z10 make or break?

February 15, 2013 on Mobile, Small Business by Craig Nakamoto

I have not had time to prepare a full review of my experience with the Blackberry Z10, however, time is slipping by and I figured I should at least post a quick summary.  I used the Z10 exclusively for almost 2 months (in place of my iPhone 4s) from the moment it was available in Canada.  I use my smart phone constantly for work, travel, photography, and fun.  During the 2 months I went on a one business trip and a 3 week vacation to Florida.

The hardware is solid and stylish.  There are a number of very nice features absent in the iPhone line: status light, mini-SD card slot, soft back for much improved grip while holding or setting it down (like on a car dashboard).  The quality of voice calls was exceptional and I used the phone on speaker and with the included headset frequently and it was crystal clear and much better than any iPhone experience I have had.

The camera was similar to my iPhone 4s.  I like the iPhone camera better, but that may just be because I am used to it.  I do like the default 16×9 aspect ratio of the Blackberry.  The quality seemed to be comparable – neither is really that good, you can only do so much with a lens that small.

The screen is bright and large and easy to use.  The touch interface is intuitive and efficient.  Tethering (using the phone to connect my laptop to the Internet) was easy, painless, reliable, and extremely fast.  The LTE speeds were comparable (or faster) to many wifi hot spots.

The battery life was very disappointing.  Apple really does understand that battery life is critical for the everyday person, and I don’t think anyone can touch them on this yet.  My Z10 made it to the end of the day without charging about 3/4 of the time, and that is with wifi turned off while not in use, etc.  This is just not good enough for me.

The new operating system is very good but could still use some user interface polish – which will certainly happen in the next release.  For example, when texting the backspace key is directly above the send key – making it very easy to accidentally send a text when you are correcting a word.  This is the first touch device I have used that is as quick and smooth as Apple’s touch devices.  If you are used to Apple, you just don’t notice it until you try an inferior device and then it is painfully apparent.

I loved the Hub which gives you a single view (that can be glanced at or accessed from any app) of all your messages (email, texts, calendar, facebook messages, system alerts, etc.).  The Mail and Calendar apps are very well designed and while there are pros and cons to each – they are at least as good as Apple’s Mail and Calendar apps.  All of the usual features are there and work extremely well.

The Blackberry World store was quick and easy to use and I purchased songs, video, and apps without any issues.  I was able to sync all of my media (music, videos, files, etc.) easily from my computer.  I was able to sync all of my mail / calendar / contact data from Google Apps and my other mail accounts.  Facebook integration was excellent.  The only issue I had was Evernote – which I use extensively (like right now while I type this note).  There is supposed to be special Evernote integration with the Blackberry OS but while I could connect my account, I was not able to easily search or browse my notes.

The App selection is minimal and this is certainly the weakest part of the system.  Apparently you can install any Android apps if you follow some simple steps and put your phone in to “development mode”.  I did not try this, but it would likely solve this weakness for Android users.

In conclusion I would have to say that the Z10 is a fantastic touch phone with a lot of potential.  It is easily 10 times better than the previous touch screen Blackberry devices.  It seems to me that RIM has done a great job of trying to come back and with a little bit of luck, they might just do it.  For those of you who don’t use too many apps, it is a fantastic choice.  For those of you coming from Android, it is probably still a great choice.  For those coming from an iPhone, you will have to decide if you can live without any apps that are not on the Blackberry.  For me, this was too difficult.  I did it for two months, but in the end I had to switch back to my iPhone.

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