After having had the opportunity to use the Z10 for over a week as my primary device, I was both excited and disappointed at the end of that stint. I have to agree with most of the mobile community and say very categorically that the BlackBerry Z10 is definitively a very serious revolution from the Canadian manufacturer. However, having said that, I don’t believe it’s a game changer from the overall mobile phone OS perspective.
The BB10 OS is well laid out; you’ll get no arguments from me there. There are some very obvious similarities between quite a few of the mobile OSes these days and BlackBerry has naturally incorporated a few. From iOS, you have the lack of a definitive homescreen, and immediate access to apps spread out across pages or filtered into folders. From Android, you have a drop down menu to access settings and toggle switches for connectivity. While the learning curve for this OS could be quite high for those switching over from older BlackBerry’s, those coming in from other smart OSes should have no issues. But that’s not what I’d like to talk about. While there’s plenty to appreciate about the new OS, there are quite a few things I found quite difficult to wrap my head around, and these are facets that the company should look at fixing and or tweaking ASAP.
The BlackBerry Z10 is a full touchscreen phone running on BB10
Let me start off with the Hub, my pet peeve with the Z10 since day one. While others would try to convince me that this all-in-one space for communication is a handy feature, I’m just not buying it. Sure, it’s a grand idea, but its implementation could definitely have been much better. For starters, the Hub’s access panel should have been available from every screen with a simply swipe to the right. Instead, you’ll always end up on the last notification you were viewing and never the main collective Hub page. What makes it worse is that individual apps like the SMS app will open up to the last notification you were on while in the Hub, requiring you to swipe to the right to view messages or check the newest one you received. Unlike Android and iOS, you are denied access to new notifications from the lockscreen; you’ll need to unlock the handset and go to Hub to view those. A waste of time.
Next up is the media player. Now, I love my media on the go and having tested pretty much every BlackBerry device launched here, I can easily say that the Z10’s audio quality and feature set could easily have been so much better than it is. EQ presets and Bass Boost notwithstanding, the overall tone quality, while a smidgen above average, could have been better taking into account the price tag on this device.
The weirdest issues I had with this OS was the somewhat lazy syncing of my email accounts. It was downright annoying to see emails that I had read on my PC minutes ago still showing up as unread notifications on the device. It was just as bad vice versa. I’m not sure if this was a glitch in the system, but I wasn’t the only one dealing with this problem, so I’m tempted to believe it’s a bug that needs extermination.
My next big problem was the disappointing BlackBerry World app store. It was over a month ago that the handset hit the global markets, starting in Europe followed by Canada, so where are the apps? I did see quite a few high-end games hit the market during the week I was using the device, but popular apps like Google Maps, Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, Instagram et al were nowhere to be found. This made messaging people a tedious and sometimes expensive prospect considering most of my contacts moved from BBM to WhatsApp and the Z10 gave me no other option but to go SMS style. Apps like Nimbuzz and the native Google Talk app were plagued with bugs. We need more apps and it was disheartening to know that the promise of 70,000 plus of the top apps from other platforms didn’t quite make at the time of launch. Have we learnt nothing from Microsoft and its Windows Phone 8 OS?
What also irked me is the two individual (no sensible reason why) contact apps and the functioning of the same. From the Hub, recently accessed numbers/contacts were inaccessible for text messages. It was the same issue with those in the contacts section in the Phone app. You were not allowed to call these individuals unless you accessed their full profiles located in the completely separate ‘Contacts’ app. This was a rather inconvenient way to get things done. Syncing your phone book with all the various accounts also proved to be a cumbersome task as there’s no automated way to get this done. Oh Sense UI, you would have served very well here.
Finally, it was the 8MP camera lacking in settings and flaunting a handy but not too effective - in terms of quality - feature called TimeShift. It’s eerily identical in some ways to the Nokia Lumia SmartShoot individual faces and gives you optimal image. It’s essentially designed for group photos, but quality is somewhat diminished overall. And since one tends to take group photos at social events, clubs, parties etc., this feature, although very handy, doesn’t do much for the quality of the image.
So while BlackBerry has launched a truly well-designed handset with a new OS that has it’s good and bad aspects, the ultimate killer will be the whopper of a price tag – Rs. 43,490. It could end up being a real deterrent for consumers, more so than these issues. So BlackBerry, if you’re listening, we’d love to see a few updates to the system before you launch the Q10.