Blackberry Z10 Initial Review
First of all, I want to make perfectly clear that I have no financial stake in BlackBerry, don't work for them, don't have any family or friends who do, and don't own a single share of stock. The following is my honest opinion as a consumer. I am, however, an unabashed "fanboy" of the company's products.
I pre-ordered my BlackBerry Z10 on the day of the announcement of its March 22 U.S. release. During my lunch break on Friday (just two days ago -- it seems like the world has changed since then!), I walked over to the AT&T store and picked up my new device after a torturous, seemingly endless wait.
To be frank, when the day finally arrived, I was a little worried that my expectations had been too high and sort of set myself up to be disappointed. "It's just a new phone, Chuck. If it's not as good as the consumer reviews it's been getting in the UK, where it is the top-selling phone by far, it's not the end of the world. It's just a new phone." I worried that the touch-screen keyboard wouldn't be as good as they said, that the camera would be inferior to the iPhone camera, that the apps would be sucky, the interface non-intuitive and on and on.
Well, I am delighted to report that not only was I not disappointed, but the Z10 far exceeds my high expectations.
The wait was worth it.
I am extremely happy that BlackBerry took their time and did it right. I have a few little quibbles which I'll get to below, but overall, the Z10 gets a solid "A" and, grading on a curve, a definite "A+".
This is the kind of mobile computing device that you have to use for real to review. Why? It's a BlackBerry. It's made for productivity. It's made for business. It's made to be the most beautifully efficient communication and collaboration device on the planet. It's not made for TV (though it is some handsome hardware and sleek software). It's not made to make you look sexy (though if you find quiet confidence sexy, it will make you feel sexy after you get to know it a bit). It's not made for gaming (though it seems to have an awful lot of games, and as far as I can tell they look just as cool as the games on other platforms... but I don't know. Personally, I find games utterly boring.).
So when I re-read a few unflattering reviews after actually working with the device, I had to laugh: These guys had clearly not even touched the surface of what this thing can do. They read the specs, swiped around, took a couple of snapshots, and rushed their reviews out before deadline. For tech writers, they're really pretty clueless.
The fact is, once you load your contacts and calendar into the thing and set up your accounts (BBM, AIM, Twitter, e-mail for me, though there are many, many, many options), you can really see just how bad-ass it is. All weekend I kept seeing new cool things this allowed me to do, like seeing a contact's recent Tweets right from their profile in the address book or Tweeting right from the Hub without any need for an app. It seemed like a lot of excellent features that you might need an app for on other platforms are baked right in with the Z10, like the
amazing freakin' keyboard.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think a touch-screen keyboard could be so quick. Not only that, it's quick with one thumb. You're not even typing so much as flicking words one after the other after a certain point. It hates errors of grammar and misspellings and makes them easy to correct. Never type another apostrophe! BlackBerry 10 knows you meant "it's," not "its!"
They have a couple of apps on Android that do something similar (though not nearly as well), I think the main one is called SwiftKey or something. Just a few hours after getting the Z10, I was comparing notes with an Android user who had that app installed and he couldn't touch my speed or accuracy. So they need an app to do something that is integrated into the heart of the Z10's operating system -- and not do it nearly as well!
(As an aside, not for nothin', but that particular Android user was quite impressed with how seamlessly I was able to perform various tasks. Not that it matters. I'm not really interested in comparing with Android. I'm sure the Androids are fine, but Google's chief still uses a BlackBerry. Not sure if that says anything...)
Again , it is a tool for communication, and educated people in serious jobs who need to communicate efficiently will love it.
Some of the features I really, really, really like:
- Multitasking -- it's great to have several apps open at once and to be able to toggle from one to the other so easily. I love the fact that there's no "home" button. What looks like "home" to an old-paradigm smartphone user (the grid of app icons) is something that exists on the Z10, but you almost never see it after you get to know the OS. You just swoosh and glide through the apps that you use all the time, which are always open. Under the hood, the QNX kernel allows this. No other OS can touch it.
- Integration -- I love the way the Hub, the calendar, contacts, and apps are all so tightly integrated. It's hard to explain; suffice to say that your people, your appointments, your communications through various channels are all seamlessly available to each other. Even my old BlackBerry Torch was like that to an extent, which is part of the reason I stuck with it. But the Z10 does it much better.
- Speed -- because of the SOFTWARE (screw the hardware specs), this thing is fast and smooth. As a techie, I prefer software solutions to throwing more hardware at bloated, shitty code.
I could go on and on and on about little things that I like, but that's the crux of it.
Some of the things I disliked:
- Some apps that I had on my Torch aren't (yet[?]) available, specifically Fandango, UPS, and Google Maps. This isn't too big a deal because I found all of the above web apps quite sufficient with the 4G connectivity and nice display. Still... I'd like native apps for those things.
- It may have been something I was doing wrong, but I did find that the touch screen did not respond as well as I would have liked. This only happened a couple times, specifically when switching between cameras (still really cool how you have the still, video, and fancy time shift camera all in one, though, just a gesture away from each other)
- Ummm... uh... does it come in British racing green? Dunno...
All the hullabaloo about a lack of apps strikes me as overblown. I don't really need Netflix. When I search BlackBerry World, all the teevee and movies I could ever want seem to be there. I don't really need Instagram. I can edit any photo right from the photo viewer, without opening an app, and share it to anyone on email, text, Twitter, Fakebook, or whatever. Instagram? Why do I want that, again? Photo editing apps? Got it, thanks.
All in all, the Z10 rocks my socks off. The last time a gadget impressed me this much was probably around 1984, when I first laid fingers on the original Macintosh.