We are very pleased here at mobilife to be getting hold of a brand new BlackBerry Z10 to review which is the first in a new generation of BlackBerry devices, to see if the long-awaited BlackBerry 10 OS is really an improvement on the old operating system or just a lot of smoke and mirrors hiding a slight revamp. They say you can peek at your messages from any app, take BBM to a new level with video and Screen Share but most importantly still carries all the best features of a traditional BlackBerry. Well BBZ10, you have a lot to live up to.
Un-boxing the BlackBerry Z10 is much like the un-boxing of any phone these days, lift the cardboard box lid and the phone is displayed in all its glory. There’s not a great deal in the box but we’ve come to expect that with mobile phones these days, you’ll need to pay for any extras. All you get is the plug, a USB cable also used for connecting to the plug to charge, headphones and a small pamphlet on the phone and warranty information.
Visually, the BlackBerry Z10 is very executive looking. The BBZ10′s button-free glass front, the large display, the chrome effect buttons and the matte black colouring makes for a very eye catching device. I wouldn’t go as far as saying the BBZ10 breaks new ground, but that still doesn’t detract from the obvious: it’s a very attractive and well built handset.
The BlackBerry Z10 has a 4.2” touch screen with ~355 ppi pixel density which gives a crystal clear quality screen with rich blacks and deep colours and was a screen we found a joy to look at. The pre-installed game Beach Buggy Blitz was a good demonstrator of the BBZ10’s screen clarity and proved that the power of the 1.5GHz dual-core processor was enough, even if it didn’t stand up to the strength on paper of such phones as the Google Nexus 4 with its 1.5GHz quad-core.
Upon first boot you’re greeted with a tutorial demonstrating how you can navigate through the phone, use the keyboard and initial setup. The tutorial also runs you through the gesture controls and shows you how swiping up from the bottom and from the left triggers different actions. The start up time isn’t great, we timed it at 60 seconds which for a phone powered with a 1.5GHz dual-core CPU and 2GB RAM didn’t impress us at all.
Once you’ve completed the setup you’re presented with a home screen very similar to Apple’s iOS. BlackBerry OS10 is probably the most impressive overhaul of an operating system in a long time, however I do feel that they have cut a few corners – these corners will become more apparent throughout our review.
Central to the BBZ10 user experience is the BlackBerry Hub. All of your emails, tweets, BBMs, Facebook messages, LinkedIn notifications and EMails go here. It is always on and always available via a simple swipe from the left of the screen. The BBZ10 came pre-installed with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube apps, however we found that YouTube was just a web view with the app taking you to the m.youtube.com page. This isn’t the end of the world and still worked well, but it wasn’t a native app and didn’t look as clean and stylish as the Android and iOS counterparts.
You don’t just have the Hub, you’ve got BlackBerry’s multitasking-widget menu with live view of the application. So while you’re surfing the web you can switch into your can send a quick text and then resume your surfing. This is quickly accessed by swiping from the bottom of the screen towards the center.
BlackBerry Link replaces BlackBerry Desktop Software as the new management tool for interaction between your BlackBerry device and MAC/PC which allows you to sync music, videos, photos, documents and more between each other. We found the sync feature works really well. Once the software has been installed on your PC and set up, it locates your device as being on the same local Wi-Fi connection and asks if you want to initiate connection. Once you’ve chosen which files on your PC you want to transfer you drag them to your BBZ10 and the transfer begins, using the Wi-Fi connection to do the file transferring. Very impressive transfer speeds, of course dependent on your connection speeds. We liked how the files are then stored locally taking advantage of the 16GB storage on the device and, can be played offline. Although the BlackBerry Link software is a very useful tool and takes little to no effort to transfer data I was disappointed to learn that the phone cannot be used as a mass-storage device, something that Android owners will be very familiar with.
The BlackBerry Z10 comes with an 8MP camera with produced some great shots, and a full 1080p video recording capability which once again produced some really sharp and clear results both close up and long distance. The Auto-focus on the camera worked well, even in near macro style conditions.
See some sample videos we took, the first, one of mobilife’s resident cats, Pepper and the other over a golf course on a cloudy day.
The 1080p video quality works really well with a variety of lighting conditions and the auto focus did a good job at both the long distance video of a golf course and close quarters with Pepper the cat. If you were after purely a camera phone, I can’t imagine you’d plump for a BlackBerry however for those that specifically want a BlackBerry you won’t be let down with a poor quality camera.
In summary, the hardware of the phone is excellent. It is a very well built and crafted device, the build quality is fantastic. The BlackBerry Z10 has a solid feel, not flimsy at all or too heavy and is a nice size to hold and navigate one handed. The screen resolution at 768p is more than acceptable and leaves you impressed playing back videos or streaming YouTube. At 4.2” the screen is adequate and sits in line with that of a BlackBerry device, it seems only a couple of manufacturers want to push the limits of screen size to the max at the moment.
The refreshed software on the BlackBerry Z10 has gone through a radical overhaul, however we feel that BlackBerry has created too many processes for a simple step that a button could’ve done. For instance a home button instead of swiping up and we found that instead of a back button one had to swipe up to the homescreen, where are view of all running applications was present, and you chose where to jump back to. BlackBerry are ahead of the curve, we feel that many operating systems will build upon BlackBerry’s gesture control navigation and develop it further.
Overall, we here at mobilife aren’t massive fans of the BlackBerry Z10. We find the software over complicated and labourious, putting in too many steps for what should be simple processes. In the words of a longtime BlackBerry user, it’s “not user friendly, it doesn’t have an easy way to back out of a page, like no back button” and “NOT a fan!!” We find the lack of apps disappointing however that is a complaint that could be improved upon in time. We do like the camera capabilities, and the BlackBerry Link function, allowing fast data transfer from PC to phone without cables (over local Wi-Fi) to be really easy and a great addition to overall experience.
Thanks to our friends over at Phones4u for supplying the BlackBerry Z10 to us here at mobilife. we weren’t sad to see it go, I guess that sums up our overall opinion of the device, it was no great loss to say goodbye but certainly good to see where BlackBerry took their latest iteration of the OS, although it’s not quite ready to step up and go toe-to-toe against Android or iOS.