys.)
RIM's BlackBerry World app store finally feels like a legitimate mobile-software and media shop. You can buy apps, games, music, TV shows and music, using a number of payment options including PayPal, credit card and carrier billing, where available. The TV/movie catalogue is powered by Rovi, and I was pleased to find a decent selection of new releases, older movies and TV shows. The music selection is similarly solid. RIM implemented a new set of Parental Controls in BlackBerry World to give parents control over what content their kids consume. And a new Newsstand app, which is not a part of BlackBerry World, lets you download magazines and other reading materials.
From an enterprise perspective, BlackBerry 10 should be very appealing to businesses. It can easily connect to Microsoft Exchange using ActiveSync, with no BlackBerry Enterprise Server or Enterprise Service required. But using the new BES 10 gives organisations tons of unique security and management features, including access to BlackBerry Balance, which creates a secure workspace on BlackBerry 10 devices that can be managed by IT without affecting personal data. BlackBerry Balance also has an enterprise-specific version of the BlackBerry World store.
Finally, I appreciate the full-feature Docs to Go document-creation and editing software that ships with BlackBerry 10 - though I wish the Word app supported Track Changes. I like how you can set a custom message to appear on your device's lock screen and access the camera when your phone is locked. RIM's new BlackBerry Link software makes it easy to manage multimedia, files and other data, backup your phone and switch BlackBerry devices, though I only used the Windows version; the Mac software wasn't ready when I got my review device, but RIM says it should be on launch day.
I know, I know, that's a whole lot to like. But there are a few things that drive me nuts about the Z10, too. One area in particular could make all of this good stuff irrelevant in the long run. So let's move on to the not-so-great things about the BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry 10.