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.

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This review is out of touch with the actual user experience, and that that is repeatedly described by all customers who have so far bought the phone from the AT&T website . Almost all reviews are 5/5. Alan. I think you forgot to mention that you hold stocks in Apple.

Readers should be aware that the comment above bears the hallmarks of either a zealot American Blackberry fan or astroturfing.

For the record most reviews of the Z10 are critical, with few being enthusiastic and I haven't seen any 5/5's.

Furthermore the allegation that I hold stocks in Apple is wrong and most amusing considering both my phone and tablet run Android.

@neerav. Massive Android fanboy revealed!! You claim that "most reviews of the Z10 are critical" is just rubbish. Yes, many reviews have certainly pointed out areas for improvement, but none I have read have been overwhelmingly negative overall, which is what your comment implies. For a first generation phone/first generation OS, it's one of the very best I have seen.

The typing experience is almost universally praised in reviews (and I have read plenty of them, being in the market for a new phone) as "the best non-physical keyboard available". The Active Frames with 8 Apps running simultaneously, offers true multi-tasking, and is also lauded in many reviews.

The camera has improved since the OS was updated after release, and in the newer reviews I've seen between Galaxy S3, iPhone 5 and Z10, it compared well, even if it wasnt a clear winner. You completely ignore the "time shift" feature in the camera software which is getting rave reviews, the Instagram-like filters that are native to the camera App, and the storymaker features for video.

Since the OS update the battery is lasting a full day even with plenty of use. Why do you mention the battery being woefully small? it's larger than the iPhone 5, but it's about performance - not a number. Unlike Android that chews through battery at a great rate, the Z10 doesn't need a 2600 Mah battery (plus it's removable so the option of a spare at least exists). It doesn't need quad/octa core processors to be a quick, fluid experience. Or is that another negative in your book? Did you actually use the phone or just go off the specs sheet?

Super fast browser (faster than desktops apparently), and the only mobile browser able to play Adobe Flash, but it doesn't rate a mention. Yes the number of Apps is a weakness, but did you let readers know that Android Apps can be "side loaded"? No. And more native apps are coming all the time. There are already 100,000 apps and many of the big ones are there, or arriving soon.

Any mention of BBM and it's ability to video chat or screen share? No. You did mention the amazing Blackberry Hub briefly, but neglect to tell us how fluid and efficient it is to be able to reply to any message/email/tweet FROM THE HUB, without having to go into an individual App! How clever is that?

And for those in workplaces with new BES, you completely neglect Blackberry Balance: the ability to keep private data and business completely separate. The IT dept cannot see your private data, but can completely wipe the business side of the phone remotely if needed, without any effect on your personal data.

I've been a Blackberry user and more recently iOS6. I've resisted moving to Android because it seems almost too customisable and not structured enough for me. That's certainly a personal preference, although the new HTC One did briefly tempt me!

But this really is one of the poorer reviews I have seen. Having played briefly with the Z10, it is solidly built, quite a lovely piece of hardware to hold. but the BB10 OS is what makes it amazing. Personally, it strikes the right balance for me between Android and the far more restrictive iPhone. I can't wait to get my new Z10 later this week!