BlackBerry Z10 Hands-On: It's Like A Smartphone, Only Civilised

The first thing you probably do when I say the words "new BlackBerry" is either laugh, yawn or offer sympathy to the poor idiot that thought those were intelligent words. But pity me no longer, readers: the BlackBerry 10 is here, and it serves as proof of life for a company we all thought was long gone.

The Z10 is the crown jewel in BlackBerry's swathe of announcements today. It sports a 4.2-inch, 1280x768 screen with 356 pixels per inch, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, 16GB of internal storage space, support for microSD expansion, an 1800mAh battery and the fabled BlackBerry 10 operating system.

There are a bunch of new bells and whistles in BlackBerry 10, which include more apps, more content, a better way to organise work and social life so you don't have to carry two phones and the same super-secure communication and email platforms we came to love from BlackBerry all those years ago.

The hardware looks stunning, with the Z10 sporting a textured rubber back cover, curved edges and a big, beautiful screen.

The bezel on the front of the Z10 supports gestures much in the same way that the bezel on the BlackBerry Playbook did. Swipe up and you'll unlock the phone. Up and to the right and you'll land in the new BlackBerry Hub which organises all of your messages and social networks in the one place. Swipe down and you'll find a whole lot of quick access buttons for your settings, while sliding right will drop you into your app drawer.

The front page isn't so much the tiles and tiles of apps we've come to know from other smartphones, instead it's a view of all the apps and windows you have been using most recently. Because the Z10 is without a physical home button, much has been made of the need to simplify how people multitask between apps. Rather than exiting an app or double tapping a button to jump into another part of your phone, BlackBerry just want you to swipe via the bezel. Believe it or not, that's actually strangely intuitive and can be done easily with one hand.

As far as using the device is concerned, I'll go on the record and say that the keyboard is actually pretty difficult to use. Maybe it's just that I haven't gotten the hang of it yet or maybe it really does blow, but it seems too cramped to use and the tactile feedback isn't nearly strong enough, so you don't know if you've tapped that character or not if you're typing while walking. BlackBerry's new autocomplete feature that lets you throw words into your typing space is also pretty confusing. Methinks more practise is required.

The camera has what's known as TimeShift technology installed, which is a lot like Best Face on a Samsung Galaxy phone. Take a few seconds of video and you're able to spool through and pull a still image out of it that doesn't make the scene look like it was shot by Michael J. Fox. That's a nice feature, as are the nifty image and video editors that come pre-installed, but the camera doesn't perform well in low-light. Not at all. We'll have more on that later on today.

Keyboard and camera gripes aside, however, the Z10 feels really slick. It's easy to forget you're using a BlackBerry to be honest. While the hardware is nice, good-looking and fast, the real stand-out on both the Z10 and the QWERTY keyboard-boasting Q10 is the new operating system.

BlackBerry 10 feels like a hybrid operating system: it's as pretty as iOS, as interesting and card-like as webOS and as free and open as Android. Actually if I had to choose, it feels most like Android.

It's smooth, easy to navigate and different from anything you have ever used before. It's like a grown-ups version of Android: it's built better for business and personal stuff, it looks more mature and it doesn't flash stuff in your face every 10 seconds. Also, there's no obnoxious overlay or skin to get in your way or slow you down.

The Z10 will go on sale with Telstra and Optus in March. We'll have a full review up soon.

Luke Hopewell travelled to New York as a guest of BlackBerry.


    "1800MHz battery" errrrr......

      That battery won't last a day....

        It might if you tune in to the appropriate frequency...

    The hardware is certainly not flash by 2013 standards, and if the camera and keyboard are only so-so that's going to want to be a hell of a great new operating system for people want to leave their current smartphone ecosystems, grab middle-of-the-road hardware and learn a new operating system just to use that new operating system.

    Some of us find iOS and Android to be pretty darn grown-up and not flashing stuff in our faces every 10 seconds as it is...

      Irrelevant anyway, BB is dead, this is just the last breath exhaling from the lungs.

      When the iPhone came out, its specs were most definitely not flash for the time. Specs aren't everything.

        when the iphone came out, there wasnt anything to compare it with that;s all

        usually tech that comes out as "first" go two ways:
        1. Nobody cares cause market isnt ready for them (like macbook air predecessors) so it just fizzles
        2. Timing is just right or marketing is superb and boisted by fanboyism so its a major success

        iphone happens to be the latter, nothing else really attributes to its popularity, everything is a subsequent occurence because of this.

        iphone is not a benchmark

          nothing to compare it to? what about the E series Nokias? or the blackberries of it's time? or the N series Nokias?

            I guess if you compare the iPhone to those, that is why the Apple totally destroyed Nokia and BB.

              The N95 or was it the 91 was the single worst phone ever

              All the promise with an agonising frustrating delivery!

                N91, the N95 was one of the best selling phones in history.

                  lol nah I stopped being a lazy fuk and wiki'd it

                  Definitely the N95was AWESOME! Best Nokia I ever owned and the first to make it thu a contract!

                  The villain was the n97, with the original firmware.... OMFG I hated that phone, and it's been apple ever since! Tho in saying that my new work (starting Monday!! Woohoo fourth month of holiday) gives out Lumia's.....

          None of that is relevant. It was still derided by many at the time for 'low' specs.

            nobody really understood or cared about mobile processors at the time because the only precedence to compare with was phones that ran snake

            anything apple had at the time was better than resistive touch screens and other crap

            it wasnt until everyone started playing catchup that the industry started growing so investment started going towards the direction of better mobile hardware and we got better stuff.

            Point im trying to make is that i agree with you, specs arent everything considering everyone runs pretty much the same specs, just some have additional hardware features. its all about software now

            Last edited 01/02/13 12:44 pm

          Iphone is not a bench at launch cos it was the only of its kind it created the segment of touch screen smartphone so yes nothing to benchmark against.

      In regards to the camera, it'll need to somewhat as good as Nokia's Lumia 920 one.
      As mega-pixels don't mean a thing after 8MP, that's not a concern.

      As a business person, corporate or executive, I honestly couldn't care less about the camera; I would be more fussed about it performing when I want to make that call, send that important email or SMS, and perhaps even bring up those apps I require to function in my day-to-day work life.

      With BlackBerry's security, it could very well spring back up.

      After seeing Nokia catapult themselves back in with their Nokia Lumia 920, nothing can surprise me anymore.
      Even with Windows Phone where only two people showed up to a launch back in 2010 or 2011, now WP8 sold like hotcakes with the Lumia 920.

      If the Z10 is a success, then great. If not, then kudos for trying.

    Wow, it has a 1800Mhz battery! No Apple or Android phone has one of those, perhaps there is life in BB yet..........

      Wow, imagine what you can overclock the battery to once the devs get hold of the OS!

    I don't get this, android is highly customisable, surely you can create a more 'adult' orientated setup anyway using android...
    As for IOS it's starting to look very child like these days.

      Does that mean the IOS looked very child like when it first came out as it looks pretty much exactly the same now as it did then?

      Who wants to buggerize about customising their phone so that it works the way they want it? Much easier for most of us to find something that works out of the box. That's the main reason I am on WinPhone - zero learning curve to get it up and running and the only customisation I've done is to pick a lock screen image and a colour for my tiles. Boom, done, and exactly what I wanted.

      I agree that iOS is very toy-like. Even 2 years ago when I first took a serious look at it, I couldn't believe how Fisher-Price it seemed.

        I don't know...maybe the millions of users that make up the Android market?

          majority of android customers dont choose to buy android. they buy it cause their wallet limits them

          windows phone users conciously decide to forego android or ios to buy WP's so the millions of android users are really a few hundred thousand at most.

          but even then android had a headstart so if you compare the first 2 years of each brand and factor in the fact that most people who want smartphones already had one by the time WP8 launched, then the number of people who choose either platform (assuming money or the fact that they already had a phone wasnt an issue) would be comparible

            "majority of android customers dont choose to buy android. they buy it cause their wallet limits them"

            I call bullshit.

            1) I work in a Telstra store, the android handsets that cost the customer about the same as the iPhone 5 are still selling in multitudes. So there goes your ridiculous wallet argument.

            2) I choose Android on purpose, because I *like* it better than iOS. I am not going to knock the iPhone because frankly it is a beautiful device (my work phone is an iPhone 4) but I personally prefer the look, feel, and customization options of the Android OS. (seriously, when iOS gets widgets, call me).

          Really? I have never seen a single Android phone with any level of customisation beyond picking a wallpaper image. HTC owners use HTC's skin, Samsung owners use Samsung's overlay. Even my brother's kids, all in their late teens and early 20s, don't bother. The "millions" you speak of overwhlemingly chose an Android handset on price or because of the big screen and don't give a tinker's cuss about the OS itself.

            Don't forget the marketing push by the telcos. All they advertise is Andriod flavour phones. Wife and I went into a phone shop, asked for a WP8 phone because they didn't have any on the shelf. They brought one out, we played with it and while doing that they said we can't because that's against company policy so we couldn't try it out. You can factory re-set the phone.

            If all they advertise is Android then they will only sell Android.

            Last edited 31/01/13 1:41 pm

            Wow, I guess you don't know many people with tech compatence. A lot of android users I know use a custom ROMs (which is a little more customisation beyond picking a wallpaper image).

              ... idk a lot of people who can spell competence though .. does that count ??

            From wikipedia:

            "Although only a subset of total CyanogenMod users elect to report their use of the firmware, as of 31 December 2012, CyanogenMod has recorded over 3.6 million active installs on a multitude of devices"

            So I guess those "millions" are customizing... maybe do some reasearch befor shooting off your MotorMouth

            From wikipedia:

            "Although only a subset of total CyanogenMod users elect to report their use of the firmware, as of 31 December 2012, CyanogenMod has recorded over 3.6 million active installs on a multitude of devices"

            So I guess those "millions" are customizing... maybe do some reasearch befor shooting off your (Motor)Mouth

        The only visual customising you've done is all you can do. I've got a Lumia 920 and love it, but it does have some serious shortfalls... not least of all in the apps department. Still no Medscape app, and it's something I rely upon.

          Medscape has a website, why do you need an app?

            Because the app on iPhone and Android devices downloads all of the clinical reference data for offline use, and sometimes I go out places where there is no service. People get sick in places where there's no data service, I guess that didn't occur to you.


            Sorry for yellin, I figured the crankier your gettin, the older your gettin, the deafer you are!

              That's simply absurd as you have zero influence over either. What you should care about is the functionality and very often a website offers significantly greater functionality. e.g. What Sydney public transport app can match

    Can I download Grindr?

    i think BB should have switched to Android but created alot of proprietary Apps exclusive to their phones with a customised launcher.

    why create another freakin ecosystem

    It's about function, not specs. Not sure how many people will get their hands on one to find out how it performs.

    Though I must say BlackBerry marketing is better than Microsoft's by a wide margin. At least they're fighting for share and being creative. MS just do musical numbers.

      Whilst BB don't even advertise on TV at all. All it shows is that they are aiming for different markets.

        Yes a dead end market

    useless in my opinion. I do not see any reason why one would migrate to BB from iOS or Android.

      That's OK, I can't see any reason why anyone would use Android or iOS.

        So I guess u still the brick mono colour Nokia than...

      Because not everyone needs to be wrapped in foam and protected from them selves as Apple believes we should.
      Android hasnt always provided a smooth experience for its users.

      Maybe BB might......
      I may never know becuase I might end up with a WP before it comes out.

    I really really want to try one of these out.
    I never thought I'd hear myself say that about a Blackberry.
    If quotes like BlackBerry 10 feels like a hybrid operating system: it’s as pretty as iOS, as interesting and card-like as webOS and as free and open as Android. Actually if I had to choose, it feels most like Android. and It’s like a grown-ups version of Android: it’s built better for business and personal stuff, it looks more mature and it doesn’t flash stuff in your face every 10 seconds. Also, there’s no obnoxious overlay or skin to get in your way or slow you down. are true, then I am all over it.

    what you are all overlooking, is the secure email environment.
    This can't be matched, and the ultimate decision maker, for a business / personal phone.

    The crack about Michael J Fox was below the belt

    I've tried a late engineering sample of the Blackberry z10, the OS is pretty smooth and was programmed based on QNX (owned by Bberry The keyboard does take some use to get use to but the word auto suggestion is pretty amazing and the word suggestions can be inserted by flicking upwards from the keyboard. The timeshift function is pretty cool and yes low light camera is not this camera's forte. The OS allows two profiles (one for work and one for personal) which means an enterprise admin can have a pre-programmed corporate app store for users and users can also access the normal app store via the personal profile. The OS resides on it's own discrete 2GB memory so it doesn't use up the 16GB internal memory already given. The SD card storage is useful (very welcome in this day and age where handsets are starting to cut out SD card storage slot) and supports up to SDXC for up to 64GB of storage space. It doesn't have the most high end hardware but for what you're using it for and for what it offers, it's exceptional. The web browser is a lot faster now from previously. 4G/3G/2G is supported. Dual core cpu. The 1800mAh might seem small by current standards but generally do last more than one day from my discussion with testers. Also note that Blackberry does offer a service called blackberry protect for end users which effectively backs up your phone and has functions such as remote handset lock/remote handset wipe as well as the ability to display a msg on the screen, play a sound and perform geolocate on whereabouts of the handset. I won't say it is a high end android/IOS (ick) killer but for what it does and what users can get out of the handset, it's quite good. Now here's hoping the price for the handsets are not too expensive :D

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