BlackBerry, the company formerly know as RIM is ready to launch its latest mobile operating system in New Zealand. The first of their devices to land here is a departure from earlier BlackBerry devices, with their well known physical keyboards.
The BlackBerry Z10 is a beautiful device with clean lines and easier than before to use. With 16GB internal memory, microSD expansion slot and a 4.2" screen with 1280 x 768 resolution, 356ppi it's very easy on the eyes.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor powers the smartphone, with very fluid transitions and fast response.
Fluid is the key here, with almost no keys on the device, except for a power button on top (which you don't really need to use to wake up the device) and the volume keys on the side. Everything else is controlled by gestures.
The device is sleeping and you need to use it? No problem, swipe from the bottom of the screen to unlock it, even if you don't see anything on the screen. Want to move from one app to another? Swipe again from the bottom to "park" the current app and swipe to the left to browse the apps in your device.
At any time swipe up and to the right to the see the Hub, the real power behind the device that was made famous for its communication abilities.
In the Hub you can see all your messages together in a single place. This includes phone calls, SMS, BBM, emails and even messages from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare and others.
Any time a tab in the Hub has a star it means there is a new message. This is also true for app icons, which will show a star when new notifications are available.
Settings are usually accessible with a swipe from the top of the screen, with quick access to WiFi, Bluetooth, Alarm and notifications.
You will notice how you don't need a special BlackBerry account with your mobile operator anymore. You have mobile data, you can use it. BlackBerry is launching the Z10 in partnership with Telecom New Zealand and Vodafone New Zealand, so you just have to insert a SIM card and the device is automatically configured, ready to access the Internet, share its mobile data with other devices via a mobile hotspot or even access your email directly, all of this without the need of the BlackBerry Enterprise Service as before.
You can simply get your BlackBerry Z10 out of the box, insert the SIM card and proceed to configure your email service directly on the device, including Exchange Servers, Office 365, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail, IMAP and POP.
If you are in a corporate environment you still have access to the BlackBerry Enterprise Service for full platform management, including third party devices. You can also use the BlackBerry Balance, a feature that partitions your device allows you to have separate access to personal and professional apps and services, moving from one to another while keeping the information secure.
The BlackBerry Z10 comes with a very good voice control, which works pretty well in a car situation over Bluetooth. you can send SMS or emails, call a contact, schedule an appointment or search the Internet using your voice.
There's also support for NFC, including the ability to share information to other mobile devices via contact or read/write NFC tags.
BlackBerry World, the BlackBerry app store comes with thousands of apps in all categories. Of note (and my own interest) are Skype, Waze, WhatsApp, Deezer, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Amazon Kindle. You will find some missing apps there but expected in a new platform. You can pay app purchases with a credit card or Paypal.
The built-in DocsToGo integrate nicely to the device and to Dropbox, including local editing and upload to the online storage, all in a transparent way. It supports Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats.
Android developers are in a good position since it's possible to port Android apps directly to the BlackBerry 10 OS.
As mentioned before you have the option of using Waze as a map solution, but the device comes with its own map app including voice navigation. Neither can locally store maps yet, so you need a mobile data connection to use those apps.
Another interesting feature is the PrintToGo. Basically you install a printer software in your PC and pair it with your BlackBerry. If you "print" to that device the document is converted to PDF and sent to your BlackBerry over its data connection (mobile or WiFi), ready for use. Pretty easy way of getting documents in your mobile, such as boarding passes, hotel bookings, etc.
Battery life is pretty good and even with WiFi always on and push services enabled (for Office 365, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) I had almost always gone through a full day before having to recharge. Using the WiFi hotspot software did use more battery though, so obviously your mileage may vary depending on how you use it.
One problem though that may affect people that travel a lot and swap SIM cards: depending on the SIM card configuration provided by the mobile operator the BlackBerry Z10 won't allow you to change the APN settings, getting all the configuration from the SIM or network defaults. This may cause problems if you want to use the BlackBerry Z10 with a network that works in some ways - for example in New Zealand it may not work on 2degrees unless the number is provisioned in a special way.
Overall the BlackBerry 10 is fresh, a giant leap forward for BlackBerry. The BlackBerry Z10 is a nice device that shows BlackBerry can deliver a new experience while maintaining its famous support for messaging.
- Clean design with rubber back that helps grip the device
- Easy gestures to control experience
- You find everything about your communications in the Hub
- Mini HDMI output allows for presentations to be delivered directly from device
- 4G LTE compatible with Vodafone out of the box (not sure about Telecom as not tested)
- BlackBerry 10 won't use a manually entered APN unless the SIM provider allows it
- The on screen keyboard shows upper case letter all the time. The only thing to let you know when an upper case is going to be typed is the blue SHIFT arrow indicator.