It's hard to second-guess BlackBerry's decision, even at this stage of BlackBerry 10's early existence. A departure from its proprietary software, as well as its all-important BlackBerry Enterprise Server, would have signaled total defeat for the company. BlackBerry 10 has received generally positive feedback, so at the very least BlackBerry will be making a spirited comeback attempt. Here's what the company got right with its new platform and BB10 devices, as well as a few things it didn't.
2013 should see, somewhat belatedly, a feature that has been standard on Nokia's Symbian since 2009 (and also on Meego) finally make it onto Windows Phone. Admittedly, there are some technical considerations here, since the feature only works if the devices have an AMOLED screen (most of the Symbian smartphones do/did), but there have also been issues of OS support, I suggest. What I'm talking about is, of course, the 'always on clock', about which I eulogise below, along with gratuitous shots of owls and leaves....
It's somewhat telling (new OS from a third party, etc.) that it's taken this long to get one of Nokia's core UI ambitions into Windows Phone, but let's hope it's done well and done right. Staring at my Lumia's blank screen for hour after hour does rather pale compared to my N9 pulsing with time and notifications and my 808 regaling me with landmarks, wildlife and more...
In staying true to the BlackBerry DNA and translating that into a modern full touchscreen experience, RIM had to make a lot of hard decisions. Some of those decisions everybody will agree with. Some will take some getting used to. Others may disagree with other decisions -- especially depending on which platform you've been using prior to BB10. BlackBerry 10 has a set path that you need to buy into, but once you do then BlackBerry 10 begins adapting to you. We like what they've done, but I will be expecting to read some reviews where people don't like it - people who are completely set in their ways may not find the flexibility they want.
BlackBerry went from having the most buttons on a phone to the absolute least. There's not even a home button (physical or on-screen) since users swipe up to get home. Obviously the 4.2-inch display dominates most of what's going on the on the front of the Z10. The LED indicator is there at the top of the phone, which is becoming a more and more rare sight in competing platforms. We're thankful it's there though - it's what makes a BlackBerry a CrackBerry. The Z10 is the first BlackBerry with a forward-facing camera, which goes hand-in-hand with the new BBM video chat function. Ambient light and proximity sensors are nestled into the same array below the earpiece. The primary microphone is tucked subtly beneath the display, which is backed up by a secondary noise-cancelling microphone on top.
Overall, I really am happy with the touchscreen keyboard on the BlackBerry Z10. It's fairly well-known that RIM is working with SwiftKey on the predictive engine, but the work that BlackBerry has done to really make this their own keyboard has paid off. It's evolved a long way since we first started typing on it back at BlackBerry World in May. The tuning and tweaking has turned the keyboard into a seriously efficient typing machine. I'm sure people's experiences on it are going to vary based on how naturally gifted they are as a typist and what they've used before, but as a BlackBerry user I'm super-impressed.
The BlackBerry Z10 ships with 2GB of RAM. You can tell the extra GB over what was in the Dev Alpha B helps to smooth performance, and there's 16 GB of built-in storage. Unlike the legacy BlackBerry operating system, apps don't get installed onto device ram and compete with system resources; they're installed on the media memory. Memory is expandable to up to 32 GB through micro SD, though we formatted a 64 GB card in the Z10 and it was working fine.
What comes with your Z10 in the retail package will likely vary based on your carrier. If you don't get what you need, don't worry - there are lots of accessories coming to the Z10, both from BlackBerry and third parties. Keep it locked to ShopCrackBerry.com for everything as it comes in!
Overall, BlackBerry 10 feels super, super responsive. The 1.5 Ghz dual core processor matched with 2 GB of RAM tied to BB10 OS delivers a very fast and fluid response. There's no lag whatsoever as you flow through the OS. There's really no comparison to be made to BlackBerry 7 and older devices. The Z10 kicks things up to a whole new level of performance. Older BlackBerry smartphones would just see a bump up in specs, but somehow always felt limited by the architecture of the OS. It feels like BlackBerry 10 fully leverages the hardware available.
BlackBerry desperately needed a new operating system to build on for the next ten years. While today's BlackBerry 7 smartphones are still the best in class for communications and security, they fell behind on the sexier side of mobile. Namely, the touchscreen and app experiences were lacking. Remember, the core of the current operating system that powers in-market BlackBerry devices is over 10 years old, and at the heart of it is still the two-way email pager that put BlackBerry on the map. When that OS was originally built, it was never intended to do the things that it is doing today. BlackBerry continually built up on top of that operating system over the years, adding new features -- and occasionally breaking things along the way -- as they kept adding to it. The BlackBerry user interface was never designed for touchscreen input from the beginning. BlackBerry fought with the OS to adapt it to accept touchscreen input - but most longtime BlackBerry users preferred to ignore the touchscreen and use the trackpad for navigation, as that's what felt more natural on that OS. Eventually legacy issues persist to the point where you can do no more with a platform. In hindsight, it's actually amazing to think just how much mileage BlackBerry got out of that operating system.
A new mobile platform gave BlackBerry the chance to fix all of their historical issues, and that's exactly what they did. All of the things we have complained about for years as BlackBerry users are 100% eliminated in BlackBerry 10. No more battery pulls. No more hourglass showing up. You now have plenty of room to install apps on the device since they don't get installed into RAM and compete with system resources. Operating system updates are over the air and install with a couple taps. It also gave BlackBerry the chance to re-think the user interface and design it from the ground up for touchscreen use. Arguably, they've come up with the most built-for-touch interface in the mobile market. There's no homescreen button or physical navigation/menu buttons anywhere on the device.
Getting around BlackBerry 10 is an extremely fresh experience with a handful of familiar paradigms, but there are a few gestures that you'll need to learn (especially if you never owned a PlayBook before). It's easy to visualize the home screens as a strip laid out from left to right in the following order: Hub, Active Frames, then the classic icon grid. Apps are minimized by swiping upwards from the bottom frame when open. This will shunt the app into the Active Frames screen where a snippet of information about the app will be visible in a thumbnail next to other recently minimized apps. Active frames vary in their usefulness. Developers can dictate what they want to show in the Active Frame. If nothing is dictated, you get a minimized version of the running app, which isn't particularly useful. Well-designed Active Frames feel have much more of a widget feel, akin to Android.
Over the last six months I've been using all of the competition (iOS, Windows Phone 8, Android), and one of my biggest gripes is that I somehow miss a lot of messages and I'm always jumping back and forth between a bunch of apps to reply. Even with the notification drop downs or toast messages, depending what you're doing, you just miss stuff. BlackBerry always had a unified messages inbox on the old operating system, but on BlackBerry 10 it's been injected with steroids. It's much more than a unified inbox. If you're a heavy communicator, you're going to find yourself living in the Hub. It can bring in all your emails and notifications to one spot where you can interact with them. The Hub is more than an app - it's a baked-in, hyper-connected communications supertool. It's a big integral part of the BlackBerry 10 OS, so we're going to take some time talking about it.
5. - Text Messages are treated strangely - While there are no e-mail folder icons on the BlackBerry 10 homescreen, there is an application icon for Text Messages. When tapped it doesn't open text messages as an application, but rather shoots you back into the Hub which is where text messages live. That's fine, but there is a slight issue here. Normally, if you're in the first level of a Hub activity (such viewing the list emails in an e-mail or Facebook inbox), when you tap the Test Messages icon you'll go straight to the Text Messages inbox, which is what you want. However, if you're actually in a message within the Hub -- reading an individual e-mail, or reading a Facebook message -- and then tap the Text Messages icon from the homescreen, it takes you back into the Hub to that message. You need to swipe back into the Hub to then be taken to your text messages inbox. This is bad. When you tap the SMS icon, you always need to end up straight in the inbox. We talked to BlackBerry and this should be fixed up soon (they just need to clear the Cascades layer to shortcut back to Text Messages). This is the kind of thing a user should never have to deal with; If Mrs. CrackBerry received a Text Message on her Z10, hit the Text Message icon, and ended up on an email instead of the Text Message inbox, she'd probably throw the Z10 the phone at me (or out the window).
The Calendar is pretty basic and easy to use as you'd expect. It has some cool features like when you have an appointment with attendees, it will start to pull in related social content and activities. So, when you're heading into a meeting you have a convenient way to get up to speed with what a person is up to. 2b1af7f3a8