78
8.0
final rating

reviewed on
purchased on
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Criteria Comments Rating
  • Reception and call quality No issues, clear calls, no dropped calls, and the speaker phone is the best I can remember. great!
  • Display Display is easily on par with the iPhone, which to me is the gold standard. great!
  • Battery life Battery life is sufficient to make it through one day of normal use, but nothing to brag about. It certainly doesn't approach the published numbers. so-so
  • Camera Pretty good pics, but low light is just bad. Reportedly the latest OS update fixes this. good
  • Ease of use Keyboard is amazing, Hub is amazing, and navigation is very, very good. Needs a few tweaks but overall BB10 is a very good step in the evolution of mobile OSes good
  • Design and form factor It's really just the right size, fits in a pocket, usable in a single hand, and is easy to use with two-handed thumb typing. great!
  • Portability (size / weight) Maybe a little heavy for some. It feels heavier than you expect. No problem at all carrying it in a front jeans pocket, though. great!
  • Media support Most everything just works, and with Flash support the masses will be pleased. Only glitch I've seen: photos sent on an iphone can't be easily opened. good
  • Durability I've dropped it. A couple of times. It's well put together, and don't let anyone tell you the back feels cheap - it's very solid with no give when closed. great!
  • Ecosystem (apps, accessories, etc.) Lack of apps is a killer. More are coming, and hopefully a bunch of the big names - Kindle, Netflix, Open Table, for example - hit when the US launch happens. so-so
Detailed review
This review covers an unlocked version of the Z10 that I was lucky enough to get from a friend who got one at a launch event. I'm running it on AT&T, with both LTE and HSPA+ coverage. No issues getting the unlocked phone to work on AT&T. I've been using the phone mostly as my daily driver for about a month now.

Hardware

The Z10 is very well made. It's easily comparable to an iPhone 5 in build quality. The bezels around the screen have been reported by some as too large, but the BB10 OS gestures pretty much rely on the bezels as starting points, so they appear to be integral to the design.

The screen is absolutely gorgeous. It exceeds the retina display and everything is crisp. No issues here.
Speaker quality is also very good. The speaker phone is by far the best I've used on a mobile phone for as long as I can remember. Playing media through the speakers is also quite acceptable.

The back has a soft texture that makes it easy to grip and makes the phone less likely to slip out of your hand. It sometimes makes it a little tougher to slide it into a tight pocket, but once you get used to it this isn't an issue.

The trademark BB LED on the front is here, pretty much a must have for any BB user.

Cameras are high quality (though the software appears to be a bit lacking, which I'll touch on below). Very quick responsiveness and an 8 megapixel camera on the back, plus a 2 megapixel on the front for video conferencing (or just self portraits, I suppose).
Overall build quality is excellent. Zero issues here.

Operating System / Software
The new operating system, BB10, takes a little getting used to, but once you become accustomed to the gestures, it's really touch to leave them behind. It took me maybe an hour for the gestures to really become second nature.

I regularly flip between several phones and find myself constantly trying to use the 'Peek' gesture on everything else. Using a button on an iPhone feels somewhat archaic after using the Z10 for a few days. I can't emphasize enough how navigating in BB10 is a game changer.

The BlackBerry Hub, essentially a unified inbox for all email accounts plus twitter, facebook, linked in, texts, BBM, phone activity, and any other app that inserts itself (apparently) is a great experience. When the team at Palm put together something like this on WebOS it was hailed as a revolution, and BB10 takes it to the next level. It is just the right way to handle communications on a mobile communicator. It's highly configurable, to determine what you see and where.

The camera works great - most of the time. It comes with a feature (Time Shift) that let's you adjust individual faces when you take a pic, to try and ensure you get one where everyone has open eyes, for example. It's essentially a burst series of pics and you can then select faces and slide that small part of the photo between the bursts. Works pretty well, but doesn't always recognize every face, and I was surprised to find out you can't use the flash with Time Shift enabled. To me, this limits the functionality, and hopefully they come up with a way around this, as you often want a flash for an indoor pic, but that means switching out of Time Shift mode to capture all the kids at the birthday party - exactly when you might WANT to be able to Time Shift.

Usage / Daily Experience

Overall I very much like the Z10, but there are a few issues people should be aware of. The battery life is fair at best. On most days I can make it through the entire day without a supplemental charge, but not always (it depends, of course, on my usage). The battery in no way approaches the published numbers.

The Hub is a game changer, and has drastically changed the way I communicate. I'm much more in touch with everything just from this one factor. On the other hand, it still has bugs - for example, you can't delete Twitter DMs. Well, you can, but they keep coming back. As unread, which is an added annoyance. Sometimes items in the hub inexplicably get marked as selected, but they really aren't selected. From time to time I see weird little things like that, but overall, this works great.

The App ecosystem is very, very thin. Many of the big name apps that I am used to relying on using an iPhone - Kindle, Open Table, NetFlix, to name a few - are missing. Reportedly they are on the way, but we heard that before with the BB PlayBook, and it didn't happen in many cases. Hopefully they make it to BB10, and ideally in time for the US launch.

Also worth noting - some features that old-time BlackBerry users may expect, such as customized notification profiles and even the ability to flag an email for a reminder at a particular day and time - are missing. (Yes, you can flag an email, and add a due date, but they always go off at the same time, every day). And navigating from one message to the next? You can't, without going back to the hub and selecting the next message. How did they miss this? Having said that, you can perform many actions on items in the hub using a long-press gesture, and in general, this works fine.

BBWorld - BlackBerry's answer to iTunes and the App store rolled into one - works well, has a nice collection of music and video, but as I mentioned, the apps are a bit thin. Buying media content works just as expected, and without any issues that I saw.

Generally Email works very well, as you would expect on a BB. As long as you have an email account that supports ActiveSync, that is. BIS is basically gone, at least with regard to email flow. What does this mean? Well, if you're using IMAP, you may or may not get true push email, which was one of the things that BIS ensured. Switching to ActiveSync and standardizing data flow, in my opinion, was a great thing and way overdue, but I know some hardcore BIS users are not happy about it.

One last note: the virtual keyboard. It's the best, bar none. Don't let anyone using an iPhone claim the iOS keyboard is better, because it's not, even if you don't use the gestures to complete words. I've sued an iPhone since the original through every iteration including the iPhone 5, and the BB10 keyboard is just superior. It is a worthy replacement for BB's well known Qwerty keyboards.

Conclusion
I really like the Z10. The OS has a few annoyances, but I expect them to evolve in time. The biggest concern I have is with the App ecosystem. If the big developers step up and support BB10, the future is bright. If not, it will be a tough way for BlackBerry. The Z10 is a great device, but without apps, that just isn't enough these days.

Having said that, I'm likely to stick with it. The flow of the OS is really powerful, the phone quality is outstanding, and it's just a very good experience.
review history
2013-03-14
Updated detailed review
Updated detailed review