Has Blackberry Been “Reinvented” With The Z10 (Review)
Has BlackBerry “reinvented” the new smartphone generation with BlackBerry 10, and leading the charge is the new full-touchscreen Z10 handset.
For BlackBerry fans, the Z10 is everything you wanted. It’s a sleek, classy and well-made smartphone that performs well in most areas and is suited to both personal and professional use.
Hands on with the Blackberry Z10 from PDTechHD
But there’s no denying that it looks remarkably like an iPhone, and doubts remain over BlackBerry 10. The OS brings some great ideas – including a fantastic typing system and the ability to have two active accounts on the same phone – but it also feels a bit behind the times compared to rival systems. BlackBerry 10 suffers from a general lack of apps, the maps tool is dated and the swipe gestures are very confusing at first. But anyone willing to forgive a few software irritations will still find a lot to love about the Z10.
There’s no way around it; the Z10 looks remarkably like a chunkier, less beautiful iPhone 5. The handset is 5.12 inches wide, 2.58 inches deep and 0.35 inches thick (130 x 65.6 x 9 mm), making it just a bit deeper than the iPhone 5. At 4.78 ounces (135.4 grams), it feels light in the hand and is arguably more comfortable to use than Apple’s handset, thanks to slightly rounded edges and a textured finish. However, the iPhone 5 is made out of much more premium materials than the Z10′s plastic shell.
The Z10′s display measures 4.2 inches on the diagonal with a resolution of 1280×768 pixels. This gives 356 pixels per inch, beating the iPhone 5′s 326ppi density – not that you will overly notice. The screen displays text and graphics clearly, and ensures colours are vibrant and bright. The side bezels are a tad chunky but not horribly so.
Users get 16GB of onboard storage, and that can be increased to 64GB with a microSD card. Micro-HDMI port and Micro-USB ports are on the left edge, and the right houses up and down volume keys and a voice command button.
The OS has many strong features but also others that feel dated compared to the competition, and the lack of apps is a problem. We like BlackBerry Balance, BBM Video calls and the BlackBerry Hub, but the camera features feel limited and the maps app is very basic compared to Google Maps.
BlackBerry 10 launches with more than 70,000 apps, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare, along with Skype, Amazon Kindle, WhatsApp, Angry Birds and Rdio. But there is no Instagram, Spotify, Netflix, or YouTube (BlackBerry has included an icon, but it just leads through to the browser). With iOS, Android and even Windows Phone offering much more apps, BB10 starts to seem behind the game.
But at least with the Z10 you get NFC support for wireless transfer of data and contactless payments, along with the exclusive and still hugely popular BBM service. There is also a decent music app on board, and bundled apps for productivity tool Documents To Go, Dropbox, Newsstand and BlackBerry’s own Story Maker.
The Z10 has a 1.5 GHZ dual-core Snapdragon S4 Plus processor, which is not exactly meaty against quad-core rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S3. But the system seems to admirably handle most tasks that you can throw at it. Downloading apps is quicker than the 2Ghz Motorola Razr i, and web browsing is zippy. Only on the really heavy duty apps and tasks did we see some lag. Battery life is rated at up to 10 hours of talk time, up to 60 hours of audio playback and up to 11 hours of video playback from a full charge of the 1,800mAh battery. We found that the battery does generally just about last a full day, even with some game playing and full screen brightness.
BlackBerry prides itself on the typing experience and the Z10 features an excellent system on board. The trademark BlackBerry keyboard pops up on the screen and makes typing a dream. The touch keys have a more solid and satisfying feeling than typing on iOS, Android or Windows Phone devices.
The keyboard has a learning engine that monitors what you are typing and then suggests words above the keys. You can then just ‘flip’ your thumb over the word to write it. Predictive text is nothing new, but flip word is so much faster and it is possible write entire sentences with just your thumb. The system also supports three different languages for multilingual people.
Camera has never previously been a strong point with BlackBerry phones, so its good to see the Z10 pack an 8-megapixel camera on rear and a 2-megapixel snapper on the front. Video recording comes in 1080p high-definition on the rear and 720p on the front for those BBM calls.
The shutter speed is a real plus on the Z10. Most photos are taken almost instantly, which cuts out the danger of missing your subject. You can select scene mode, such as for action and night, as well as take pictures in a 3:4 or 9:16 ratio. But compared to other systems, there are not many other features available, barring the option to select the best picture from a burst shot. There is no HDR for improved shot quality and no function to change ISO settings, while geotagging and grid are also absent. It is also annoying that you cannot turn off the loud clacking sound of the camera taking a photo. The pictures themselves are crisp and defined, but the autofocus struggles to cope at times and can completely misread the desired subject of the photo.
BlackBerry had an impossible task with the Z10 - it had to reinvent the whole concept of a smartphone just to get noticed. It has not done that – not by a long shot – but it has created a solid and dependable phone. If it adds lots more apps, rolls out some fixes for the OS (Google Maps, please) and wins over the personal-professional crowd, then the brand could well get back into the game.