When the AT&T BlackBerry Z10 came out last weekend, I wandered over to a nearby AT&T store to check it out. Turns out that was easier said than done… store employees had removed the Z10 from its display and stashed it in the back room. Why? They said it was because the theft alarm kept going off. Oy.
So, the store employee had to fetch it from the back room, and then charge it. Generally, store employees were negative about the Z10 — the guy who helped me had used it but reverted to his Samsung GS3, and another nearby employee flat out bashed the Z10. Clearly not a phone being promoted by this carrier…
I found I loved the Z10’s bright, crisp screen, the unified in-box, the swipe navigation (reminiscent of the HP TouchPad or Palm Pre). I also liked its physical size (larger than an iPhone but smaller than the big Android phones that are popular right now). I liked it so well that I bought it.
First, some technical specs for context:
I’m really enjoying the Z10. BlackBerry 10 is a unique and enjoyable mobile operating system, and the Z10 is a great phone:
- Overall user experience: Blazing fast. Navigating around the phone is fast (no lags), downloading and uploading data is fast (obviously dependent upon your data network), and great ping times (on AT&T LTE network).
- Hardware: The Z10 is big enough that displayed text is easy to read but still small enough to be easily used one-handed. The soft-touch, slightly dimpled plastic back feels nice and doesn’t pick up finger-prints easily.
- Call quality: Both ends of calls are clear and crisp. No issues with dropping calls or audio/voice drop-outs while on calls.
- GPS: GPS lock is insanely fast whether indoors or out. I was shocked by how quickly it warned I’d gone off-course when using turn-by-turn navigation in the car.
- Maps / Turn-by-turn navigation: I live on a fairly obscure street that isn’t listed by some maps software, so I was delighted to find my street listed. I found turn-by-turn navigation to be very accurate, with the maps very easy to read in the car due to highly contrasting colors.
- Screen: As noted above, the Z10 screen is crisp, clear and beautiful. At 4.2″, it’s a bit bigger than the 4″ iPhone 5 screen.
- BlackBerry Hub: I’ve always loved BlackBerry’s unified in-box — no need to open several apps to see info about incoming calls, texts, tweets, email, etc. A huge timesaver.
- Swipe navigation: While I find the Z10’s swipe navigation to be a breath of fresh air, it’s not completely new… it feels like it borrows the best of WebOS, Android and iOS. There’s a learning curve, but Z10 initial set up provides a demo to help new users learn the basics of getting around BlackBerry 10.
- On-screen keyboard: Oh, I love this keyboard! It displays word suggestions on the keyboard “frets” and sometimes on the spacebar. It makes for a fast, easy typing experience. Tip: In the On-screen keyboard settings, set both Portrait Mode and Landscape mode to “In-column” to enable word suggestions to display just above the keyboard (vs under your fingers).
- Web browser: The Z10 web browser renders content quickly and it’s easy to zoom in/out using pinch & zoom. While flash is supposed to be on its way out for smartphones (generally), it’s still super handy to have a flash-enabled browser. The Z10 browser includes flash but it’s turned off by default — you just need to turn it on in browser settings.
- Photo quality: I confess, I didn’t have high hopes for photo quality after reading some early reviews. However, photos I’ve shot have been sharp, nicely detailed and colors are natural. I’ve gotten some surprisingly good shots in low lighting. And the camera software is fast! The shutter fires as soon as you touch the screen — great for taking photos of active pets.
While Blackberry seems to catch flak for its young Blackberry 10 app store, I’m not finding the app inventory to be an issue. Of course, I don’t need any specialized apps — other folks’ mileage may vary.
The BlackBerry Z10 has been a delightful surprise. It retains BlackBerry’s traditional strengths (great keyboard, unified inbox) and adds a great new user interface that’s fun to use.