The New SIM-free BlackBerry Z10

Thursday, 21 February 2013 00:00
Patrick Stafford

It doesn’t need repeating BlackBerry has had a tough few years – hence the reason for changing the company name Research In Motion to BlackBerry. But throughout the troubles, chief executive Thorsten Heins has been adamant the company will rise to its former success.

The Z10 is the cornerstone of that plan – a touchscreen phone designed to bring in users who may not enjoy the current Android or Apple offerings. It’s certainly a slick device, but can it deliver the goods?

Hardware and features

The Z10 features a 4.2-inch screen, measuring 768 x 1280 pixels. The phone is powered by a dual-core 1.5Ghz processor, and comes shipped with the BlackBerry 10 OS.

The device comes with 16GB of storage, along with 2GB of RAM, although memory can be expanded via microSD cards to as much as 64GB.

Connectivity-wise, the Z10 comes with NFC, Bluetooth, microUSB and Wi-Fi. It also features a Lithium-Ion 1800 mAh battery, and two cameras – one capable of recording 1080p at 30fps, along with a two megapixel secondary lens.

What’s the consensus?

The first impression one receives from the Z10 is that it doesn’t look or feel out of place from the current crop of smartphones. Over at The Verge, the publication noted the “safe, refined” style, saying it looked like a wider version of the iPhone 5.

The device itself features a band of plastic around the phone, but doesn’t have any sort of home button on the front. The sleep-power button is at the top of the device, in the centre. The Verge also praised the back of the device, saying it was made of a type of dimpled material which was easy to hold.

Yet at Gizmodo, the praise wasn’t as flowing for the screen. While the publication said the design was “fairly sharp…the display isn’t quite as bright as others”.

“That owes partially to the relatively muted colour palettes on many of BB10’s icons, but it’s also evident when trying to read an email in the daylight.”

It also had good things to say about the speed of the device, saying apps loaded just as fast as the equivalents on iOS and Android, and even faster than Windows Phone. However, it did say voice commands are “even more unnavigable than Siri and Google Voice Actions”.

One of the bigger changes to BlackBerry is the new BB 10 software. And over at TechRadar, the publication delved deep into the new interface and what it means for users.

While the publication said the OS is very different from the previous versions, with the homescreen featuring a combination of widgets and tiles, similar to those used in the Windows Phone software. It did praise the use of quick settings, with the notification bar just a quick swipe away, while apps are available by swiping to the left.

“The 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM housed into the BlackBerry Z10 means it has more than enough power to glide through the BB10 system, and we got a generally smooth user experience.”

“That said from time to time the Z10 seemed to get a bit ahead of itself and we were left with a black screen as it loaded up the app we wanted.”

However, The Verge said the “hub” – the notification system – didn’t work well, and was “sloppily executed”, noting some features like a “back” button seemed noticeably absent.

“I don’t feel BlackBerry 10 deals with multitasking or notifications as effectively as other platforms do (most notably Android), but it’s not a total strikeout.”

The publication also said some inclusions, such as the integration of DropBox into the backend, and the advanced camera options, were welcome additions.

Finally, CNET had good things to say about battery life, noting 11 hours for video playback. The publication also said anecdotally the battery lasted for about a day.

“Of course, my battery demands were all over the place during testing, including spans of full brightness and an always-on screen, interspersed with mass Web browsing and addictive game-playing.”

“For a company with a short, terrible track record with touch-screen devices…the Z10 looks good, has desirable specs, and gets the basics right.”

Who’s it for?

While the Z10 is a competent device, and will be a win for existing BlackBerry users, there doesn’t seem to be enough here to win over new users. If you’re looking for a new phone, you should probably give this a look, but if you’re happy with your current device there’s not much reason here to switch teams.