Will the BlackBerry Z10 keep me loyal?

BlackBerry Fetish
BlackBerry Fetish

My BlackBerry loyalty is no great secret. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, for business use nothing I’ve used comes close to the email management, fast QWERTY keypad  and battery longevity I’ve enjoyed on my loyal (and indestructible Bold 9900).

I’m not blind to its faults. I’ll be the first to admit that browsing can occasionally be a painful experience and the app experience limited, but hey I have an iPad if there’s really an app I need.

But the day has come. The Bold 9900 has been officially retired and replaced with the BlackBerry Z10.

Bring it on.

I’ve been frustrated with several Z10 (and BlackBerry 10) reviews. So much of what I’ve read is written by reviewers who don’t put the device [or OS] through its real paces. IMHO there’s  little point reviewing a Z10 over a 24 hour period and outside of an enterprise environment.

I’m only a few days into ownership, and there’s little point in writing a full review so I’ll update this blog as I explore BlackBerry 10, and learn more about the Z10.

From QWERTY to touchscreen

I’ve always appreciated having a physical keypad, but at the same time acknowledged that compromising on screen real-estate is a huge sacrifice. I’m still adapting to the Z10’s virtual touchscreen keyboard and admit that I find it too cramped to use in portrait mode. My error rate is noticeably higher than a physical keyboard but I’m putting this down to having to relearn how I hold and type on a different form-factor.

In landscape mode, character entry is far easier and the predictive text feature is a complete revelation. In fact when composing an email calling it predictive text doesn’t actually do the feature justice. When I hear predictive text I think back to the awful days of T9 predictive text on my old Nokia devices (where text intervention simply tried correcting grammar and spelling).

BB10 predictive text suggests the next word you might need. To select it, just flick the word upwards “Minority Report” style. The system seems to learn pretty quickly, suggesting your commonly used word strings. I’m three days in and it’s surprisingly easy to compose 25% of an email this way by flicking-up common verbs and nouns as they appear overlaid on the keyboard.

THE USEFUL…

Email to calendar

When you’re in your email inbox you can pull the screen down from the top to reveal your calendar appointments for the day. Sounds so obvious, the two applications are inherently linked for many tasks, but try jumping between your inbox and calendar in iOS.

Sender / contact updates

Click on a contact or [email] sender and you get an option to view “updates”. By referencing the corporate email domain or the contact’s “Company” field, the Update feature pulls in relevant news related to that company. Click on a (for e.g) Vodafone contact and I get latest news summaries and share prices for Vodafone. Really useful to get an update on corporate activity in advance of making an important call.

App-Integration 

There is is some very cool integration of apps into the native environment. Evernote into your reminders/notes; Dropbox into your file storage system, LinkedIn into your email. Slick integration.

Intelligent set-up

Initial device set-up was quick and I really appreciated some of the interventions the OS made to improve the experience. When I set-up my Facebook account, the Z10 recognized that my FB login used a Hotmail [Outlook] email account that hadn’t yet been configured as an inbox. It offered to do so immediately. Nice touch.

Timeshift Camera

I’ve used this feature on a couple of occasions and very good it is too. The ability to grab multiple frames in burst mode and pick the best (eyes open, smiling etc) is great. If you have children you’ll know what I mean. In fact this is possibly the number one use case for Timeshift.

Data / Voice reception

This was always a key BlackBerry selling point. The Z10 doesn’t change that. There is no special way to hold the phone.

LED Notification

It’s amazing how many ex-BlackBerry users I talk to miss the simple things – like an LED notification alert!

Sure, you can activate LED notification alerts on the iPhone but it uses the rear flash so the device has to be face-down. I just don’t get that. I’ll take a nice front-facing, red LED to alert me of an email thank-you.

Apps

Side-Loaded / Ported Android apps work just fine. I’m running [ported] Android apps for Instagram, Netflix and British Airways. If you want YouTube it’s a web-app; not ideal but workable.

Design

There are some nice design touches to be found. The analogue clock is really very nice, likewise the 3D compass.

AND NOT SO USEFUL…

Email deletion

Damn, I miss the ease of deleting emails in iOS (swipe right to left on the inbox entry).  The three [virtual] clicks it takes in BB10 is frustrating. If anyone knows a shortcut, I’d love to know.

Volume

Maybe it’s the nanny-state but phones seem to have generally got quieter over the years. The volume on the Z10 is fine for a call, but when thrown to the speaker it’s really not enough.

The Hub

Never got the point of a unified inbox. I have separate email accounts for a reason. I still don’t get it.

The Hub also doesn’t make it clear the source of your messages, so if multiple messages are being unified in a single inbox things can get confusing.

App-Gaps

As a business user there are a couple of apps that I really expect / need. The first, Webex is available and works fine, although IMHO it’s not as slick as the iOS version I run on an iPad. The second is Salesforce, which isn’t available.

BlackBerry doesn’t need to play the app ecosystem pissing-contest. Any Android user will openly tell you that 80% of the apps available to them aren’t worth the pixels that render them. However, BlackBerry does need to understand the requirements of one of its core segments. Do I care that I have Angry Birds? Not really. Do I care that I can’t access a native BB10 Salesforce app? Heck yeah.

I’m only a few days in but remain confident in my loyalty (something that was starting to waver under the 3 year old shadow of the Bold 9900). Be subjective folks; the Z10 is not for everyone but nor should it try to be. There are also some app-gaps that I hope will be filled. However, if you don’t think a BlackBerry is the best all-round business device available on the market you are kidding yourself….or you are 12 and rate the availability of Temple Run 2 as more important in your business life than unified messaging and LinkedIn integration.

That’s it for now…more to come….

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