BlackBerry 10

On Thursday 31st January 2013, I attended the BlackBerry 10 launch event. For those who don’t know, BlackBerry has had new leadership and a vastly different design and programming team over the last year whose hard work has yielded entirely new equipment and an entirely new visionary mobile phone OS called BlackBerry 10 (or BB10 for short). The result is that the hardware and OS that amassed BlackBerry it’s poor reputation over the last few years is now completely in the past. BlackBerry 10 is reliable and strikingly modern.

The BlackBerry 10 launch in Sydney showed off the new BlackBerry Z10 phone, shown below with colour options of black or white.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These phones boasts a 4.2 inch screen which is handily larger than the iPhone 5 but conveniently smaller than the Samsung Galaxy 3. Resolution is a high 1280 x 768 at 356 pixels per inch (which is even higher than the iPhone 5′s 326 pixels per inch display).

Also included is 2 gigabytes of RAM (which is more than some computers) and runs a 1.5 Ghz chip. The internal memory is 16gig and you can insert a MicroSD card into the BlackBerry Z10 to bring that up to 48gig of storage. The camera is 8 megapixels with a 2 megapixel camera on the front for video calls.

A notable difference with the BlackBerry Z10 is that it has no “Home” button or “Back” button. This is a true gesture-controlled phone and is designed so that you don’t have to return to the home screen to do something else, but instead can in many cases “flow” through your actions. The “Home” paradigm is one of the old smart phone paradigms BlackBerry is progressing past as it was revolutionary when Apple introduced it 6 years ago in 2007 but is now a stifling constraint to modern smartphone work.

The BlackBerry z10 has a high quality 8 megapixel camera with some fantastic features.  It takes photos in “burst mode” before and after you take the photograph so that you can slide backwards and forwards in time to find the perfect photo.  It also uses face detection to allow you to zoom into a face specifically.  The BlackBerry rep explained the process to me which sounded like essentially “automatic photoshopping” where you could choose the best expressions for each person in a group photo to make the perfect group photo every time – even when everybody was smiling at different times.  Why BlackBerry is not promoting this amazing feature has me mystified.  This is exactly the sort of thing BlackBerry needs to destroy it’s “out-of-date” and “business-only” image.  It has amazing features, but those features are not being well promoted.  I’m hoping that a smarter advertising campaign is still to come between now and the release date in Australia (mid-March 2013) because BlackBerry so being so strangely humble so far as to give the impression that BlackBerry 10 is just more of the same from before.  It is baffling considering the overwhelming difference between BlackBerry 7 and BlackBerry 10.

Battery life is promoted by BlackBerry as 10 days in standby and 2 to 3 in normal use.  However, some reviews are reporting battery life more akin to the iPhone 5 as struggling to last a full day.  Unlike the iPhone 5, you can take the back off a BlackBerry Z10 and replace the battery with another fully charged one, however previous BlackBerries were known for lasting a very long time (my BlackBerry 9860 full-touch-screen typically lasts 2 to 3 days) and losing this bragging point in a world of smartphones which barely make it through a day is very disappointing.

The BlackBerry Z10 has a beautiful clock, shown below in day mode and night mode.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A clever feature of the clock is that to set the alarm, you simply drag your finger around the clock to the time you wish the alarm to go off.  This is so direct and simple compared to typing in times or using up/down scrolls, it is a pleasure to use and it is surprising the technique is not used in other areas of the phone – such as setting appointment times.

The BlackBerry Z10 browser is completely new and appears to be the best browser available on a mobile phone – being much faster than the browser in the iPhone 5 and the Windows Phones.  It is also more HTML5 compatible than most desktop browsers and even plays Flash.

The BlackBerry Hub is a new concept to smartphones as well as to BlackBerry.  At any point, whether you are watching a video or working in the calendar or using an app, you can swipe your finger up and across the screen to slide your current screen out of the way (called “peeking”) and view your incoming sms messages, Facebook messages, etc.  If it’s nothing important, simply slide your finger back and continue what you were doing before.  If it is something important then you can slide your finger across to enter the hub and deal with the message.  It is always available and very convenient.

The homescreen concept is interesting in that there is a screen which shows large icons of your running programs showing useful information without you having to enter the program (unless you wish to work in the app).  Apps are “closed” (or more accurately “minimised”) into this screen by swiping diagonally across the screen.  Unfortunately, the apps in this view cannot be “pinned” into place or even rearranged which gives a feeling of lack-of-control and it would be very surprising if this is not one of the things BlackBerry will improve when the operating system progresses beyond version 1.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As with all BlackBerries, the BlackBerry Z10 is highly geared towards office use however it plays videos beautifully, takes great videos and you can play Angry Birds on it too.  It even has a built-in Android emulator so you can run some Android apps.

It contains very good built-in programs for reading and editing Microsoft Excel files, PowerPoint files and Word files as well as a PDF reader and other similar programs.

Another amazing feature is predictive words on the keyboard.  All phones have predictive text which predicts which word you have started typing – however the BlackBerry Z10 has “predictive words” which analyses your emails and sms messages to see which words you tend to use after other words, and suggests them for you before you even type the first letter.  Even better is that these words appear above the letter on the keyboard meaning you don’t have to keep your eyes on a “keyboard area” and a “predictive text area” – the word is where the letter is and you simply “swipe” the word up into the sms or email.  It’s a very intuitive way to type and immensely speeds up your typing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other stand-out features of the BlackBerry Z10 are:

  • 70,000 new apps available including Angry Birds, Skype, Whatsapp, Kindle and Quickflix.
  • Voice control that can send sms messages, set reminders, make appointments, update Facebook, etc.
  • Can be used as a USB stick – no need to go through a program like iTunes, though one exists if you prefer to use it.

All in all, this is a fantastic phone that represents a step forward in the way people interact with all smart phones.  While there are a few issues to be worked out, the biggest problem for BlackBerry is carrying that message to the hearts and minds of people who still see what BlackBerry was rather than what they have become.

Nicholas Jankovic
T7 Training Systems

Saturday, 9th February 2013

Microsoft Excel, Project, PowerPoint, Word, etc training as well as InDesign and Keynote training.