Now that one week has passed since the BlackBerry 10 launch, it couldn't be a better time for me to tell the world what I think about the new BlackBerry Z10 smartphone. I'd like to be able to spend more time with the device so that I can leave a more detailed informative review, but I do feel that I've at least spent enough time with it so that I can leave you a good understanding of what I think so far.
The BlackBerry Z10 device I'm reviewing sells for $199 on a 2 year contract, and roughly $700 off contract, plus or minus a few bucks depending on where you live in the world. The current OS version for this review is 10.0.9.2372.
The first thing you'll notice when you pick up your BlackBerry Z10 smartphone is the sleek and sexy design. The size is also just right. Bigger than the iPhone 5, and a bit smaller than some of the newer Android devices on the market. So those coming from either platform will find the Z10 a very comfortable size to get used to. You'll also notice the weight of the device is fairly light, but don't let that fool you. The phone has a very robust and quality feel to it. Like you could drop it a few times before it would start to break.
The back cover is the only part that may feel a bit cheap. It's made from plastic and has a NFC antenna built in behind the BlackBerry logo. Once the cover snaps into place, it does have a very solid feel to it. So I wouldn't let that discourage you. The back cover also has a very nice texture to it to help with grip while holding the device. This is especially nice it you plan on going without a case.
The volume rockers and power button all function very well, and they stick out just right so that there is no issue with being able to push or find them by just feel. Unlike the notorious POWER BUTTON that plagued the first PlayBook. Sorry, couldn't help myself.
And just like the PlayBook, the speaker and sound quality is great on the BlackBerry Z10. Better than the iPhone 5 and other competitors. You'll find that even setting the volume at full power, the speakers still don't distort.
The Camera is very fast. You can snap pictures as fast as your finger will tap the screen. The quality is pretty good at 8MP rear, and 2MP front facing. As a BlackBerry user who isn't used to a super speedy camera, this is going to be a very nice addition. Couple this with the new native Story Maker app and you will be on a movie making media frenzy! More on that later though.
In addition to the Video Camera and Camera, you have the option to use a Time Shift Camera feature. The Time Shift camera takes multiple shots in a short amount of time, and allows you to select the best images out of the bunch by toggling a dial back and forth to find that perfect moment. With face detection, you can customize each person's face in the picture, essentially creating a moment that never existed. If you have ever tried to take a photo with kids and all, you know how hard it can be to get them all smiling with eyes open at once. This resolves that for you. Plus it's fun to mess around with on friends and family.
Here is a quick rundown of the BlackBerry Z10 specs:
Size: (L x W x D) 130mm x 65.6mm x 9mm
Weight: 135.4 g
Display: 4.2”, 4 point multi-touch IPS LCD display, 1280 x 768 resolution at 356 PPI, Touch On Lens
Software: BlackBerry 10 OS
Memory: 2 GB RAM, 16 GB Flash, Hot Swappable microSD slot (up to 64 GB)
Processor: Dual Core 1.5 GHz
Camera: 8 MP rear facing camera, Auto Focus ,5x digital zoom, 1080p HD video recording, LED flash
2MP front facing camera, 3x digital zoom, 720p HD video recording
GPS: Assisted, Autonomous, and Simultaneous GPS
Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy
NFC: NFC-enabled to support mobile payments and file exchange
HDMI: microHDMI out port
Advanced Sensors: Accelerometer, Magnetometer, Proximity, Gyroscope, Ambient light sensor
Wi-Fi: Dual Band 802.11 a/b/g/n, Mobile Hotspot
Network Connectivity: 4G LTE or HSPA+, support for global roaming
Talk Time: up to 10 hours on 3G
Standby Time: up to 305 hours on 3G, up to 316 hours on 2G
Audio Playback: up to 60 hours
Video Playback: up to 11 hours
Battery life: This has been a tricky one to pinpoint. Sometimes I'm leaving the device on overnight (around 8 hours) and it only drops about 20%. And other times it will drop double that under the same time period. Of course this can be due to signal and other factors. But the battery isn't that bad. But it's not amazing. Gaming on the device, or playing video will drain the most life out of the battery. I've gone almost all day on one charge when I'm not downloading a ton of stuff or gaming a bunch. I will definitely go out and buy a more powerful battery when they become available. Remember though, I'm a power user and need my juice to keep me going. I'd say that the battery life is comparable to, and even slightly better than your higher end Android devices out there. I'll also be looking forward to future OS updates to help in battery life as well.
Peek. Flow. Perfection. That is how I summarize the BlackBerry 10 OS experience. BlackBerry wasn't fooling around when they said re-designed, re-engineered, re-invented. Getting to know the new UI is a fun experience. PlayBook users will already have a good grasp of things as much of the navigation experience is based upon a number of gestures centered around a touch sensitive bezel. That's right, no lame, outdated home buttons. BlackBerry is the first to revolutionize this experience on a smartphone, and I hear that Apple is planning on something similar with the iPhone 6.
The BlackBerry 10 OS is always designed to keep you moving forward. A good analogy I heard from Donny of the InsideBB Blog, is that when you go to put on your shoes, you don't put on your socks, then take them off, only to put your shoes on afterwords. That is what having a back button does to the user. It forces you to retreat from a commitment before you can move forward. BB10 by-passes that nuisance by allowing the user to be within the app and accomplish tasks outside of the application.
Peek: The addictive act of being able to easily see what notifications you have received while in any part of the OS. With a simple swipe up from the bottom bezel, you can see at anytime the notifications coming in. No need to exit the app you are in. Be careful, peek is addicting. It's right up there with seeing the blinking red light.
Flow: The action of moving within the OS in an effortless and efficient manner from one task to the other. BlackBerry 10 allows you to flow from anything from listening music, sending an email, to updating your status via social network. Flow is built into the BlackBerry OS so that you can perform any number of tasks within any order, and not skip a beat.
One of my favorite parts about the OS is that Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are baked-in integration. That means you can get a notification from either one of these networks and reply directly within the BlackBerry Hub, without ever having to open up the app.
The BlackBerry Hub is like a Messages app that is always open. The Hub is the one stop to all of your emails, messages, notifications. Don't go looking for an email or messages icon, because you won't find one. Which in my mind, is genius. Being able to access my most important information from the phone without having to open an app is so convenient. I can peek right into the Hub and right back out again at anytime. If you are like me and receive a bunch of email everyday, you'll fall in love with the Hub.
Another awesome part of the BlackBerry 10 OS are Active Frames. These are apps that are minimized into a smaller frame that takes up about 1/4 of the screen. Which means that 4 of these frames can fit on one screen at a time, with a total of 8 active frames showing at once. The other 4 are accessed by swiping up on the first active frame screen. These Active Frames aren't to be mistaken for widgets. These are real-time running apps. The frame also has the ability to update the user with information on the small frame screen, such as, your next appointment or the current weather. Not every app does this though. It must be built into the application's code in order for the frame to show updated active information.
The Lockscreen is not what you'll be typically used to. Instead of waking the device up by hitting the lock/power button, and then swiping up or over like other platforms will have you do, with BlackBerry 10 it's much easier. All that is required to wake up the device is simply swiping up from the bottom bezel. When you swipe up the Homescreen reveals itself under this Lockscreen veil. This way of waking up the device is sure-proof to protect you against any accidental unlocking leading to pocket calls. Yikes!
Time for bed: When the device is in locked mode you can access a bedtime mode feature. By swiping from the top bezel down to the bottom bezel, a dark blanket covers your screen which quickly turns into a orange glowing alarm clock. You can easily set the alarm from this point before you hit the sack for the night. You'll soon love having your BlackBerry Z10 tuck you into bed each night.
Native Apps/Apps -
If you are going to be getting a BlackBerry Z10, make sure you have some money set aside to purchase some awesome games and apps. I know that the BlackBerry smartphones of the past haven't been synonymous with having apps, but forget all that. BlackBerry 10 is a robust OS, powerful enough to handle the heaviest content apps and games on the market. Take for example The Bard's Tale. The game has amazing graphics and game play, and is a one gigabyte download. That's on a smartphone! Developers are coming in droves to bring their apps and games to BlackBerry 10. Games like; Stunt Pear, Angry Birds, World of Goo, King Oddball and Burn It All just to name a few. And as Marty Mallick said at the BB10 Launch Event, "we have Skype!" On top of all this, BlackBerry World now offers not only just games and apps, but also music, movies, and tv shows. There is no shortage of selection. You'll be able to to find all of your favorite bands and shows without a problem. A new desktop software called BlackBerry Link is there to help you back up and sink it all.
Native apps have improved as well. BlackBerry seems to be taking the same approach as Apple by adding on some fun pre-installed native apps. Something new users can use and have fun right out of the box. Story Maker comes to mind. Story Maker is a native BlackBerry developed app that allows you to take your smartphone's music and photos and compile it into a one-of-a-kind custom video. I made a movie myself of our time in NYC at the BB10 Launch Event. Have a look below:
The entire list of pre-installed native apps are; Contacts, Browser, Calendar, BBM, Text Messages, BlackBerry World, Remember, Docs to Go, Pictures, Music, Videos, Story Maker, Maps, Games, YouTube (launcher), Newsstand, Voice Control, Weather, Clock, Calculator, Compass, File Manager, Box, Connect to DropBox, Print to Go, Smart Tags, Settings, Adobe Reader, Phone, Camera, Setup, Help. These are all the apps that come pre-installed on your BlackBerry Z10 smartphone. I won't be able to cover all of them in this review, but we will be covering them more in-depth in other BlackBerryOS articles (see the video at the end of this review where I cover some of these apps).
BlackBerry knew that this new mobile computing platform needed to be something revolutionary enough, and different enough, to get the attention of the smartphone world. I'm actually happy with the timing of this review, as the first numbers are now coming out on how the Z10 is selling in the UK and Canadian markets. It's HOT! BlackBerry Z10s are flying off the shelves and retailers are selling out. This just goes to show how great the device really is. More-so than any review could ever tell you. As a proud fanboy of BlackBerry, I've tried to be objective as I can in this review. The fact is, BlackBerry is doing something new and exciting with BlackBerry 10. It's been stated by CEO Thorsten Heins that "BlackBerry 10 will bring BlackBerry into the future for the next 10 years." As well as, "replace your laptop within 3-5 years." These are big statements, but if anyone can walk the walk, it's Thorsten Heins.
The BlackBerry Z10 is a smartphone that can be put up against any competitor.
Check out my video review below of the BlackBerry Z10 hardware, software, and native apps in action: