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Blackberry Z10 review


Blackberry Z10 – Is it the future of BB?

I must admit that  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the new Blackberry Z10, I’ve been a BB fan since they were first launched in South Africa and have keenly upgraded my handset along the way over the years – the first fully touch screen BB with more features than you could shake a stick at really appealed to me.

To be fair, let me clarify that I’ve reviewed the Z10 as a business tool and not a social phone. A key part of integrating the use of BB’s into The Computer Guyz (technical staff etc.) has always been seamless and practically fixed cost communications for the workforce.

My first surprise (not much of a surprise since I was well warned) with the Z10 was that it cannot use Blackberry Internet Services (BIS) which costs a fixed R60 a month for unlimited (within reason) internet access. I had to acquire a data bundle for the Z10 and this means extra and unmanageable cost (score a big negative there).

Unboxing the Z10 was a pleasure, nice professional Blackberry Style packaging, and a good looking solid phone. Nice comfortable size and a very pleasant viewing size too. Switching it on, it was quick to power up and I was impressed that the micro SD card could be inserted without removing the battery and resetting the phone (bonus points on that one).

Setup in true BB fashion was quick and easy with my contacts being imported via the Blackberry ID rather neatly. Seamless transition from old phone to new. All good so far. Mail was a little tricky to get going but some of that could have been my own clumsiness. Downloading apps was quite quick over the office wireless and I had everything I needed in a jiffy – except of course for WhatsApp  -now, while I confess I’m not a large WhatsApp fan at all, many of my friends and colleagues who live outside of BBM land use it (shame on them) so without it, they swear and curse at paying the mighty gods of Vodacom and Mtn R0.45 every time they need to SMS me instead of 2 or 3 cents for a WhatsApp message. Just a minor annoyance to me, but a big one to my contacts who lamented my lack of WhatsApp.

The touch screen is activated by swiping your finger from the bottom of the screen to the top (6 o’clock position up to 12) and although very nice and reactive, it’s a little clumsy for one handed operation. From there it’s a matter of swiping left to right to change between applications, right to left for additional options within the application and hovering your finger on the right hand side and gliding between options to delete old conversations etc. Now I’m sure the various patent wars doing the rounds have a lot to do with this rather clumsy way of navigating, but it’s really frustrating – you feel like an octopus on speed trying to do the simplest tasks.

Next problem came with something really simplistic. I live in a nice little complex with security that means visitors have to buzz you from the gate and you press a secret number on the keypad of your phone to let them in. Simple enough – or so I thought. Swipe downwards from the halfway mark on the screen to answer the call, then press the keypad icon to get a numeric pad, then press the secret number. I think you get the picture – clumsy and requires two hands or a penchant for juggling.

Next up was the flow of conversations on BBM. To shift between chats was a little clunky at best, swipe left to right to change conversations, no wait right to left, back to the main screen, dash to swipe up down and right to forward poke your nose against the screen, jiggle it a bit and there you go, eventually you’re over to the next conversation but have forgotten what you wanted to say. No problem there – they’ve built in autocorrect!

Why oh why are cellphone manufacturers so stuck on this troublesome feature? My first BBM autocorrect mistake was telling my girlfriend to “sleep tit” instead of “sleep tight” and from there it just got worse. In fact had I been communicating with someone in Klingon it would probably have been quite helpful, however as a humble English speaker I found it frustrating and was relieved to locate the setting that switches it off completely.

Next up was being curious about friends BBM statuses. To achieve this, I swiped from the bottom upwards to activate the screen, swiped left to right to get to the BBM app, slide an inch from left to right to get the options panel, tap on statuses, scroll down pages full of who’s listening to what and then see your friends status. By now my fingers feel like Fred Astaires’ feet on a dance day!

Searching for the odd webpage via google was easy and fun. The integrated camera is phenomenal at normal distance, but a little dodgy in zoom mode. There are some nice new little applications for making quick on the fly videos with pretty little effects – not much use for a businessman though.

I hesitated at doing the old “bounce test” to the Z10 after inspecting the finely crafted glass screen and assuring myself that a simple 1m bounce would certainly be its’ demise. Meanwhile, my trusty 9800 has been dropped over and again from a variety of heights .

Overall I must say that if I was comparing the Z10 to a Samsung or iPhone, I may feel differently – but I’m not. I’m comparing it to many trustworthy forefathers of the BB name. The robust Bold series, the half breed Torch, the ever popular 9300’s. As a business phone, I just couldn’t handle the frustration of two handed operation being a practical necessity and the need for fingers as nimble as a surgeons. Couple the frustration with knowing that the data bill is climbing with every FB post and it was just too much for me. Back to the old trust BB Bold for me I’m afraid.

The Z10 is a well designed phone with all the looks and smarts of it’s competitors as a phone. As a business tool however it is sadly lacking in simple performance.

I do understand as a businessman that the BB needs to compete with the latest phones, but surely a more prudent position for the BB would be to have retained its’ cornering of the business market by focusing on business phones with business relevant features (like BIS, like a reasonable camera, quick mail setup and integration, integrated calendars and syncing to your pc).

Personally, I’m disappointed to see that the BB has gone the way of the touch phone. It’s lost its’ unique sense of robust engineering to me, it no long has that firm well designed comfort in your palm. In the Z10, the quick seamless e-mailing of photos and documents dies with the horrendous data charges imposed upon us in South Africa.

I have no doubt we’ll see the streets overflowing with smiling teenagers loving the social syncing of the bb applications and smiling as they take panoramic photos with the Z10 looking tremendously sleek. I just don’t think we’ll see many businessmen hovering outside busy meetings typing away furiously at their Z10s. I for one won’t be one. I’ll be smiling as I work away on my trusty old BB Bold knowing it’s reliable, robust and comes at a fixed cost through BIS (for as long as it’s available).

Astoundingly, no Z10’s or gadgetry phones were harmed in the compilation of this article.