First Impression of the BlackBerry Z10 from an iPhone 5 User and Note 2 Lover
Ok, that title was a bit awkward but just to clarify, I use the iPhone 5 as my daily smartphone but only out of lack of a better option. The Note 2 was that better option but unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned, it was stolen. So I am still on the lookout for a phone I can truly love and the Lumia 920 is also pretty high up.
Now that we got that out-of-the-way, I am going to request something of you, the person reading this post. I know it is a crazy request but if you don’t mind, before you attack me in the comments or on the social web, please read the post till the end as I will try to address all the questions and comments I am pretty sure you are going to throw at me. So here goes…
I got my shiny new BlackBerry Z10 yesterday and yes, it was sent to me from the fine folks over at BlackBerry, so there is my disclosure. At no point did anyone ask me to write anything about it, let alone, praise it. The phone was given to me with what seemed like a strong confidence that I would love it. Is that confidence justified? Ah, the million dollar question.
So here is my impression of the phone/platform that is supposed to make BlackBerry relevant again. In case you have no intention of granting my request and reading till the end, the answer to the question is yes, the Z10 and BB10 DOES indeed make BlackBerry relevant again. But we are getting ahead of ourselves…
The Hardware/Build Quality
I will get straight to the point. This phone is built with finer attention to detail than any Android phone, period. Yes, even the beautiful Nexus 4. iPhone? Close competition.
The size is pretty ideal and the screen is beautiful. The Z10 fits perfectly in your hand and the removable back feels solid, unlike every single Samsung phone on the planet.
Speaking of the back, without getting into technical details of materials, the back of the Z10 feels amazing in your hand, and overall the phone feels more natural than any other phone I have ever held, including all the generations of iPhones.
BlackBerry 10 Interface
While my friends over at BlackBerry believe the learning curve for the BB10 is around five minutes, I will respectfully disagree. As a previous Playbook owner, which was the basis for BB10 in terms of gestures, multitasking, and general UI, this thing took me a good few hours to get used to. In fact, there are some UI elements I have still not figured out.
Once you get a hang of the whole no button gesture-based UI, well, you are good to go, but I highly doubt that my mom, who is having trouble understanding how to use an Android phone, could ever figure this out. Then again, BlackBerry is not exactly targeting my mom with this phone.
The main “issue” I have with almost all the phones I have tried and the Z10 is no different, is the notification system. Maybe I am used to iOS but if an email comes in, I want to know who the sender is and what the subject is, and I don’t want to have to do swiping to find out.
When I asked the folks at BlackBerry about previews, they said something along the lines of “Just swipe up and right to see message previews”. My point is, if I am in a meeting, I don’t want to touch the phone, I want to see the preview automatically and then decide whether that notification deserves my immediate attention.
All in all, the BB10 UI on the Z10 is as fast and zippy as any, but the whole gesture paradigm will take getting used to, no matter what kind of user you are.
I am very tempted to write one sentence and one sentence only. The keyboard on the Z10 is the best keyboard on any smartphone ever. You know what? I will write only one sentence. There.
Ok, folks, the moment we have all been waiting for. The reason the Z10 and BlackBerry won’t succeed, is because it does not have 750,000 apps, right? Insanity!
First of all, the Z10 is a phone, so let’s talk about it as one, not as a platform. BB10 is a platform, I agree and for it to succeed, it needs a 3rd party developer ecosystem. But we are talking about the Z10 here and as a phone, it is extremely innovative, in fact, it is innovative enough to make BlackBerry relevant again.
As a phone, it has almost all the elements needed for most users. Speed, reliability, (it did not crash on me once in the 24 hours I have been using it. Can’t say the same for Android, although Jellybean is way better than its predecessors.), excellent sound quality, and here is an interesting one, wireless radios that exceed the competition by far.
Yesterday, I was sitting in the basement using a Wifi connection from upstairs. The iPhone 5 picked up no such connection and the Z10 had me surfing at completely normal speeds. The signal was strong.
Anyway, about apps… Simply put, there are none. Yes, there are those Android ported apps, but how do I say this nicely? Meh. The apps work fast but they are not developed for BB10 and more importantly, despite the numbers the company reports, searches for words like “Twitter” which would produce close to 50 apps on competing platforms, gave me 2-3 apps.
Now, I know BlackBerry sees this as a priority but for now, if you are a heavy app user, move on, there is nothing to see here. If, however, you are a normal person who does normal things with their phone, like make calls, surf the web, a little social networking here and there, and shoot the occasional picture, the Z10 is a fantastic phone.
It is a phone, people, not a platform, remember that. Also, remember what a BlackBerry looked and behaved like before the Z10. Compare the phone to that, and you will see what true innovation looks like. Yes, one cannot review a phone without talking about iOS and Android, and does the Z10 blow them out of the water? No, but it definitely can go for a swim.
I view this phone as the first step in BlackBerry’s comeback so I am comparing it to the first iPhone and the first Android phones. If you look at it that way, this phone is wow. Yes, I know, some might say that is a ridiculous comparison, but I say, take it easy and enjoy more competition in the mobile space. These are phones, not religions, no reason to be all “Mine is the best, yours stinks”.
I will just say one more thing is the defense of the Z10. The camera, while it might produce pictures slightly less beautiful than the iPhone 5’s, has one killer feature. When you take a photo with the Z10’s camera, you can then choose from a few frames taken automatically. This prevents the well known phenomenon of someone making a weird face in the photo or blinking an eye. It works flawlessly. Now, this is not technology developed by BlackBerry. In fact, it was developed by Scalado, a company who was ironically acquired recently by Nokia.
That means this feature will surely not remain exclusive to BlackBerry for very long. Having said that, right now, the Z10 is the only phone with this most awesome feature, so there is one more bit of innovation packed into this impressive device for ya.
Ok, if you made it this far, you are free to attack but try to keep it on topic, I’m a sensitive guy….