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BlackBerry Z10 review

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BlackBerry Z10
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Summary

Our Score:

7

User Score:

Key Features

  • 4.2in, 1,280 x 720 screen
  • dual-core 1.5GHz processor
  • 8megapixel camera
  • BB10 OS
  • Manufacturer: Blackberry Europe
  • Review Price: £480.00

Introduction

It’s been a long time coming but BlackBerry (formally RIM) has finally unveiled its latest phones, the BlackBerry Z10 and the keyboard-touting BlackBerry Q10. The latter won’t be arriving for a little while yet but we’ve spent a couple of days with the Z10 to find out what it’s all about.

Both these new handsets run the brand new BlackBerry 10 operating system, which BlackBerry hopes will rival Android, iOS and Windows Phone, and in doing so give the company a truly independent foothold on the smartphone market, as opposed to going the Samsung/HTC/Nokia route and using other manufacturer’s software.

It’s a risky move as the market is already somewhat saturated with interface choice so many punters would rather not have their choices widened. Moreover, these days phones are very much more defined by their hardware features than what software they run – after all, we all expect these interfaces to just work – so will BlackBerry’s tactic succeed?

We’ll be taking an in-depth look at every nook and cranny of the new BlackBerry 10 software in a later feature but for now it’s the overall experience of the Z10 we’re going to focus on.

Already available to buy here in the UK already, it’s available on all the major networks on both contract and pay as you go, and it’s even on EE’s 4G network. In fact, it will support all future 4G networks too. It doesn’t come cheap though. You can pick the Z10 up for around £480 on PAYG or for free from £36pm. That’s about £100 more than a Samsung Galaxy S3 on PAYG and about £5pm more.

Blackberry Z10 – Design and Features

Straight out the box, first impressions of the Z10 are rather good. Sure, it’s not going to win any design awards but its staid, utilitarian styling feels smart, functional and business like – just as you’d want from Blackberry. That said, it does lack a certain something to really make it feel premium. The main culprit is the back which is plastic and has a dimpled finish. It looks okay but there’s no flare.

Perhaps more important than style is the feel of the phone. With the BlackBerry Z10, BlackBerry hasn’t followed the current trend for enormous phones with enormous screens. Instead its latest handset sports a 4.2in display which means the whole handset is a pretty comfortable size. By all means, it’s larger than an iPhone 5 but all its other headline competitors are noticeably larger still.

That said this isn’t the most efficient phone when it comes to space around the screen. With large top and bottom bezels the whole phone’s dimensions are 130 x 65.6 x 9mm, which puts it at the same height as the 4.5in screen touting Nokia Lumia 920. Nonetheless, 9mm is reasonably impressive as slenderness goes and, at 137.5g, it’s by no means a chunky monkey in the weight department. Plus, we quite like the look of the symmetrical bezels – it’s very iPhone like – and the overall balance of the phone is good.

Other points work in this phones favour when it comes to handling comfort. That dimpled back has a soft-touch plastic finish that feels nice and… well, soft and provides a good amount of grip too. And yet, despite this grippy surface, the phone remains easy to slide in and out of a pocket – a gripe we sometimes have with phones finished in this way.

Even more important than the finish of the back is that it can be removed. Using the notch, which doubles as the speaker output, on the bottom edge of the phone, it’s easy to get a fingernail under the cover and prize it off. Just as with the Samsung Galaxy S3, the back is simply a slim bit of flexible plastic held in place by a few clips so it’s easy to remove and replace. In fact, in some cases we’ve heard it’s a little too easy to remove as on some handsets the bottom edge in particular has started to come loose of its own accord. We’re yet to notice any issues but will keep an eye on this over the coming weeks.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Ioan Calin Borcoman

February 2, 2013, 7:25 am

An app doesn't go the multitasking screen when you close it - it goes there when you MINIMIZE it. The screen you have on the multitasking screen are not static icons, but live ones. Applications normally suspend their activity when in the background, but they are active when viewed in the multitasking screen. Those "static" icons are actually much more like the live tiles in Windows 8. You can program your app to show specific stuff when in that state. Even more, if your app requires this, you can make it to run even when in the background (you don't want your chronometer stop running when you don't look at it, right?). If you want to close an app, just press it's "X" button, on the multitasking screen. Only at that point you have actually closed the app.

Michael Gilroy-Scott

February 2, 2013, 10:00 am

A good review, however I have a few points to raise.

Adobe Flash is supported in the browser, I suspect you had not got this switched on. You may want to amend your review to reflect this.

Your is the first review to mention sluggishness. I suspect this is an issue with your review unit. I have used this phone and did not experience what you describe.

I think with time the new paradigm that BlackBerry introduces with this platform will grow on people. It's never, different and will take getting used to if you have used only iOS and Android. As I have a BlackBerry PlayBook there was no learning curve as it operates much the same way. When I use iPad I constantly find myself trying to use the gestures as it's so intuitive only to get confused when it doesn't work!

Those people who do pick up this phone may not take to it straight away, but I honestly believe that all will learn to love it. The applications will come with time, and there is enough initially there to make this not a deal breaker. Incidentally Google maps can be accessed through the impressive browser, and can be sideloaded if you must have it right now!

fried_egg

February 2, 2013, 10:19 am

"it’s very iPhone like" - it is even more like the sony xperia S. it is very nearly the same size, just a little lighter.

Ed

February 2, 2013, 1:50 pm

I'm being loose with the term 'close' because that's what most users would call what happens when you press the home button on iOS, Android or Windows Phone, or in this case swipe upwards.

As to the live tile aspect, that's by the by. In use I've seen little evidence of them being useful for the fact they have program information showing. For instance, the settings screen and Twitter apps look rather similar when minimised so I'd actually much rather just see the icon.

Ed

February 2, 2013, 1:51 pm

Sort of, in so much as the matt plastic finish is similar, but there's not much else.

Ed

February 2, 2013, 2:05 pm

Thanks for pointing out the error regards Flash. I've already update the review to reflect this.

As for sluggishness, it's definitely not an isolated issue. It comes in two forms. One, it slows down dramatically - as most OS do - more often than rival OS. Two, compare it to the lightning fast experiences you get on the iPhone 5 or latest Androids and it definitely feels pedestrian. Not that it can't go faster (in terms of hardware), more like the way the interface is programmed means it's choosing to amble, rather than sprint. It's like the whole project butter thing for Android. Many Android users may have insisted their phones were perfectly fast, until they tried Jelly Bean.

I totally agree about the gestures - I'm totally sold (although i did find myself having to shutdown the browser this morning because I couldn't close a fullscreen flash video and with no back button I had no other choice) - but the whole multi-tasking centric approach is, as I say, fundamentally wrong as far as I'm concerned.

For me it feels as distracting as, for instance, the tabs in your browser rearranging themselves into 'last used' order each time you open them - you can see the logic but, you know what, I place my tabs in a certain order for a reason.

fried_egg

February 2, 2013, 2:30 pm

have you put them side by side? i have. the screen is 4.2 v 4.3, but the casing is the same bar a mm or 2, the same depth, sme screen position... the glass front the same, the rear is not the same lay out but who was talking about that. from the front they have the same dimensions and basic layout. the s of course has a weird "light bar" where the blackberry puts a rather large name label.

Jason Peters

February 2, 2013, 4:17 pm

A good review but I do have concerns that trying to compare to TR's favored iOS (and it does show in the writing) can be a concern, every phone besides Apple seems to come in from slightly harder scrutiny than Apple products which I fully understand are superior in some ways but also inferior in others but never seem to get the same highlighting.

Having now used the Z10 OS it certainly a step the other OS's need to follow in regards to integration but pulling up a Facebook on slickness is somewhat picky (because of favored iOS)

If reviews are to be trusted which is the very reason visitors come to this site then reviews especially on Apple and in comparison to other products need to be taken from the outside looking in not the " it'll have to be very special to beat it" which it will but that attitude needs to be left before starting the review - because I can certainly see some bias when the Macbook Pro came out, it's almost in a roundabout way like mainstream web media and traditional don't want Blackberry (formally RIM) to succeed.

This is a theme I've picked up up on but some may disagree with, and it's just a concern I've seen creeping in since Apple came to market.

Jedibeeftrix

February 2, 2013, 5:27 pm

"This goes against all other major phone operating systems which instead
present you with some sort of customisable homepage when you close an
app – on iPhones you have your first page of apps, on Android your
central page of apps and widgets and on Windows Phone 8 there’s the top
of the Live Tile column. And so far, we’ve not found this new BlackBerry
10 way to be an improvement."

This is the best feature of the phone, it is a great way to work, and exactly how things happen on my nokia N9.

hoorah!

Rain17

February 2, 2013, 5:58 pm

very nice review! straightforward, unbiased and truthful i guess.. i think blackberry made a very good start with this device. it may have some flaws like maps and apps aside from that i don't see any reason not to like this phone. and i think BB10 os is way better that the 1st released WP 7 so im still impressed with how bb able to catch up it may not able to give something new in the table but it able to neutralize the competition at some ways and surely there will be os updates or tweaks in the future. i find the os quite refreshing

dguy123

February 2, 2013, 6:12 pm

So you've never minimized calendar, BBM, or a news app?
Calendar shows your upcoming events and how long before it begins
BBM shows the latest activity,
News apps typically update with the latest headlines.

Minimized apps can have lots to offer without having to be maximized again.

dguy123

February 2, 2013, 6:19 pm

In my experience, the z10 makes the s3 and iphone5 feel very sluggish and dated.
The odds you will interact with your most recently used running apps is quite high. Especially when you discover there is no lag when maximizing a running app. I frequently jump from app to app. Think "landing Page" of most browsers... There's a reason most show your recently visited sites and it's an extra step to get to bookmarks.

Your views sound as dated as the iphone5 feels.

dguy123

February 2, 2013, 6:32 pm

"We’re not so much of a fan of Bing being the default search engine though, with Google not even offered"

Good Lord. You can set Bing, Google, Yahoo to be your default search provider in the browser. In universal search the extended search options are _right there_ at the bottom of your results... These include : help, maps, BlackBerry World, foursquare, bing, Google, and yahoo. The list grows when you install other apps that have search capabilities.

dguy123

February 2, 2013, 6:33 pm

Oh, to get out of a full screen video, swipe down from the top. Just like the toast told you when the video maximized.

dguy123

February 2, 2013, 6:43 pm

You should note there is included photo editing and video composition on the z10.

Other than a few nits, this is a pretty decent review.
You should revisit/update the review once you've used the z10 for a while.
(it has an awsome "share" feature available almost everywhere )

Nate Ebner

February 2, 2013, 7:55 pm

Interesting review, thanks. Full disclosure, I have a relative that works for Blackberry, and they showed me the z10 before release.

I think you may a good point about jumping to the multi-tasking (MT) screen, that for some people it might be better to go to a set app page. Maybe something that could be made into an option in the settings, as I can see the appeal of going straight to your running apps too.

Also the MT screen is considerably different to other multi-tasking I've seen (I have an updated Google Nexus S for now, so I have only passing experience with newer phones), and it is clear that the apps run in a 'background multitasking' way, whereas on BB10 they are all genuinely running, and the apps I've seen on the MT screen kept showing new information etc, and load seamlessly when selected. The layout was similar to the Android MT screen, although that has a screenshot with a little app icon in the corner, maybe another possible improvement, but as developers optimise their apps for BB10, I can see lots of apps making good use of the 'true-multitasking', with scrolling display, notifications etc possible.

You didn't mention the business features much, and the ability to have the work/personal split, and so leading security for your data, while flexibility for fun. I guess that's because of your audience, and you've still a full BB10 review coming, but it is a key feature area.

Everything was very slick and smooth to me, and I know the design focus was having properly smooth transitions, rather than jerky ones, but I can see your point that if you are trying to flick through pages quickly, it would be nice for the phone to pick up on that.

I thought aesthetically it was unexciting, but felt great and didn't look or feel cheap, but rather practical. Apps will be a question of time, as long as it gets at least a moderate response they will come. Usability, is just a matter of getting used to different ways of doing things on the whole, so I don't see that being too big of an issue going forward.

All in all, I still think I will probably stick with Android for my next upgrade, and go for a 1080p phone, although I love the stock Android, but not sure I want to wait for their Key Lime Pie Nexus. It's always going to be hard to get someone to shift from what they know and are invested in, there are plenty of things I hate about iOS, the stupid keyboard being #1 on the list.

I'll pass this review on to my relative, and see what they think, and if they can get some of your suggestions some traction for a future update.

Interested to hear your thoughts on what I said, sorry about the essay!

Sharky66

February 3, 2013, 2:29 pm

Interesting response. Going to file that under zzzzzzzz

Ed

February 3, 2013, 2:32 pm

BTW, I'm fully intending to revisit this review in the coming days and weeks as there are plenty of bits that need covering in more detail such as the business side of things, plus I'll have used the device for a bit longer. As it stands I feel the review is a fair representation of the overall feel of using the device, particular for the none-business user.

Ed

February 3, 2013, 2:42 pm

By all means there are plenty of occasions where you'll regularly be flipping between two or three apps and the MT-centric interface helps speed things up, but I'd say it's at best 50% of the time. So sure you could argue that 50% is a pretty convincing figure. But... what about when you first unlock your phone? I can think of very few occasions where going to a MT screen would be desirable - how on earth are you supposed to remember what apps you were previous running and thus where they'll appear on screen?

Ed

February 3, 2013, 2:43 pm

Are you seriously suggesting you'll read what the little minimised app says rather than just open it? The API may well support custom interface for these live tiles but I've seen little evidence of that yet with them instead just showing a tiny - unreadable - version of the full app.

Ed

February 3, 2013, 2:45 pm

Yup, planning to do that. Felt it wasn't a purchase-decision altering feature though so missed it out for the time being so I could get the review finished. Will update later.

bmaz

February 3, 2013, 6:18 pm

You mentioned that it's not easy to distinguish between apps in the Multi-tasking view because in that view it shows a minimized view of the apps. You failed to mentioned though that developers can turn some apps in this view into a widget, for example the weather app.

You mention the lack of apps, 2 of the the apps mentioned that caught my eye were Shazam, for which an alternative exists in SoundHound. The other App was Evernote, BlackBerry 10 has deep Evernote integration with the BlackBerry Remember app.

Though I can't comment on the battery life of the Z10 (as I don't own one), mentioning that the S3 has a 2100 mAh battery compared to the Z10s doesn't tell the full story at all as the S3 has a bigger screen, and the screen is what uses up most of your battery.

bmaz

February 3, 2013, 6:27 pm

Just because you can't think of a particular scenario doesn't mean it doesn't exists.
What about the weather app? What about a Timer/Stopwatch app? A Sports app, showing the score of your favourite teams?

bmaz

February 3, 2013, 6:35 pm

I wonder if it would be possible to Allow more than 8 apps to be displayed in the multitasking window, as well as having the option to 'Freeze' some of these apps there. By Freeze I mean to have the app always there whether it's running or not, as well as keeping it's order. Maybe you could freeze a maximum of 2 or 4 apps, such as the weather app, and these apps could possibly run on startup, in there minimized (live tiles) form of course.

Ed

February 3, 2013, 7:32 pm

What you're forgetting is that for the app to even appear on here you have to have opened it recently. In which case why would you want to check the weather looking at a tiny thumbnail when you've just had the app open...

I guess the timer scenario is kinda useful but it's not the strongest argument I've heard - the timer isn't my most oft used app.

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