REVIEW: BlackBerry Z10

Graph for REVIEW: BlackBerry Z10

What BlackBerry needed from the Z10 smartphone was for it to be a showstopper, catching the eye of potential new buyers and reminding many why they couldn’t do without one not that long ago.

Unfortunately for BlackBerry, the Z10 is the party guest that shows up two hours late, copying fashion trends that were cool once but are now passé. The crowded and competitive smartphone market is just not forgiving enough for the Z10.

Considered in isolation, the BlackBerry Z10 is a nice phone. But nice just isn't going to cut it for BlackBerry at this stage. Not if it wants to return to its former glory.

Once upon a time, Blackberry (then called RIM) was the darling of corporate mobile phone space. Users loved the platform’s security features and the signature hardware keyboard that allowed emails to be sent with expediency and ease. It’s a position that it held on to for quite a while, but the love affair has now well and truly faded.

Now, BlackBerry serves as a classic example of a company that just couldn’t resist the temptation of coasting during good times. Such complacency comes with a heavy price and it has been on a steep learning curve for the last year or so.

The BlackBerry Z10 is a tangible illustration of just how much the company has learned and just how far it has to go.

Graph for REVIEW: BlackBerry Z10

When it comes to looks, the Z10 strongly resembles a black iPhone 5 in shape, with the only difference that it doesn’t have any buttons. The BlackBerry 10 operating system works by swiping. Swiping down from the top of the screen displays settings, from the bottom of the screen minimises your current app and shows a grid of previously opened apps to switch to or close. Swiping up in a right turn curve opens the Blackberry Hub universal inbox for notifications, call log, messages etc.

The BlackBerry Z10’s bright, high-density 4.2 inch 768x1280 pixel screen makes text on screen appear crisp and easy to read. However it isn’t protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass so may be more susceptible to scratches or getting smashed if dropped. The back camera is 8 megapixels and provides middle of the road image quality.

Call quality using the Optus SIM supplied was alright most of the time but in noisy environments it wasn’t loud enough. The BlackBerry Z10 supports the Optus and Telstra 4G networks but this may be more of a curse than a blessing as using 4G data transfers depletes battery power swiftly and the 1800Mah (removable) battery capacity is woefully small.

The BlackBerry World app store is a real weakness with many popular apps we use all the time not available for the Blackberry 10 platform including Google Maps, Pandora, Tripview, Shazam, Youtube and Runkeeper.

Readers who rely on maps a lot should definitely avoid the Z10 because unfortunately BlackBerry Maps lacks Google Maps-like options for walking, cycling and integrated public transport information.

While this is the best touchscreen smartphone that Blackberry has made, none of the features stand out as world beaters and some are still sub-standard compared to iPhone and Android. At best BlackBerry can hope that the Z10 can retain fans that haven’t yet fled to the arms of Apple’s iPhone 5 or one of the flagship Android phones. The BlackBerry Z10 is available from Optus or Telstra, at time of writing it wasn’t listed as an option for Vodafone customers. 

So, the BlackBerry Z10 isn’t a bad device by any means but it just doesn’t have the wow factor to convince consumers that have left the flock to return. The one positive for BlackBerry is that its security credentials ensure a place for the Z10 in some organisations especially government and defence.

However, that probably gives BlackBerry some breathing space, nothing more. While BlackBerry rested on its laurels its competitors built an army of products to lure away its seemingly rusted-on fans.

A new look BlackBerry needs to repay the favour and to do that it needs more than the Z10.