BlackBerry (formally known as Research in Motion) has had a tough time of it in recent months. And 2013 hasn’t been an exception; with the make it or break it release of the BlackBerry 10 platform and Z10 device, this year holds a lot of hope for the Canadian company.
So how will the Z10 sporting BlackBerry’s newest OS perform? I took the Z10 to this year’s MWC in Barcelona to see whether the device could fulfil its strapline to keep me moving…
Review by Charlotte Kertrestel.
The first thing that stood out about the BlackBerry Z10 when taking it out of its box was just how light it felt. Weighing in at just over 137g, the device is just 6g heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S3 and 2g heavier than the HTC One X+.
With a 4.2 inch screen, the Z10 fits in between the iPhone 5’s 4 inch screen and the HTC One X’s 4.7 inch display, making it a good size to watch films or view photos without being considered a large phone, like the Galaxy S3 sometimes is.
In terms of display quality, the Z10 has a 355 ppi pixel density, which is far higher than the Galaxy S3’s 312 ppi and even the iPhone 5’s 326 ppi, meaning that images are sharper and clearer on the BlackBerry.
The device itself has nice rounded edges and sits comfortably in the hand. Although I am more of a fan of the sleek and smooth look, the textured back case of the Z10 gives the impression that the phone would simply bounce back if dropped, which is a reassurance when you’re as clumsy as myself. I liked the fact that the screen covers the entire width of the phone’s fascia, which seems to be the current trend for smartphones- just look at the HTC One, for example.
The Z10 offers a 16GB internal memory, which can be extended up to 64GB with an SD card. The fact that you can remove the back case of the device also makes it a whole lot easier to change the battery and SIM card, which is an issue that some manufacturers, particularly HTC often ignore in their phones.
Apart from noticing that the Z10 took an age to turn on, seeing the new BlackBerry 10 OS in action was truly exciting.
The platform initially looks a tad similar to the Apple and Android OS in that it offers a series of home screens featuring various apps. However, when scrolling through the home screens, I realised that BlackBerry 10 is quite different from these other platforms.
First of all there are only three home screens, helpfully labelled at the bottom of the screen as 1, 2 and 3. Then, if you scroll to the far left, you reach the BlackBerry Hub, which is BlackBerry’s prized feature of the Z10.
The BlackBerry Hub essentially displays all of your messages, social media posts, calls, notifications and BBM alerts in one place, making it easier than ever to keep up to date with all forms of correspondence.
The fact that there are no permanent buttons on the screen’s fascia, such as a back or home button really makes the Z10 live true to its strapline: ‘designed to keep you moving’. In order to navigate your way around the device, you simply swipe up to go back, down to view the settings bar, and horizontally (left or right) to go through home screens. I also quite like the way that the screens are layered as you flick between them.
Another feature that I was very fond of when using the BlackBerry Z10 was the infamous red flashing light that alerts you when you have a message or notification. This is a feature which, in my opinion, most smartphones fail to offer, especially as it saves your battery by eliminating the need to unlock your home screen to check for alerts.
Print to go
What BlackBerry has done well with the Z10 is to stay true to the traditional intention of the smartphone: for business. Print to Go is a useful app built-into the device which allows you to print any document off wirelessly from your phone. Although this isn’t ground-breaking, it simply reminds the user that the Z10 can fully function as a phone for business as well as for pleasure.
The Docs to Go is a similar app which allows you to view, edit and send Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents on the go, at any time, day or night.
Story Maker is a really cool app which essentially turns all of your photos and videos into a sort movie, allowing you to select music either from the various sample tracks, or from your own music library.
After you have selected the photos you wanted, and have chosen the background music, you get the option to choose from five really cool filters which change the effects of the video as well as the colours. I opted for a vintage feel with a black and white filter, which makes the video flicker like an old silent movie.
The Z10, unlike most other devices, has four of the most popular social media apps already installed, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Linkedin, making it quicker than ever to simply start messaging, Tweeting and connecting with all your friends and colleagues.
There is concern about how many apps are actually available on the BlackBerry 10 OS compared to the Android and Apple app stores, and from browsing through the BlackBerry World, I can see that while there aren’t as many apps on offer, there are alternatives which enable you to access all of the same functions that an Android or iPhone can perform.
For example, if you’re a Gmail user, you can download the Gmail Quick Launcher app; if you’re a Facebook fanatic, install one of the many the Facebook Chat apps, which, while not being the official thing, do pretty much the same job. Again, while the official National Rail Enquiries app isn’t on offer in the BlackBerry World, BlackBerry’s drive for app development prior to the Z10’s launch means that there are various other train time-finding apps on offer which accomplish the same task.
One thing that you might have seen on the numerous BlackBerry 10 adverts is the device’s super-intelligent predictive text function. Unlike other phones which make you select a predicted word from a bar at the top of the keypad, the Z10 gives you the option to either carry on typing a word, or to choose the suggested word without having to use your other hand.
You simply swipe upwards above the letter that your thumb is hovering above to select the next word. Because the BlackBerry gives you this option, compared to the iPhone which often selects the predicted word without you wanting to, it makes texting easier, quicker, and less annoying than many other touchscreen phones.
So calling all Z10 critics: while BlackBerry’s new device might not feature a physical QWERTY keyboard, it does make texting just as easy as it used to be.
As I mentioned, I was lucky enough to take the BlackBerry Z10 on a trip to Barcelona last week, giving me the perfect opportunity to test out the phone’s 8MP camera.
The main thing I liked about the Z10’s camera is that it is one of the easiest and fastest devices on which to actually take a still shot; you just touch anywhere on the screen and the phone snaps away.
While I have heard some critics complain that the phone annoyingly takes pictures if you accidentally touch the screen, I found that the Z10 was easier than most cameras because you didn’t have to position your hands in any certain way in order to reach the capture button. Also, because there are no physical buttons on the device, it meant that you don’t accidentally come out of the camera programme by touching the back button, as happens with most Android phones.
However, I wasn’t totally enamoured with the quality of the photos themselves. While the 8 megapixels produced a decent enough image, after returning from my walk through the Spanish city, I felt that what I saw with my eyes wasn’t entirely reflected in what I saw on the Z10’s screen.
There is an on-board editing suite in the Z10, which makes it easy to enhance your own photographs. However, there aren’t as many filters on offer as some built-in editing suites such as the Nexus 4’s, and with Instagram not being available in the BlackBerry World, I felt that this was a bit of a disappointment.
The battery of the Z10 was pretty much the same as most other smartphones. When left idle it drained more than I perhaps expected, though not quite as fast as the Nexus 4 (which from my experience is the fastest-draining battery I have come across recently).
However, I managed to take all of the photos and videos around Barcelona with quite a low battery, and the device still didn’t run out of juice, so overall I’d give it the thumbs up!