24 hours with the BlackBerry Z10

BlackBerry 10 and the two phones, the BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry Q10, launched just over 24 hours ago. We've spent that time living with the BlackBerry Z10 and here's our initial thoughts, all wrapped up as a big shiny hands-on preview...


The phone: First impressions of the BlackBerry Z10


BlackBerry 10 Z10 review


As the first official BlackBerry 10 phone, there’s a lot of responsibility resting on the Z10. This is the first big showcase of BlackBerry’s new OS, and as much as BB is bigging up its software, it ain’t much good without some decent hardware to back it up.


Our first thirty seconds with the Z10 raised some mixed emotions. In the hand it feels a good weight, with enough heft to stay rooted to your palm, helped by the mottled soft-touch rear. It’s longer and chunkier than the Apple iPhone 5, more comparable in size to something like the LG Nexus 4. It’s not even far off the Samsung Galaxy S III for width and height, and noticeably thicker.


Business look


BlackBerry 10 Z10 review


BlackBerry has gone for a typical no-nonsense business design, so don’t expect any splashes of colour or sexy curves. It’s an all-black finish, with plastic borders above and below the screen and around the rim, and a rubbery-feeling back plate. It doesn’t scream sexy, but it does look like a serious business phone. The 4.2-inch screen sits dead centre on the front panel, with some sizeable borders all around it – roughly 2cm both above and below, and a half cm either side.


The dead-centre power button on the top of the BlackBerry Z10 seemed oddly positioned at first, but our finger soon got used to stabbing there every time we picked the phone up. You have volume controls on the right edge, with a button in between for loading up BlackBerry’s Voice Control (a take-off of Siri and Galaxy Voice). Mini HDMI and Micro USB ports are found close together on the opposite edge.


Take it off


BlackBerry 10 Z10 review


The back plate of the BlackBerry Z10 can be quickly and easily prised off to access the long removable battery, SIM card slot and Micro SD memory card slot. Somehow the back doesn’t feel very secure when it’s attached, however, and along the bottom edge we could never get the plate to sit firmly against the phone – there was always a teeny gap, and the two can be separated with very little effort. We can see the entire backing spinning off if the phone is dropped.


The OS: First impressions of BB10


We’ve already had a quick play with BB10 and commented on its big features, but this was our first proper length of time with the new OS. Set-up is reasonably simple, you just create or sign in with your BlackBerry ID and then you can crack on with setting up any other accounts (Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on). We had no troubles here, even if it took a fair while to accomplish.


Swipe out


As regular users of both Android and iOS, we struggled at first with BB10’s layout and swipe gestures. We’re all too used to returning to our Home Screen with a prod of a button, but here you have to swipe up from the bottom of the screen. We’re sure given a few days of constant use, we’d be doing it without even thinking about it. For now, it still feels unnatural.


BlackBerry 10 Z10 review


The ‘Home Screen’ is actually a scrollable grid of the last eight apps you’ve opened, which is handy if you find yourself constantly using two or three in particular. Swipe left and you get all of your app icons, which can be rearranged in whichever order you like – not far off Apple’s iOS. They even pulse as you switch them around, similar to iOS’s incessant jiggling.


BlackBerry 10 Z10 review


However, swipe right instead and you get the BlackBerry Hub, BB10’s beating heart and a rather nifty way to see all of your notifications at once. This is where your emails, Facebook notifications, etc all gather in one glorious mound of sociability, organised by date. You can search for specific posts or quickly bash out a tweet, email and more, but if you want to actually access your profiles and see what your contacts are Tweeting, Facebooking or whatever else, you’ll need to load up the individual apps. Still, the BlackBerry Hub is neatly presented and it’s easy to turn individual accounts on or off to suit your preferences.


Board of life


BB10’s keyboard is an interesting and feature-packed affair too. The board itself is well laid-out with plenty of neat shortcuts (for instance, long-press the spacebar to hide the keys) and the usual massive selection of weird smileys.


BB10 BlackBerry Z10 review


Start typing on it and you’ll notice words appear above some of the keys – this is BB10’s predictive text. For instance, type ‘hap’ and you’ll notice the word ‘happy’ appears above the ‘p’ key. Your eyes will naturally be drawn to the p key as that’s the one you’re set to hit next. If you want to complete the word, simply flick up from that key and it appears whole in your message.


BB10 BlackBerry Z10 review


This predictive text is more likely to help out slower typists, and we personally found we rarely used it. Still, it’s a sign of BlackBerry doing things with its own unique twist rather than copying the crowds.


Hear me now


BlackBerry’s Voice command service is similar to Siri and Samsung’s Galaxy Voice, allowing you to open up apps and access the main features just by shouting at your phone. We found it did a reasonable job of picking up our commands providing we spoke slowly and pronounced every syllable clearly, even with our accent which has a slight Northern twang.


BB10 BlackBerry Z10 review


At first we struggled to get it to do anything, because we were using slightly wrong commands. For instance, to open the camera, you can’t say ‘open the camera’. No, that’s bad! You have to say ‘open camera’, and it’ll do it without fuss. Likewise, to send a text message you can’t say ‘send a text’, you need to bark ‘text {insert contact name}’.


BB10 BlackBerry Z10 review


Like all voice services, we’re sceptical as to whether most users even bother to open them, except to see how many rude words they understand. Sadly BlackBerry Voice seems to be completely personality-free, unlike the loveable Siri.


Smooth operator


BB10 runs like oil off Jason Bradbury’s baldy skull on the BlackBerry Z10. When we first set it up we noticed some lag getting into emails and with the Hub updating, but we’re chalking that up to first-day jitters as it’s been absolutely fine since. Zipping in and out of menus is a smooth experience, and we rarely found ourselves waiting around. Browsing the web is particularly nippy, with pages loading up almost instantly over good ol’ 4G.


Battery life seems reasonable from the first 24 hours. We finished charging the phone at 10pm last night, and at 4.30pm the following day it has 10% remaining, after a substantial amount of messing around. We’ll be sure to keep on using the BlackBerry Z10 over the coming days and report back on how media use and more drains the battery.


Expect the full BlackBerry Z10 / BB10 review very soon!


Chris Barraclough

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