Though BlackBerry was once the leader in smartphone technology, market leaders like Apple’s iPhone and the influx of Android phones left the company lagging far behind in both technology and market share. But the company’s comeback attempt in their much-anticipated Blackberry 10 platform and their recently launched smartphone BlackBerry Z10 is out to prove it. At least that’s what they said. We actually beg to differ.
Though it features a slab-like but premium quality design that doesn’t stand out from the likes of iPhone 5S, the defining factor here is that there are no physical buttons on the device. The OS, Blackberry 10, uses a gesture based interface that’s intuitive. Frankly speaking, it makes you wonder when other phones will adopt it. A bit warning though because the learning curve is pretty steep. Featuring a 4-inch, 1280×768-pixel screen that boasts a very impressive 355 ppi, there’s high quality glass here that makes reading and media viewing a joy to experience. A 1.5GHZ dual-core that’s highly optimized leads to a swift, snappy user experience with every application without any sort of lag. Its something I couldn’t say about previous BlackBerry phones. It’s clear that BlackBerry has been forced to step up their game and have actually delivered what the current market demands while offering things unheard of in the smartphone arena.
The Blackberry 10 OS is powered by some key new features that stand out. The Hub, for example, is a consolidated inbox that’s powerful enough to bring all your social feeds, text messaging, email and notifications into one well-organized feed. The Peek & Flow allows you to peek and look at a new notification message you’re receiving while being inside an application and never actually leaving it. Multitasking is also a key focus here with Active Frames where every running application can be swiped up to make it fluidly run in the background. It’s a really intuitive way of navigation, although one that will require a modest learning curve for the first few days. But once you’re used to it, nothing will match up. Though most BlackBerry users love the brand for their brilliant physical QWERTY phones, the Z10 features by far the best touch keyboard in any phone in the market. While nothing can replace the tactile feedback of a physical keyboard, the keyboard here allows you to actually type faster with some excellent prediction tools and a dictionary that learns the way you write and gradually becomes even smarter. There are departments in which the phone, or rather the OS lags behind is applications. For someone coming from iPhone or Android, you’ll have to know that Blackberry 10 lacks some of the big name apps like Instagram, Google Maps and more. Thankfully, the tech savvy user can sideload any Android app into the phone thanks to the phone supporting an Android runtime environment. There are more than 70,000 apps in the store that work well as alternatives, but it’ll be a while before some big name apps make the jump to the platform. The camera has some excellent new features like Time Shift which allows you to select aspects of multiple pictures into one perfect photo, but the image quality isn’t as sharp as competing flagship devices.
Overall, the Blackberry Z10 is the phone to look at if you’re bold enough to break away from the shackles of iOS and Android. It’s a promising new platform with everything that some people loved about BlackBerry and all sorts of improvements to cater to a modern market. But like all other non-mainstream OS’s out there, it has many limitations. The touch gesture while is innovative, still needs some time to get use to. Moreover get ready for occasional crashes that many users reported in many forums. The BB map does not support BD streets yet. And even if it did it’s likely to be worse than Apple maps. The apps support is growing but several key apps are still missing. While it was expected to be a resounding success provided it had a new operating system and some tweaks. Sadly, it wasn’t. Rather it was a futile attempt of blackBerry for a piece of the ‘Smartphone market’ pie.
The writer is an indie film maker based in Middle East and a former reviewer for IGN Middle East