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BlackBerry Z10 - BlackBerry 10

By Edward Chester



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BlackBerry Z10 - BlackBerry 10 Interface

First impressions of the BlackBerry 10 interface are pretty good. There’s a slick guide that explains all the key gestures and eases you through the setup of some of the key apps. It also looks smart and feels responsive. However, once passed this initial setup there’s quite a steep learning curve before you get the hang of the intriguingly different way the whole interface works.

You see, BlackBerry 10 is highly gesture-based and centres around not one, not two but three key sections that make up the ‘homescreens’ of its interface. You get to each bit of the interface by swiping left or right from the edge of the screen.

Central of these is the multi-tasking panel, which as its name suggests, is where running apps are shown. It can show up to four apps on screen at a time with more if you scroll down, and they’re arranged in the order of when you last used them.

To the left of this is the BlackBerry Hub which is like the Messages app of old BlackBerrys and it holds a stream of updates and messages from email, SMS, social networks and more, giving you a one-stop shop for all your phone’s notifications.

The third parts of the homescreen arrangement are the pages of apps which are stacked to the right of the multi-tasking panel, with more and more pages added as you add more apps, just like on iPhone.

BlackBerry Z10 2 BlackBerry Z10 BlackBerry Z10 1 BlackBerry Z10 9

The key point of confusion in all this is that it’s the multi-tasking panel that is the centre of this BlackBerry 10 universe, with it being the place you end up when apps are closed (by swiping up from the bottom edge of the screen). 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.

The problem is two fold. For one, the entire logic of assuming that every time you close an app (or unlock the phone for that matter) you’re going to want to open one of the apps you’ve previously had open is one we simply don’t agree with. By all means there’s a chance that if the phone’s been up and running long enough it will have most of your frequently used apps already available in this list but knowing where they’re going to appear in the list of open apps is complete guess work (unless you’re particularly adept at remembering the exact order you open and close your apps). That’s why all the alternatives choose to present a ‘normal’ homescreen – because it grounds the user, giving them a familiar place with all their favourite apps/contacts/websites/widgets to start each time they close an app.

BlackBerry Z10

By all means, multi-tasking is useful but there’s a reason that on other phones this functionality is a second tier action activated by a second button or a double tap – a double tap on the iPhone, a second button on Android, hold down the back button in Windows Phone 8 – it’s not because they haven’t thought of it yet, it just makes more sense.

The other reason the multi-tasking panel is particularly grating to us is that is doesn’t use the icons of the apps, instead is uses screenshots of the app with the name of the app underneath. It’s certainly nice to have a bit of screenshot as a reminder of what you were last doing but at a glance it’s not the best way to distinguish between apps. After all, that’s what icons were invented for, to create an easily distinguishable way of identifying things on a computer. That’s why they’re used in the app pages of this and every other phone OS and that’s why they should be used in the multi-tasking panel.

You may think we’re just stuck in our ways or over-reacting but we’ve genuinely tried to get the hang of this way of doing things and for us it just doesn’t work, which is a shame because there is plenty to like about this OS, such as the BlackBerry Hub.

BlackBerry Z10 - BlackBerry Peek and BlackBerry Hub

The third part of the core BlackBerry 10 experience is the BlackBerry Hub. As mentioned above, it’s the store for all your phone’s messages and other notifications, but rather than just have this as a regular app BlackBerry has made it integral to the interface.

BlackBerry Z10 2

From the homescreen multi-tasking panel you simply swipe from left to right to slide it into view but - and here’s the clever bit - when in an app you can also access the Hub by swiping up from the bottom edge of the screen and sliding to the right. You can either slide it all the way across to open the Hub fully or use what BlackBerry calls BlackBerry Peek to just take a quick look at the list of notifications to check who that latest email or text message was from, or what the subject was, then reverse the gesture to go back to what you were doing without even pausing the app.

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BlackBerry Peek also touches on another core principle of BlackBerry’s approach with BlackBerry 10. Instead of having permanent navigation buttons along the button of the screen or time and other status icons along the top, BlackBerry 10 allows apps to truly fill the entire screen. This is great for making the most of the screen space on offer, but of course it means you can’t quickly check things like the time. That’s where Peek comes in again as that quick gesture will not only show the Hub but the top section too (which shows, battery, signal strength, time, etc). It really is a brilliant system.

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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!


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.


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.


February 2, 2013, 1:51 pm

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


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.


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.


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.



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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


February 3, 2013, 2:29 pm

Interesting response. Going to file that under zzzzzzzz


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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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