Two days with the BlackBerry Z10: Some likes, some dislikes

BlackBerry Z10

It hasn’t quite been 48 hours since I left Wednesday’s BlackBerry 10 event with the new Z10 handset, so I can’t provide a full review yet. Stay tuned for that next week. However, as I formulate the review, I’m definitely seeing things I really like about the new product, as well as a few aspects that have me scratching my head.

In no particular order then are some thoughts on the experience, both good and bad. I think many of the shortcomings can (and will) be resolved over time, but of course, you should always buy a product for what it does now, as well as for your specific needs.

  • The Z10 hardware is impressive. Great display, responsive and has a nice texture on the back, making it comfortable to hold. It weighs a little more than the iPhone 5 and is a smidge thicker, but doesn’t feel bulky at all.
  • I haven’t used the camera except for a few stills, so I can’t comment. I did read about poor low light camera performance, which I’ll test.
  • Battery life has me concerned, particular because I’ve been using the device on Wi-Fi only until this morning; I’m now using a nano SIM with adapter. I got through the day yesterday but not with heavy usage; I’ll say moderate with little video playback. Battery level was 20 percent at the end of the day.
  • I like that there’s no hardware “home” button. BlackBerry’s gestures are quite good — they were on the PlayBook too — and bring more functionality.
  • There’s also no “home” screen in the traditional sense. If no apps are running,¬†you start with a grid of apps. Open an app, slide up to minimize it and it dynamically becomes a widget on a new main screen. Eight of these are supported at one time; plenty for me and easy to switch through. I can navigate through my open apps and tasks quite fast. Here’s a look:
    BB10 home
  • Love the “peek” gesture which shows the number of messages; to see this, you slide up the screen from the bottom during any activity.
  • While the BlackBerry Hub function is smart — this consolidates mail, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, BBM — it is slow to start up when powering on the device and it can be lacking. You can reply to a Tweet, for example, but I don’t see a way to retweet; for that I seem to have to go into the Twitter client. It’s also a pain to delete all of the tweets and Facebook updates from the Hub to remove clutter. Here’s an example with tweets, Facebook status updates and read email:
    BlackBerry Hub
  • The software keyboard is outstanding. So much so, that on a recent podcast, I said it may be the best for any platform. Even though I generally use two thumbs for on-screen keyboards, I’m cranking out text with one hand due to the word prediction over the next letter of each typed word.
  • Email is generally good, but you can’t move from message to message; every email action takes you back to the inbox. Ugh.
  • The web browser is solid and fast. Adobe Flash is supported for those that care, but turned off by default. Search suggestions are good. Zooming and scrolling is fluid; page loads appear fast. I like the Reader function; same as in iOS.
  • Sharing information is similar to Android, meaning: great! Sharing a web page, for example, brings up options for BBM, mail, Facebook, Twitter, Bluetooth, NFC, etc…
  • The lack of apps that I use on other devices is concerning. BlackBerry has commitments for Skype, Amazon Kindle and others, but they’re not there. Nor is Netflix, any recognizable top-tier games, or my offline reading platforms. Google Talk is there, but no Google Voice; a must for me on any phone. YouTube is the HTML 5 mobile site wrapped up.

I have plenty more to test; as I said, the full review will be coming soon. For now, my gut still says what it said before I even used the phone and platform: Existing BlackBerry users will be happy, but at this point in time, I don’t see many people switching to BB 10. That may change over time as more apps arrive and the platform matures.

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