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Early Review of the Blackberry Z10

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  • In my company we have a few users, including myself, who have been using Blackberry Z10s for a couple of weeks. I’m sold and I think it is a solid work device, but first a little backstory. And full disclosure: I’m in charge of the cell phone fleet for around 30 people in a BYOD environment where Blackberry is an option as the IT department is willing to run the servers.
I had had Blackberry phones as part of my old job’s fleet around 2006-2007 (I had a 7270, to give you an idea of the last time I actually used a Blackberry).  My first true smartphone was an iPhone 3.  Then I got a 3GS, both iPhones were meh.  I then switched to a Nexus S, which was the one true phone love of my life (another story for another post). Then I got a Galaxy Nexus and it was the most buggy piece of crap I have ever owned- I had problems with the power button, I had problems with it freezing, I had problems with the battery- I don’t understand how my Nexus S could have been so awesome and its successor have been so crap.
On the nexus phones for work I was running Good for Enterprise, probably one of the biggest email clients for BYOD environments.  I had a few problems with Good: sometimes it would randomly decide my account was no longer authorized, it wouldn’t save drafts, and you couldn’t edit forwards or attachments.  That said, Good tech support technicians are about a hundred shades of awesome.

So I was kind of over Good and over Android phones, at least temporarily, and had no real desire to go back to iPhone, and Good isn’t supported on the latest Windows phone anyway. So I decided to give the Z10 a chance by default, and go back to Blackberry, if only to help with my users who were going to be on it.
As I said above, I’m happy with the Z10, but mainly as a WORK device. The way it handles my work email is a big change for me over Good.  I’ve gone back to what I used to do in my Blackberry days- start an email in the train and finish it in the office.  I also like the spellcheck on the Z10 and how it expects either of my languages and provides suggestions for both.  Being able to view and edit office documents, which was impossible/not ergonomic depending on policy in Good, has made a huge difference in how I work, as I don’t have to do heavy word processing in my current position, which having this functionality on the phone is a real plus for just fixing typos and the like. I’ve had other users mention that in certain situations, it means they can bypass their laptop. I also, unlike with Good, have not yet had my work email crash on my phone on me.
That said, I think it is a separate story for a separate post on whether or not people should have work email on their phones, which has been the subject of debate ever since Blackberry devices came out. Suffice it to say my position at work means I need to either have work email on my phone or commit to being logged into VPN for a chunk of my private time in the evenings, so for me, it makes sense for my job, with the only other option being two phones. Others may feel differently. Thus this post is from the point of view of someone who wants and needs work email on a personal phone phone.
The reason that I think the Z10 is more of a work device is because, as a private device, I have some issues with the Z10 which can be tied to the fact that it is a first release. Namely, the app store is somewhat lacking, but in all fairness there are only two programs I use frequently that aren’t there- Instagram and SBB Mobile.  As these can in principle be sideloaded (and anyway, the SBB mobile web site is fine), I didn’t find them dealbreakers, but I can see how it would be annoying to some, especially iPhone users. I plan on sideloading Instagram just to try, and just to say I sideloaded, so expect an update on that.  The Facebook app on the Z10 has less functionality than its Android counterpart (there is no share option, and you can’t manage a page) but the BB app is way less buggy- on my Android it crashed all the time.
Two common complaints with the Z10 -its design and battery life- have not given me any problems. The Z10 is slightly wider and about as long as an iphone 5.  The design is minimalist- and for me, a phone is a phone. I don’t know how much more you can innovate with a touch screen meant to fit in a normal hand, anyway.  The battery life is not completely blowing my mind- on heavy use I get about ten hours, and stretched it to 16 yesterday and today with medium use. Another one of my users, however, reported that he consistently only gets about ten hours on his Z10. Keep in mind as well that my Galaxy Nexus (which probably was a walking hardware problem specific to the device and not to all Galaxy Nexus phones) only had around 9 hours, and this after replacing the battery.  I understand 12-15 hours is normal for iPhone 5 users, and I have hit that once. Furthermore, another blogger hit ten-ish hours on his Z10 as well and his iPhone fared worse. So having said all that, I think 10 hours is on the lower end of normal for smartphones, and it may shock users of “old” Blackberry models the most (which could go days on a charge), but for me, it isn’t shockingly bad or even annoying compared to my previous phones.
A quick surf around the internet shows some people have also complained about the UX of the new 10 series phones.  It took me about two days to get used to my phone, I did not have a steep learning curve with it, nor when I switched from iPhone to Android.  I learn these things quickly and I don’t like how bloggers and forum users make out how the BB UX is so difficult no one will ever understand it. I don’t have any complaints about the phone settings or parameters that a quick surf of my phone or a dig on the internet could not fix.  For me, criticizing the BB10 interface is just free nastiness because it isn’t like some huge failure of ergonomy compared to Android and iPhone, not even close (and I am well-placed to say that). It’s just different.
In closing, I think the Blackberry Z10 is for:
  • people whose companies have a generous BYOD policy and whose IT departments are willing to run the Blackberry 10 Server
  • people whose companies are Blackberry only who could now in principle, depending on the billing policies of company phones, get away with only one smartphone
  • people who are already Blackberry fans
IMO, people who may want to take a pass on the Z10 are:
  • private users not running their email through a BES, as it is really the strongest point of a device whose other qualities put it in the mid range of Android phones
  • heavy users of the apps which are not native to the Blackberry 10s yet, like Instagram, although sideloading remains possible
  • people who just want a smartphone and don’t want work email on their phone- there are cheaper options, like some mid-range Android models

Author: Nicole Cunningham

American Expat and convert to Islam living and working between Lausanne and Zurich, Switzerland.

2 thoughts on “Early Review of the Blackberry Z10

  1. I’ve got a GNex myself and it’s working fine — I think you just have a buggy phone. Battery life does leave a lot to be desired: its screen is very hi-res and powerful but it’s battery is underpowered in proportion to the screen, so the screen is a huge battery hog. But if you don’t use it all the time, it would last you the day at least. I also haven’t found the FB app to crash all the time (it did under Android 2.3, but that’s because I suspect it was optimised for ICS by that time). I use SwiftKey for the keypad, which you have to buy separately, and the BB keypad was OK but not really comparable to that (although probably better than the native Android keypad).

  2. I do think I had a buggy gnex, because Chris’ (except for the power button) appears to work ok. Not as great comparably as either of our nexus s (comparably as in what that generation of phone could do) but his device had a lot less problems, especially with the freezing up.

    The native keyboard on the Z10 is way better than the native Android keyboard IMO. The “peaking” takes some time to get used to but having both French and English spellcheck suggestions come up at the same time is awesome.

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