I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with the new BlackBerry Z10 featuring the new BlackBerry 10 OS.
I was very pleased overall with my experience during the last week I spent with the device. After you learn the basic gestures to get around the user interface, I found the device very usable and responsive throughout the various activities I go through on a daily basis.
The BlackBerry Hub functionality is very useful to consolidate all the communication types into one central area which I find is a distinctive feature that sets it apart from the competition. Most competitors are doing linked mailboxes and/or provide a notification center but none to my knowledge provides a persistent consolidated view of voicemail, emails, text, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
One side note regarding voicemails, visual voice mail is not yet available for BB10 at least not for Rogers (I read somewhere that Bell does support it).
Probably one of my favorite feature was the feature rich calendaring functionality which allows you to view the availability information when scheduling a meeting. One disappointment on the calendaring side though was the lack of support for screen rotation when accessing the weekly view which would have provided a better view in my opinion. One thing I’m not sure I understand is the Emails perspective when accessing an appointment. During my test I found that view provided irrelevant information.
One other thing I’ve enjoyed was the Contacts functionality which consolidates contacts by default and also provide a useful view of the interaction with that contact like on Windows Phone and the People hub.
On the third party applications side, I have to say it’s rather limited. Don’t get me wrong, most of the core applications I needed were covered; LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook out of the box. I could even play Angry Bird and another fun game, Beach Buggy Blitz. What I felt was missing were the following applications:
– SkyDrive to access the various documents and photos I store in the cloud service (including OneNote)
– DeepNet DualShield for two factor authentication
– MaaS360 (mobile device management)
– Break.com and Failblog (yes, it’s an important part of my day :-p)
While I know there are alternatives to these applications in some cases or means to access that data but that is not as seamless as on the other competing platforms I have tested so far (iOS, Android, Windows Phone).
BlackBerry’s attempt at Live Tiles (Windows Phone) or Widgets (Android) is not all that successful in my opinion as they make great use of the screen to display up to date information. While convenient for task switching, being able to peak at a condensed up to date view of the running applications would be useful and would be in line with the peak functionality for communications that’s being displayed on the side of the screen depending where you are (which again I find a bit odd),
A little thing I missed from iOS is the ability to change the resolution of a photo that was taken while sending it via email. For the rest of the camera functionality, it does the job well while the quality in low light condition seemed a bit low but then again, I wouldn’t consider myself knowledgeable in that area. 😉
The browser provided a fast and smooth Internet browsing experience. There was one glitch I encountered where the page would not start to load after 10-15 seconds while I was opening links from tweets or other hyperlinks.
I tested the voice recognition functionality briefly. It seemed to work for the basic things but I’m not sure I would use that extensively. The voice of the assistant is rather robotic/unfriendly in my opinion.
Viewing and editing Microsoft Office is a pretty good experience as a mobile experience goes. Especially considering it’s provided out of the box. There’s good support for Excel, Word and PowerPoint formats.
I’ve used the BlackBerry Link application on Windows 8 to transfer files on the Z10 and the process went flawlessly, I transferred MP3s and movie files the end result worked as expected.
I encountered a problem while my phone was paired with my Mazda CX-5. While the device was paired successfully, I couldn’t get the audio to work for some reason but I could see the name of the tracks playing. I have to admit I didn’t spend a lot of time troubleshooting this but I didn’t encounter this issue with my iPhone 4S.
I couldn’t test the BlackBerry Balance functionality as we didn’t have the proper BES infrastructure to enable such a policy on the device.
While the software seems solid for a new OS release, there are a couple of things which prevent me from fully recommending the Z10/BB10. I would like to see more apps available in BlackBerry World to cover my needs and I feel the hardware might not be on par with the competition when I compare it with the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the HTC One. It’s one of those things that if it were given to me, I could probably live with it but it might not have been my first choice if I were to buy it myself.
The OS itself is unique in the way it borrowed and adapted some of the concepts from its competitor to create a new platform while adding some interesting new ones. I suspect that after one or two iterations of the OS, we might have something very powerful in our hands. Just need to add some more of that Canadian ingenuity in there and some developer support. Hopefully that won’t come too late for BlackBerry.
Feel free to comment if you have any questions regarding BB10/Z10!