BlackBerry Z10 Review: 60+ Days With The Latest BlackBerry 10 Touchscreen Smartphone

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Here at BlackBerryCool, we’re not very fast with device reviews. Personally, I like to take my time with the device, use it for a while, and wait to see if there’s any immediate software updates to give the manufacturer the benefit of the doubt. After 60 days of using the BlackBerry Z10, I think it’s time to release the full review. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the BlackBerry Z10.

BlackBerry Z10

NOTE ON PICTURES: One of great things about the pictures in this review is that I’m not a photographer and so the pics aren’t doctored or made to look especially beautiful. It’s like going to a restaurant and seeing realistic pictures of the food on the menu. Also, all pictures are taken with a Z10 to give you an idea of camera quality.

HARDWARE

Overall, the BlackBerry Z10 feels like a nicely balanced device. The weight feels great, as it’s not too light and not too heavy. The iPhone 5 by comparison is about 23 grams lighter than the BlackBerry Z10 and it feels a little too light. The Z10 hardware is also really sturdy. I have dropped the Z10 a handful of times, without a case, and it has never received more than a little scratch on the back cover.

The buttons on the Z10 are helpful and easy to press. The volume keys allow you to change volume levels even when the device is locked, which helps for listening to music. Locking and unlocking the device is a breeze and there’s even a fun swipe feature for waking the device up. More on that feature in the software section. The best part of the hardware is probably the HDMI and Micro-USB connections. It’s so nice to be able to share connectors with people who don’t even use a BlackBerry 10 device. Sharing a charger with someone makes you realize how lame it must be to be an iPhone 5 user.

Specifications are something that everybody loves to chat about but it’s really inconsequential. The primary purpose of specs should be to meet the consumer’s needs and compromise between a quick, snappy experience and prolonged battery life.

The specs that the BlackBerry Z10 apart from the other devices are the following:

  • 1280 x 768 resolution, at 356 PPI, 4.2 inch screen
  • Removable battery
  • 8 megapixel auto-focus camera
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • 2 megapixel fixed-focus front camera
  • 720p HD video recording
  • BlackBerry Balance for corporate users
  • Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (LE)
  • NFC
  • Support for HDMI and Micro-USB

Check out the full specifications for the BlackBerry Z10 at this link.

Every review has a section on call quality and there is never really a point in writing about it because call quality doesn’t vary much between smartphones. The BlackBerry Z10 has a decent phone app with reliable service on both Telus and Rogers (I switched carriers on the device). There was a few times when the call quality seemed like a device bug and the phone app seemed to glitch out a little. More on that in the software section.

BlackBerry Z10

DISPLAY

BlackBerry NOVA 3

The BlackBerry Z10 has a beautiful screen. With a 1280 x 768 resolution, at 356 PPI and a 4.2 inch screen, the Z10′s resolution is powerful enough to look great on the device and also great when connected to a TV with the HDMI connection. Just take a look at the above screenshot from the game N.O.V.A. 3. It speaks for itself.

CAMERA

The BlackBerry Z10 has a nicely spec’d camera as described above. The photo option also comes with a nice feature called Time Shift which allows you to shift the time of the picture, specifically a face in the photo so you can get the perfect shot.


YouTube link for mobile viewing here.

Here is a video I took with the Z10 which I also edited using the native editing software. I wasn’t able to actually upload the video to YouTube either Over The Air or on WiFi, either from the native app or from YouTube’s site. More on these kind of small bugs in the BlackBerry 10 review.


Click this link to view on YouTube.

The quality of the video camera is great but what really sets it apart is the ability to edit videos and create your own montages. Below is an example of a tour of the Quirky offices that I took while in New York and used the BlackBerry Z10 video editing software to make a video montage on the fly (uploading to YouTube worked in this instance).


Click this link to view on YouTube.

Here are a few pictures I took to give you an idea of what it’s like taking pics in varying degrees of light (click to enlarge any of them).

Outdoor ottawa

Hanging out at Shopify

Indoors with low light

BLACKBERRY 10 BY QNX

BlackBerry 10 is a huge improvement over the legacy BlackBerry OS. It’s everything that BlackBerry needs to be in order to be competitive in the smartphone industry. The way it handles apps, multi-tasks and “flows” is such a breath of fresh air compared to the old BlackBerry experience. The User Experience is fast and responsive and overall I’m really pleased with the experience, especially when compared to the legacy devices. The Android player on the device also opens up the app market quite a bit and some of my favorite apps are Android ports.

Currently, my favorite features of BlackBerry 10 are:

  • Downloading OS updates over the air.
  • The time to reset and boot the device is short.
  • Multi-tasking apps is a lot of fun due to the gestures.
  • Universal Search
  • BlackBerry Hub

One of the downsides of the way BlackBerry 10 handles multiple apps is that everything feels segregated. On legacy BlackBerry devices, everything would connect in this beautiful way that made you feel productive. That’s not the case with BlackBerry 10. A great example of this is dialing contacts in the phone app. The Address Book and the Phone App are two distinctive apps, making for a very aggravating contact management and calling system.

The biggest problem I have with the BlackBerry 10 OS is that it’s 93% complete. It doesn’t feel fully polished and there are bugs that I can, after a month of using the device, duplicate. For example, if you have multiple emails associated with the device, and you try and add a calendar event without specifying the email associated with that event, you crash the calendar app. That’s one of those bugs that makes you realize that maybe US carriers were right to delay the release. It’s also surprising because the QNX OS has been around for so long, not only in the market before the BlackBerry acquisition, but on the PlayBook running a calendar app. To be fair, the bug has been fixed in an update that BlackBerry released on March 1st, 2013, but that’s a full month after launch.

See this Inside BlackBerry blog post for updates that were released during that OS update.

“The biggest problem I have with the BlackBerry 10 OS is that it’s 93% complete.”

To this day, there are still some bugs on BlackBerry 10 that are annoying. For example, the browser crashes once a week on me and if I hit my mobile banking site from the Z10, the browser flashes like it’s trying to give me epileptic seizures. Also, the Hub doesn’t do a good job of managing notifications. Sometimes emails will not show up in the Hub, but will show in that email’s respective section and often times notifications will not go away even after they’ve been marked read.

There are a few other issues that the OS has such as changing the font size can cause letters to overlap and the orientation can be finicky. It’s hard to list all the issues but generally it leaves you with a feeling that the OS needs to “mature” a little.

All of this is not unusual for a new smartphone. It’s really difficult to put every facet of the device through QA considering the millions upon millions of different actions a user can take. Hopefully all these crashes are being logged at BlackBerry somehow and they’re all being tracked. Even though there are issues with the OS and several little bugs, the OS in general is awesome and any smartphone user would appreciate the way the OS has been designed and implemented. It’s just going to take a little longer, probably only until the Q10 is released, for all the kinks to be fully worked out.

BlackBerry Z10

KEYBOARD AND MESSAGING

The reason I have been using a BlackBerry for so long is that it does one thing and it does it really well: messaging. The vast majority of my smartphone use is spent messaging, whether it’s email, SMS, twitter or BBM. The problem with the Z10 is that the virtual keyboard doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. About once per day I make an embarrassing mistake and send an email or a message with a typo that makes me curse the virtual keyboard. The main issue is that it’s really difficult to train your brain to “flick”. Unless you’re flicking, the spell checker will replace your intended word with what it thinks you want to type. Without the flick, you’re constantly working against a virtual keyboard that thinks it’s smarter than you. Check out the video below to see flick in action if you don’t know what I’m talking about.


YouTube link for mobile viewing.

Just to be clear, this is nothing against BlackBerry’s virtual keyboard per se. I don’t like any virtual keyboard. I’m a loyal BlackBerry user because of the physical keyboard. Just look at Eric Shmidt of Google, he still uses a keyboard and probably for the same reason. The typing experience is unparalelled. BlackBerry did a great job improving on the virtual keyboard experience with the “flick” experience, but as someone who loves a keyboard, this isn’t going to convince me to use this device. Personally, I can’t wait until the Q10 comes out because it will be the best of both worlds.

In terms of messaging, BlackBerry Hub is the main selling point with BlackBerry 10 and it’s a great feature. Currently, I have 5 emails, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, BBM, SMS, Calls and Notifications all being pushed to the Hub. The BlackBerry Hub generally does an excellent job of managing all those accounts, calendars and contacts and is a constant reminder of why I’m a loyal BlackBerry user.

“The BlackBerry Hub generally does an excellent job of managing all those accounts, calendars and contacts and is a constant reminder of why I’m a loyal BlackBerry user.”

The biggest problem with emails on a BlackBerry Z10? The blue font. Who at BlackBerry thought it would be a good idea to turn my emails blue? It really sucks to broadcast to everyone that you’re sending an email from a mobile device. It could potentially offend your customers. BlackBerry of all companies should know that. Overall, it’s really frustrating and there is no way to turn it off.

PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY LIFE

Performance on the Z10 is magnificent. Apps load quickly and the device boots up in a short period of time. Overall, the device has never frozen, crashed, restarted or had any major performance issues other than the small bugs mentioned above. The BlackBerry 10 OS by QNX definitely seems to be worth its purchase price as it brings BlackBerry into a new era of mobile computing that is versatile and able to exist beyond just smartphones and tablets.

The battery life on the Z10 was particularly bad for the first month of launch but the most recent OS update seems to have really helped. Actually, maybe this point deserves to be in software because it’s quite a big battery that should be able to power the device, but with using the device as a Power User, you’re getting about 4 hours on it before the update and about 6 at this point in time.

To help battery life, I’ve purchased what is arguably the best BlackBerry Z10 accessory on the market: the Z10 Battery Charger Bundle. Not only can you plug the battery bundle straight into the device to save your phone from dying while on a call, but you can swap out the batteries and start fresh. This accessory has been a life saver and it’s a must-have for any Z10 user.

BlackBerry Z10

CONCLUSIONS

The first question you need to ask yourself when looking at the Z10 is: am I a touchscreen or QWERTY user? The question can also be answered by asking yourself what you’re going to use your device for most often. Will you be doing a lot of messaging and business? Or will you be playing games and browsing the Internet. If the answer is messaging, I say wait for the Q10. I’ve personally tried the Q10 and the combination of BlackBerry 10 and a QWERTY keyboard is the best of both worlds. If you’re going to be playing games and using your BlackBerry 10 device as a media device, get the Z10. You’ll appreciate the large screen and gesture interface.

In terms of the BlackBerry Z10 as an entry device into the new era of BlackBerry: it’s everything that we wanted from the new BlackBerry. It has a unique value proposition, great gestures, core OS features that differentiate it from the competition, a solid platform for attracting developers, and a slick piece of hardware to hold it all.

Will this device get BlackBerry to the number 3 position? I hope so. It’s so hard to tell these days. It seems insane that only 2 operating systems can dominate the entire mobile OS market, especially because 10 years from now smartphones could easily number in the billions. The BlackBerry Z10 does have everything BlackBerry needs to be a major player, but who knows how the markets will respond. Perhaps a company can make the best product in the world but there are so many other factors that contribute to its success or failure. Intangible elements such as “consumer brand perception” are so difficult to predict. But if I were a gambling man, I would definitely say that this is a device the consumer is going to enjoy, and that would lead me to put some money down on this company. Not only is the BlackBerry Z10 a great smartphone purchase, but the BlackBerry 10 platform is really inspiring.

  • Mutnat

    I’m still reading through this review and enjoying it so far! One note on the blue email text font: that’s only on replies, similar to how Outlook works. Business contacts should be familiar with that paradigm as the vast majority of people (at least within my organization) don’t change that setting in Outlook and reply in blue text the vast majority of the time.

  • jones_kristie

    Great review – thanks – I’m trying to decide whether to make teh shift from Blackberry (have a Bold currently) to iPhone which I’ve been resisting. You’ve made me decide to stick wtih Blackberry for at least one more handset – although I might wait for the Q10 to arrive in Australia. Do you have a view of the Q10 release date ?

  • IVETTE

    I’VE HAD MY Z10 FOR 2 WEEKS ABSOLUTLEY LOVE IT..I HAD THE TORCH BEFORE IT..NEVER ONCE HAS IT FROZEN DOWNLOADING APPS TAKE LESS THAN 30 SECONDS SUPER FAST…I WILL STICK TO BLACKBERRY

  • Zacamandapio

    Excellent post.
    The things I miss from the legacy OS are:
    -Auto On/Off
    -Battery Life
    -Music Player (ability to add, delete, modify songs)
    -Simplicity
    -Real Push Email
    -Viber (I know, I know)
    Perhaps someone at BlackBerry is reading this and can bring some of these things on future updates.

  • God knows I’ve tried

    I bought BB Z10 2 months ago. I have big expectation, since I’ve been using BB for 5 years. I have great experience with my bold 9000 and onyx 2. Sadly, Z10 can not continue it predecessor success.
    The learning curve of using OS10 is faster than I thought. But the stability is big issue here.

    I’ve return my Z10 after using it for 2 days only, since the battery is overheat. when I returned it to my carrier in Indonesia, I’ve met 3 users also returning their device with similar issue.

    My carrier give me a new Z10 to solve this issue. Then lightning strike twice, after upgraded to OS 10.1 the phone is crashing. The phone keep shutting down it self in many times. The battery life is below BB statement, it only lasting for 4 hours with my normal usage.

    Well after 2 months struggling, I sold my BBZ10.

    Emailing also not fast as previous BB system, I found that BB now in the same level with android and iOs.

    Keyboard system is not special as BB bragging, you have to use your 2 hand together for typing. Well they are just ok in my opinion.

    The HUB idea is good, but in the end you have to check one by one each email, bbm, and SMS. 3rd party application such as Whatsapp is not integrated in the HUB. I found the “peek” marketing gimmick is nothing special in improving my daily routine with smartphone.

    Entertainment also below standard of other smartphone. Z10 have crisp speaker but they now starting to follow iTunes concept but without the supporting ecosystem. Gaming is way less develop compare to iOS and Android.

    Pros:
    If you want an HDMI feature this phone provide you the port
    Expandable storage
    BBM (yeah now it will be available for android and iOS user)

    Cons:
    Poor battery
    Not stable OS
    Poor camera
    Not many 3rd party application

    Recommendation
    Save your money and better investing in other reliable device.
    Unless you are a BB die harder, and patiently waiting everything will be just fine by the time. So good bye BB.

    ( I’m using z10, SG III, and IPhone 5 for making my review here)

  • http://about.me/kylemcinnes Kyle McInnes

    Thanks for the comment. I’m still getting blue font while initially composing emails though. Not sure why.