BlackBerry Z10 review
By Al Sacco | CIO US | Published: 11:41, 31 January 2013
I have a few handfuls of Android applications that I use regularly. When I say "regularly," I mean every day or at least every few days. The apps I use most often: Twitter; Foursquare; Instagram; Google+; Untappd; Facebook; Google Maps; Google Music; Amazon MP3; Amazon Kindle; Netflix; Dropbox; Kik Messenger; Spotify; Fitbit; Dunkin' Donuts payment app; and NBA Game Time.
Of those apps, only Twitter, Foursquare, Untappd, and Facebook are available for BlackBerry 10. A third-party Dropbox client is also available, and it gets the job done, but the official Android and iOS apps offer much better experiences. Counting the Dropbox app, that's 5 out of 17, or less than 30 percent of the Android apps I use regularly.
BlackBerry World may be packed with apps right now, but much of what I see is junk. And very few of the "big name" apps from notable app makers are available. (Again, that could change after launch.) Just yesterday, when I traveled from Boston to New York for a BlackBerry 10 launch event, I had to repeatedly pull out my Galaxy SIII because the Z10 doesn't have the apps I use to find public transit information, my digital train ticket and my hotel reservation information.
What's worse, some of the native BlackBerry 10 apps are buggy, as well. The native calendar application crashes every single time I try to add an appointment without first specifying whether I want to add it to my work or personal calendar. If I search for a business using the browser search bar, I get error messages when I try to click on the phone number in the browser to place a call, and I have to type the phone number in manually. And I've had issues opening email attachments, even basic Word documents.
The BlackBerry 10 OS frozen up completely on me a few times during the past week, too, and I have to pull my battery to reset it. This is particularly disappointing given the amount of time RIM spent developing BlackBerry 10.
One thing RIM really did well in past versions of its BlackBerry OS was notifications. You could set custom vibrations and tones for the majority of your apps and services, and you still can in BlackBerry 10, but the available options have been slimmed down. For example, you can no longer assign multiple vibrations or longer or shorter vibrations as alerts - there is only one vibration setting in BlackBerry 10. And RIM offers significantly fewer tones and sounds in BlackBerry 10.
Fixed phone and camera icons appear on the BlackBerry 10 Active Frame tab and on all of your home panels, but you cannot swap out the phone or camera for other commonly-used apps. And you can only add 16 applications to a single home-screen folder, which also isn't ideal.
RIM would have been wise to offer some sort of cloud-music locker service like Google's Play Music or Amazon's MP3 cloud service. I'm not used to having to store my music on my device, and I'm using more storage space than I'd like on the Z10 because I don't have access to any cloud-based music service.
It would have also been nice to see some level of BlackBerry PlayBook integration. The BlackBerry 7 OS has an app that can be used to control the PlayBook remotely, but BlackBerry 10 does not.
Finally, the BlackBerry 10 reboot time is much longer than I expected it to be. It takes about 70 seconds for the Z10 to start up. My Samsung Galaxy SIII starts in about 35 seconds and the HTC Windows Phone 8X takes about 50 seconds to start.
Now, on to my BlackBerry Z10 review conclusion.
BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry 10 review conclusion
The BlackBerry Z10 hardware is good-looking, well-built and functional. The display is top of the line, and it's big but not too large at 4.2 inches. It has a removable battery and expandable memory. The camera isn't the best I've used on a smartphone, but it should do the trick for casual mobile photographers.
The BlackBerry 10 software is smooth and snappy, and I've seen very little lag. It also feels like no other mobile OS, and that's refreshing. The new virtual keyboard is the best touch-screen keyboard on the market today. RIM packaged some truly unique and valuable multimedia features in BlackBerry 10, including the TimeShift camera setting and the Story Maker video-montage tool.
BBM, long one of RIM's most popular offerings, now supports video calling between BlackBerry 10 smartphone over Wi-Fi and cellular networks. But the OS and native applications are still a bit buggy, and that's really disappointing, especially when you consider the amount of time RIM spent working on the new OS.
BlackBerry 10 also lacks quality apps from big name developers and corporations. Many of these large developers probably feel as though they don't need to rush into development for BlackBerry 10 due to their success with Android or iOS application. So they could be waiting to see how well the platform is received before investing. It's possible that BlackBerry World could see an influx of quality, popular apps in the coming months. But right now I'm not impressed with the app selection.
RIM's biggest challenge right now is drawing users away from rival platforms, but the average consumer is not going to drop his or her iPhone or Android smartphone for the Z10 or X10 if they can't use the apps they've come to rely on. It's that simple.
I've asked myself repeatedly since I received the BlackBerry Z10: Could I ditch my Android phone completely and use only the Z10? The answer is no. Not yet at least. And that says an awful lot.
Yet the BlackBerry Z10 is a huge step in the right direction for RIM. If you're looking for a high-end, touch-screen smartphone that feels different than the iPhone, Android or any other mobile OS - and you're not too concerned with the lack of quality BlackBerry 10 apps - you'll find a friend in the Z10. But if you want a healthy selection of the most popular mobile apps and the best overall mobile experience available today, you probably want to look elsewhere.
The million dollar question: Can BlackBerry 10 save RIM and get BlackBerrys into the hands of the iOS-or-Android-toting masses? Yes, it could. But the Z10 alone will not save RIM, and even if it is well received by smartphone users, the X10 represents only the first step on the long and winding road to recovery for the BlackBerry maker.