BlackBerry is back with the Z10, ready to give Android, iPhone and Windows Phone competition. BlackBerry fans who’ve rooted for BlackBerry to make a comeback have been waiting patiently for the Z10, BlackBerry’s first handset using its BlackBerry 10 operating system.
The Z10 has a classic and understated design, similar to an iPhone 5, with a rectangular shape and rounded corners. The back of the phone is a textured, rubberized plastic that feels secure in the hand.
The phone has a 4.2″ LCD screen that’s clear and crisp. The phone weighs 4.93 oz (193.8 grams) and is 0.35 in (8.89 mm) thin. The phone comes with 16 GB of internal storage, which you can increase with a microSD card up to 32GB for total storage of 48 GB. The phone has NFC and Bluetooth 4.0, can connect to 4G/LTE networks and can function as a mobile hotspot.
Using the Phone
A unique physical feature of the front of the Z10 is the lack of a home button. The sleek front face of the phone is unblemished by a button, which may give new users pause. A power button at the top and volume and mute buttons on the right are the only buttons on this phone. The Back button is virtual and resides consistently in the lower left corner of the screen.
The absence of a home button means that the phone isn’t instantly intuitive. BlackBerry guides you through using the phone, with instructional overlays appearing when your first use the phone. You can also access instructional videos on the phone if you need further guidance.
The phone is fast and fluid, you don’t experience lag as you switch from one app to another or swipe through screens. The responsiveness is immediate, this phone can keep up with your navigation in and among apps.
Your enjoyment of the Z10 will be partially dependent upon your feelings about swiping. If you have an aversion to swiping, this isn’t the phone for you. But if you like being able to swipe between screens easily, then you may delight in the way you navigate around the Z10.
Learning the swipe motions may require a bit of practice before they become second nature. But others who pick up your phone for the first time may struggle to figure out how to use it. Their search for the home button will be futile. Perhaps this feature is better security than a password?
- Swipe up from the bottom frame of the Lock Screen takes you to the Home Screen, showing you the apps you’ve recently used.
- Swipe down from the top on the Lock Screen to open Bedtime Mode.
- Swipe from the top on the Home Screen to get to Settings.
- Swipe from the top in individual apps to refresh the screen or open menu bars.
- Swipe two fingers from the bottom to open the keyboard.
- Swipe from the bottom and right Γ to open BlackBerry Hub (see below).
You also swipe down to answer a call. I suggest practicing this gesture before you need it, just to be sure that you master the skill before someone important is calling.
Another navigation issue that may confound people is the lack of an email icon. Accessing your email requires a swipe up and to the right from any screen, Γ, revealing BlackBerry Hub, command central to access your email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Text Messages, Calendar, Notifications and other accounts.
You can view each of these individually or open Hub which shows you all of these chronologically on one screen. This unified view is very handy to check what’s going on without having to open multiple apps.
BlackBerry Hub goes beyond notifying you, you can post to your accounts, send emails and text messages from Hub without having to navigate to individual apps.
BlackBerry is famous for its keyboards and the Z10 honors its heritage. The keyboard is thoughtfully designed with large keys spaced far apart, making typing on a virtual keyboard less challenging, even for those with large fingers. Rotate the phone 90° to landscape mode and the keyboard becomes downright spacious. Your excuse for typos disappears.
The keyboard uses predictive text to suggest words, even before you start typing them. The predictive text is unusual because the suggested words appear above the next letter you would type. So if you’re typing “and” and have typed the “a” already, the word “and” appears above the “n” key, “are” appears above the “r” key, “as” appears above the “s” key and “all” appears above the “l” key. Corrections for misspelled words appear on the space bar. The keyboard is smart, learning your word patterns to improve its suggestions.
Flick a suggested word up and it appears in the message. While this isn’t very intuitive (your natural inclination is probably to tap the suggested word), once you figure out the flick, your typing speed will increase dramatically.
The keyboard contains handy comma and period keys and emoticons when you’re sending a text message. If you enable voice control in Settings a microphone for dictation will appear on the keyboard.
With BlackBerry Link you can transfer documents, photos, videos and music between your computer and your phone using a cable or Bluetooth connection. Link comes in handy when you want to share files between your computer and your phone, back up files or move files from an old BlackBerry phone to a new one.
Here’s a video showing you how BlackBerry Link works:
You can share your music, pictures and video from your phone to your TV using Media Sharing. You can share media wirelessly or with a cable by using the HDMI out connection on your Z10. The Z10 can also share with set-top boxes using DLNA.
BlackBerry’s browser is fast and delivers clear images and text on the screen. The address bar is at the bottom of the screen for easy typing. You can enable the Reader option on websites to strip away everything but the text for easier reading.
BBM Video Chat with Screen Share
BlackBerry has added a video chat feature to its BlackBerry Messenger service that allows you to have video chats with others who have a BlackBerry 10 phone. The Video Chat feature allows you to sort your contacts, showing you only the ones who have BBM Video Chat. Video Chat works over Wi-Fi as well as 4G networks.
The killer feature of BBM Video Chat is Screen Share. By pressing the Screen Share icon when you’re in a Video Chat, you can display your phone’s screen on your friend’s phone. This nifty trick can come in handy for sharing photos or documents or troubleshooting any issues you may be having.
BlackBerry brings a favorite feature from its ancestors, Bedside Mode. On your lock screen swipe down from the top to put the phone in Bedside Mode and set your alarm. This mode silences the ringer and notifications, dims the clock and disables the notification light. You can also access this feature from the Clock app by swiping down and choosing Bedside Mode from the menu.
The Lock Screen functions as a notification hub, displaying the number of new Facebook notices, Twitter mentions, new text messages, unread emails and upcoming calendar events. You can access the camera instantly by pressing the camera icon on the Lock Screen. To exit the Lock Screen and open the Home Screen, swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
Apps are the Achilles’ Heel of a new smartphone operating system – any new app store will launch with fewer apps than is ideal. The question then becomes when and if you can get the full roster of apps you want. BlackBerry World is fairly well stocked for a budding app store with over 100,000 apps currently available, but you may be frustrated if the apps you need on your phone just aren’t there.
It’s probably only a matter of time before app developers turn their attention to BlackBerry World, but are you willing and able to wait?
The Z10 comes pre-loaded with native mobile apps for:
- Docs to Go
- Print to Go
- Slacker Radio
BlackBerry World has apps such as Angry Birds Star Wars, Skype (Preview version), The Weather Channel, GasBuddy, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and more. Explore to see whether the apps you need are in BlackBerry World.
The stated battery life of the Z10 is 12 days of standby and 15.4 hours of talk time. If you’re a heavy user of the phone, you may want to keep a charge cord or spare battery handy. If you leave the phone in standby mode most of the day and turn off Bluetooth, you should be able to get through several days without recharging.
The BlackBerry Z10 comes with an 8 MP camera in the back and a 2 MP camera on the front of the phone. The rear camera comes with LED flash and a 5X optical zoom. The rear camera has 1080p HD video recording while the front camera has 720p HD video recording.
Here are some pictures I took with the Z10 camera:
The camera is accessible from the lock screen, the camera app, as well as the bottom tool bar of the home screen. You can edit the pictures with filters on the phone and use the Time Shift Mode to make sure you get the shot right.
The BlackBerry Z10 is available in black or white from Verizon for $199 with a two-year contract or $599.99 without a contract.
The BlackBerry Z10 is a phone built for elegance and efficiency. The phone is well-designed with a view towards executing tasks with minimal effort. Think of the Z10 as a tool for productivity rather than a gadget for entertainment. If you’re looking for a phone that will get the job done, you don’t mind a learning curve and you’re satisfied with the BlackBerry World app selection, then the BlackBerry Z10 is worthy of your consideration.
Are you excited about the new era for BlackBerry? Have you been looking forward to the launch of the Z10? Which features are most appealing to you? Let us know in the Comments section below!
Many thanks to Verizon for lending me a BlackBerry Z10 for review. No compensation was received for the review of this phone.