| | 04-25-13, 08:08 PM Thread Author #1
1 Month Later - Unbiased Z10 Lengthy Review
The purpose of this review, which I've been meaning to do for a few weeks, then decided to wait for a full month, is not to flood with "yet another blah blah blah, this product sucks; this product is the best thing ever." Its purpose is to provide the community with perspective, or potential consumers with perspective about where the BlackBerry Z10 sits in a very crowded market, if it has a place, and what that place is best marketed to. Hopefully it's enjoyable, because I'm going full steam ahead here with this.
My smartphone life started with a BlackBerry, my first device quickly became another, and then I went to the iPhone. I owned multiple Apple products at the time, and the fit seemed right. By the time the 2nd iPhone (3G) arrived, the Bold 9000 had come out, and surprisingly enough, I bailed on iOS entirely, haven't looked back to it. I had my Bold 9000 for 2 years, or about 2 years. It was the best phone I'd owned to date, despite it's flaws in the apps & OS department. After the Bold I purchased a Nexus One. I grew tired of hearing "soon" from Blackberry and went to Android. Let me pause here to point out that I am no loyalist, in fact I think brand loyalty is extremely limiting if not entirely dumbing for a consumer to take part in. We're already bombarded with ideals of what to think, why we should think things, how we should think, how to live, that I feel like giving any corporation, historically / morally good or bad, is a very very silly thing to do. Their function, all of them, is one thing. So the HTC Nexus One was an eye opener into what is possible and where this entire market is headed. I flashed countless OS's on that phone, from Sense ROMs, to AOSP stock Android ROMs. After almost 2 years as that by my side the screen finally decided it was going to shut off and never turn back on again. Next device was an HTC Sensation. Again, very experienced with this phone, had it another 2 years. The end of that two years was the April that we're currently in, conveniently timed for the launch of the Z10. I have multiple android products around, so why not give the Z10 the chance it deserves. This brings us into actually obtaining the device. I wrote this detailed history on my device history to provide perspective of the entire review to follow.
I was actually excited to get the Z10, I showed up at the T-Mobile store down my block in downtown Los Angeles, waited for the store to open and purchased 2 BlackBerry Z10's (50% of their inventory on launch day) The intent, initially was to purchase 1, but while standing in line to purchase, my significant other decided to get one as well, so we could BBM and utilize that function like we used to with our 9000s. Devices were purchased, home was returned to, and boxes were opened.
Immediately the build quality is noticed, by both of us. It really is a strikingly simple yet beautifully built device. This is noted by both of us. We go through the setup, get our email going, all is easy enough. Contacts appear, BBM actually restored from nearly a 5 year break from BlackBerry, and our old contact lists appear. Mine was populated with 100, the other z10 restored about 150 BBM contacts.
Great! we're rolling now. Put my case ordered from China on the phone, looks surprisingly like a legitimate BlackBerry case, fits perfectly, photos here:
We're both coming from a few years of using Android extensively, and we're impressed with what BlackBerry has done. There's all the newness usage of a new device going on. Find an app to use Google Music service, which was a huge "what if" for me, as my music library is almost 100GB and stored remotely, a service offered free by Google, which I use extensively everywhere I go. Load up some Reddit functions, etc. We've got the device a few weeks, I'm loving it, the other one, not so much. Google services and ease of app use are waining pretty hard on the other device. The other device is also experiencing multiple random restarts throughout the day, even when not in use, and also while in use. This is not only taking its toll on the experience, but battery life also.
We're both ok with the camera, and I mean just ok. The camera is on par with android devices of a couple years ago spec wise, and results wise. The keyboard is incredible, best software keyboard either of us have ever used. It's the devices shining star. I could fill this review with a hundred things that have been said already, but I won't. I'll try to cover all bases at least lightly, and put our perspective into the main point of this post. We love BBM, use BBM video a lot, and even voice calling when only data is available. The web browser is pretty great. It isn't perfect, but it's above par for even current devices coming out right now. The overall OS is fast and fluid. Ported apps are a joke. They load and function, but you're trapped inside software emulation and when using an app like Instagram not able to use the bb10 camera and using emulation through the android camera software, which is about 4 years old now. Google Maps port works, but barely. The navigation (it's best feature) is crippled by constant GPS drops. This is only even noted because the pre-loaded BlackBerry Maps is unusable for anything other than quick point A - B navigation with an address obtained prior to navigation.
The search function on BlackBerry Maps is so bad I can't even really review it. It doesn't find a slew of local businesses that have existed for well over 10 years in my immediate 3 block radius, and has iffy results even finding my apartment building which has been the same address for 100 years exactly. BlackBerry Maps is embarrassing overall when it's compared to even Google Maps on a BlackBerry 9000 5 years ago. This is a crucial piece of function for a smartphone these days. More on this later.
We move onto Calendar. It syncs most of my Google Calendars perfectly, doesn't do subscribed, not a huge deal, but annoying. It's lacking an easy agenda view, but overall I like the Calendar app quite a bit. We've already discussed Camera, so onto Contacts. I actually like the Contacts app, despite many of its flaws noted throughout these forums. Linking Contacts can be done easily right from the default list view. It's a winner as far as I'm concerned. The Clock app is rudimentarily simple and needs multiple alarm functions, end of discussion on that, that's all there is to say. Onto the Phone app.
The phone app is not as good, or as nice looking as it should be. There is really not a great way clear a missed call from the Hub other than to open up the phone app and scoot over to "Missed". This could easily be remedied and I feel like there is a lot of redundancy functionality within the app itself. VVM works good but i don't think it should call the person when you press on a VVM line, it should just open up the voicemail. I still find myself not getting this and having to "end call" on an accidentally dialed number frequently. There's not much to say with Music, Pictures, Story Maker, Text Messages, Videos, etc. They're all very simple apps and have been covered as much as they really can be.
The Hub. I really like the Hub, I would love the Hub if it didn't default to the last view when attempting to peek. This renders the entire peek functionality totally useless. This should at least be an option, maybe some people like it this way. I do not, and it takes away from me loving the phone that i have to do multiple things to see one notification. This problem doesn't exist on Android or iOS as both systems have a single action to view notifications. I love the gestures for the phone, I think once you get used to it, it can be a faster way to access things on your phone, it also means you can do gestures just about anywhere on the screen, which makes it easier to hold in one hand.
After nearly 4 weeks with the phone I like it a lot. I've chosen my words carefully, when I say like, I mean like. I knew exactly what I would be getting into by purchasing this phone. I knew the app situation well ahead of time, and I haven't complained about it. Apps will come when marketshare comes, and that is up to BlackBerry to do. It's been like that on all platforms. I am however forced to admit that I cannot carry this device alone. I still carry an Android phone with me. The Z10 does not do everything I need it to. It does much of what I need it to, just not all of it. It is the main device, but when I need to do things like search my email, navigate, etc, it's just not pulling through in those areas.
I recommended the Z10 to a friend that abandoned BlackBerry long after me originally, and was super excited to get back into it after hating Android. She's a real estate agent, and a stereotypical business woman down to how she dresses. She couldn't keep the Z10 more than 2 days. She has years worth of emails she references every day and uses navigation software with Google Maps all day every day. Her biggest let down wasn't navigation, it was the fact that email and communications were what always made BlackBerry great, and it's totally crippled on the Z10. I agree, not being able to go back to emails easily (don't tell me to use the web interface, that is a joke solution) is a painful omission on BlackBerry's part. This puts the Z10 behind all Android and all iOS devices in the communications department. This can't really be argued, but try if you like, the truth of the matter is, the Z10 does not offer great email functions that every other device does. This is really ultimately just baffling as it's not only been what BlackBerry was famous for, but actually what started the company to begin with. I should mention I attempted to remedy this with a 3rd party GPS/Navigation app that required me to download and install 2GB of maps for offline use. I didn't find that it searched very well at all, uninstalled it and now that 2GB of space is still being used. There is no known way to alleviate this woe. BlackBerry does not supply you with tools to view app data and jumbles it all together into "other data". I do not know how to solve this and that 2GB of data is just gone for me unless I wipe the device. Something needs to be done about this. Apps can't be allowed to install and just kill space even after they're removed. This is a benefit of a rooted Android device, while I do not expect to "root" my BlackBerry, I do expect to be able to have control over the used space on the device.
The other Z10 in the house got returned yesterday. The loss of function for my S.O. was just too much, and ended up just being mad at the Z10 over and over again. We drove to T-Mobile to return that one and get an HTC One, BB Maps couldn't find the store, after punching in the exactly address it searched for 10 minutes then finally found it, lost connection half way there, rebooted by itself, and there was at that point no argument to be made for the Z10. It turns out just fine, besides the restocking fee.
Compared to the HTC One the BlackBerry Z10 feels like an older device. That is ok with me, but what about the market in general? I don't feel like I can recommend this phone to anyone because 2 people have returned the device stating entirely legitimate "it isn't doing what my old phone did" concerns. There is nothing to argue with there, it's just true. Right now the platform is new, I get that, but does the average consumer? Nope.
This doesn't spell doom by any means, it's what every new platform goes through. There is a long way to go though. Anyone touting "We've arrived" should be promptly ignored. BlackBerry 10 has arrived, but whether it is here to stay or not is still being decided. I wouldn't recommend getting comfortable and allowing excuses to cloud your judgement or willingness to hold BlackBerry accountable. They need that, they needed it years ago when people were laughing at iOS and Android. Blackberry seems to be aware, or "eyes open" at least now. I think they've built a great OS, and the two people that returned the phone, both wished they could have kept it. The OS is fast and sleek and fun to use, but it isn't finished. I know updates are coming and even somewhat address some things that I have mentioned here and I'm on board. I'm not getting rid of my Z10, I just want it to be the only device I need. If we're stuck with BlackBerry Maps, then they need to get their act together with that service, it's awful. When I can use the Z10 as the only device I carry then I will strike this entire thread's text and change all the "likes" to "loves". I'm not there yet, and I knew I wouldn't be. I'm ok with growing pains. I was well aware there would be many.