The first smartphone to run the new BlackBerry 10 operating system is the BlackBerry Z10 which launched in the United States in March on AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. It’s a good upgrade for existing BlackBerry users, but will struggle to compete with Apple and Android smartphones.
Design & looks
The Z10 is a touchscreen smartphone. It has a smart, slimline design, although its plastic and glass construction lacks the premium feel of the iPhone. A useful LED indicator shows missed calls and messages.
The screen measures 4.2 inches and has a high resolution of 1280 x 768 pixels, giving it an even higher pixel density than Apple’s Retina display.
Touchscreen user interface
The Z10 has a pure touchscreen interface, incorporating swipes and gestures. When you switch on the phone, you’ll see the Lock Screen, which displays useful information such as missed calls, calendar events and social media and messaging updates. To unlock the screen you swipe up from the bottom frame.
The Home Screen can display up to 4 active frames, each containing a separate app and enabling genuine multi-tasking. From the Home Screen you can swipe right to access the BlackBerry Hub, which is the cornerstone of the user interface. The BlackBerry Hub is the messaging centre of the phone, with access to emails, messages, notifications and calendar events. The Hub can be accessed from any screen by swiping up and to the right. To return, you swipe left and down, reversing the gesture. From the Hub you can “flow” into messages, contacts, calendar events, etc.
The “flow” style of the operating system will work best for power users, making multi-tasking simple and logical. However, casual users may find that the gesture-based interface presents a steep learning curve.
The powerful virtual keyboard suggests words as you type. It also corrects common mistakes automatically. Voice recognition can convert speech into text and provide simple voice controls.
There are already around 100,000 apps available for BlackBerry 10, although that falls a long way short of the number available for the iOS and Android operating systems.
The Z10 is equipped with an 8 megapixel camera with a BSI sensor for improved performance in low lighting.
A second front-facing camera can record HD video and the BBM messaging system has been enhanced to enable video chat.
The Z10 is a 4G compatible phone that supports Wi-Fi and NFC. It’s powered by a dual-core processor running at 1.5GHz. This is less power than high-end phones from rival manufacturers, but is adequate for most apps. A generous 2GB of RAM is provided.
The built-in memory seems small at 16GB, though this can be expanded with a memory card. The 1800mAh battery seems to be under-powered for this type of phone.
The BlackBerry Z10 is a welcome addition to the BlackBerry family, and offers some fine hardware and a powerful operating system. At the same time, it can’t compete with flagship smartphones from Apple and Samsung in terms of processing power, memory, availability of apps, and battery life. Initial sales figures don’t indicate a promising future for the newly revamped BlackBerry.