Two Days With BlackBerry's Z10: Some Likes, Dislikes

The Blackberry Z10 Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

It hasn’t quite been 48 hours since I left Wednesday’s BlackBerry 10 event with the new Z10 handset, so I can’t provide a full review yet. Stay tuned for that next week. As I formulate the review, however, I’m definitely seeing things I really like about the new product, as well as a few aspects that have me scratching my head.

In no particular order then are some thoughts on the experience, both good and bad. I think many of the shortcomings can (and will) be resolved over time, but of course, you should always buy a product for what it does now, as well as for your specific needs.

• The Z10 hardware is impressive. Great display, responsive, with a nice texture on the back, making it comfortable to hold. It weighs a little more than the iPhone 5 and is a smidge thicker, but doesn’t feel bulky at all.

• I haven’t used the camera except for a few stills, so I can’t comment. I did read about poor low-light camera performance, which I’ll test.

• Battery life has me concerned, particular because I’ve been using the device on Wi-Fi only until this morning; I’m now using a nano SIM with adapter. I got through the day yesterday but not with heavy usage; I’ll say moderate with little video playback. Battery level was 20 percent at the end of the day.

• I like that there’s no hardware “home” button. BlackBerry’s gestures are quite good—they were on the PlayBook, too—and bring more functionality.

• There’s also no “home” screen in the traditional sense. If no apps are running, you start with a grid of apps. Open an app, slide up to minimize it, and it dynamically becomes a widget on a new main screen. Eight of these are supported at one time, plenty for me and easy to switch through. I can navigate through my open apps and tasks quite quickly. Here’s a look: [image 1 attached]

• Love the “peek” gesture which shows the number of messages; to see this, you slide up the screen from the bottom during any activity.

• While the BlackBerry Hub function is smart—this consolidates mail, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, BBM—it is slow to start up when powering on the device, and it can be lacking. You can reply to a tweet, for example, but I don’t see a way to retweet; for that I seem to have to go into the Twitter client. It’s also a pain to delete all the tweets and Facebook updates from the Hub to remove clutter. Here’s an example with tweets, Facebook status updates and read e-mail: [image 2 attached]

• The software keyboard is outstanding. So much so that on a recent podcast, I said it may be the best for any platform. Even though I generally use two thumbs for on-screen keyboards, I’m cranking out text with one hand due to the word prediction over the next letter of each typed word.

• E-mail is generally good, but you can’t move from message to message; every e-mail action takes you back to the inbox. Ugh.

• The Web browser is solid and fast. Adobe Flash is supported for those who care but is turned off by default. Search suggestions are good. Zooming and scrolling are fluid; page loads appear fast. I like the Reader function; same as in iOS.

• Sharing information is similar to Android, meaning: great. Sharing a Web page, for example, brings up options for BBM, mail, Facebook, Twitter, Bluetooth, NFC, etc.

• The lack of apps I use on other devices is concerning. BlackBerry has commitments for Skype, Amazon Kindle, and others, but they’re not there. Nor is Netflix, any recognizable top-tier games, or my offline reading platforms. Google Talk is there, but no Google Voice, a must for me on any phone. YouTube has the HTML 5 mobile site wrapped up.

I have plenty more to test; as I said, the full review will be coming soon. For now, my gut still says what it said before I even used the phone and platform: Existing BlackBerry users will be happy, but at this point in time, I don’t see many people switching to BB 10. That may change over time as more apps arrive and the platform matures.

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