BlackBerry Z10 – Confessions of an Android user

by: Joshua VergaraApril 16, 2013

blackberry z10 logo aa

Once synonymous with smartphones, BlackBerry, the brand and the company, is now just a shadow of its former self. Blindsided by the emergence of iOS and then Android, the maker of the iconic BlackBerries now struggles to survive with the scraps left by the platforms it once dismissed as a fad.

Facing certain demise, BlackBerry had to start over from scratch. The result of the extreme makeover is BlackBerry 10, a brand new operating system, and the Z10, a full touchscreen device designed for the modern smartphone user.

As Android users and lovers, we were curious to see first-hand how the Z10 looks and feels. Is it really as revolutionary as it’s pegged by its makers? Has the clean slate approach really worked?

In a hurry? Check out the hands-on video at the end of this post.

blackberry z10 notifications aa

To set the expectations from the get go, know that the Z10 and BlackBerry 10 are not, by any means, groundbreaking, at least not for a seasoned Android user. What they are is a very promising start for a brand new platform. In other words, BlackBerry may not be out of the woods yet, but no one can blame them for not putting up a good fight.

Looking at the Z10, we liked its subdued, yet elegant appearance, and the fact that the rubbery soft back cover can be removed to allow access to a replaceable battery and a microSD card slot. Especially the swappable battery should be a boon for road warriors and power users, which still make up the core audience of BlackBerry.

blackberry z10 back aa

We Android users are spoiled with the very best specifications available on any mobile platform. Top of the line Android smartphones like the Galaxy S4 or the HTC One push the boundaries of mobile technology, effectively ruining the appeal of “normal” devices. And the BlackBerry Z10 is precisely that – a normal device, with components that would qualify as mid-range to Android specs junkies, which should, nevertheless, prove perfectly adequate to the vast majority of customers.

blackberry z10 battery cover aa

The specs on the Z10 are actually pretty similar to those of the US-bound Samsung Galaxy S3, the most popular Android device to date. The two phones share a similar processor and the same amount of RAM. The Z10 is powerful enough to zip through most tasks, with one, glaring exception – boot up time is rather slow. Luckily, after the phone comes to life, lag is almost inexistent.

The 4.2-inch display of the Z10 is, just like its specifications, adequate. It’s a far cry from the full HD eye candy that Android manufacturers like to boast about, but given its smallish size (coming from Android at least) the pixel density is sufficient.

blackberry z10 camera app aa

Two areas where BlackBerry could improve its future flagships are the battery life and the cameras. We found battery life to be somehow inconsistent on the Z10, with periods of low activity seemingly draining the battery without an obvious reason. The 8MP camera does a decent job in great lightning, but it shows its limitations in less than ideal situations. One could argue that taking pics is not one of the preferred activities of BlackBerry’s target group, but the truth is BlackBerry can’t afford to focus solely on enterprise and productivity features.

Camera sample - click to enlarge

Camera sample – click to enlarge

blackberry z10 camera 2 full aa

Camera sample – click to enlarge

Which brings us to the software department, likely to bring the biggest shock to new users and the old faithful alike. The new BB10 operating system is completely new and unlike anything you’ve seen before, from BlackBerry or other mobile platforms. For one thing, its user interface is based mostly on swipes. There is no reassuring home button, and in fact, there are not many buttons at all. For someone used with Android’s UI, the change can be refreshing, but also a bit confusing.

blackberry z10 apps screen aa

To access your active apps, you swipe up from the bottom of the app you are currently running. This reveals a list of up to eight active apps, whose thumbnails are updated in real time. In a way, this turns the apps into a kind of widgets, which can potentially be very useful.

blackberry z10 recent apps aa

To reach the Hub, BB10’s unified messaging service, you swipe up and then right. Notifications from all your messaging apps are available there at a glance, and the Hub can be accessed from any part of the OS.

blackberry z10 hub aa

The Hub is one of the highlights of BB10, with another one being the predictive keyboard. Unsurprisingly, BlackBerry worked hard to provide a worthy digital alternative to the iconic Qwerty keyboard that so many users still swear by. The effort seems to have paid off, as we found the typing experience on the Z10 to be excellent.

One of the biggest challenges of starting a new mobile platform is creating a healthy app ecosystem. While BlackBerry succeeded at attracting many developers to its new operating system, and gave it a shot in the arm by supporting ported Android apps, some important apps are still missing from BlackBerry World. Two examples are Spotify and YouTube, and depending on what you like to do on your device, there is a good chance you’ll find many other apps that are available on Android or iOS, but have yet to make it to BB OS.

To draw the line, the Z10 is a refreshing, modern, and capable take at what a smartphone should be in 2013. It may not have the breadth of features of Android, or its flexibility, but, once you get used with it, it lets you get things done quickly and efficiently.

The deliverance for BlackBerry may not lie in the Z10, but the phone and the operating system that powers it are certainly a leap in the right direction.

  • ORA-Z10

    Hey at least you didn’t bash blackberry like all the others,I hope blackberry comes back strong and becomes what it was once before.

    • steven

      It has come out and is more than it was ever before.
      I have the device and hold stock, so am I biased – absolutely – but I’m biased because I see the significant upside of BB and what it offers, and has the potential to offer clients moving forward. There has been a lot of mudslinging, and that is to be expected as this is a hotly contested market where there is a lot at stake and a lot of bucks to be lost and gained – IMHO, BB offers a refreshing, powerful platform, and security unrivaled by any – If you don’t think BB is going to blow past Samdung and Crapple over the next few years (in terms of innovation and user offerings) I think you underestimate – there are a lot of gimmicky junk being proposed by competitors – like a see through phone and a wrapped screen… but interms of getting a warhorse BB is it!

      • D.J. James

        so what do you think now? Have you changed your mind?

    • nishantsirohi123

      I have played with the Z10 in a store recently and i really liked it. the slim looks and sharp screen look great. the interface is very responsive and the whole swype gestures are fun to use

      but it is the price that has killed its appeal for me.

      it is 42’000 rupees here in india(all phones are sold unlocked here) while the note2 is available at a price of 32’000 rupees from samsung website, the s3 is priced even lower

      about time BB10 devices came at an affordable price
      at least around rupees 20’000 would be good enough

  • out2golf

    Are you kidding me the Z10 blows away the Galaxy 3. You need to use the phone for a week before commenting about it. I have had the Galaxy 3 for over a year so I would know.

    • Gwalachmai

      I have a GS3 and an i4S sat on my desk gathering dust. I have a Z10 in my pocket.
      Battery life? I get 2 days of normal use if I forget to charge it, but admit it will flatten in an afternoon if I play 3D games. Boot-up time doesn’t annoy me at all, I can’t remember the last time I rebooted, probably when the last OTA OS update came out? Remember this upgrades the ANDROID VM AS WELL.

  • Thank you for being honest in your review. It seems like everyone else (except Crackberry….lol) just bashes it from their respective iOS or Android high ground. I got the Z10 the day it came out, and absolutely love it.

  • paxmos

    Not revolutionary, but a very nice phone. Only if I could find a keyboard that looked like the Z10 has for my Nexus 4

    • steven

      Get a Z10 – and don’t look back. Then you will have the keyboard and a lot more – why back a losing horse simply because the crowd is jumping on and defending their device – BB if provided a proper learning curve of less than 5 days will prove to be a better phone.

      • First of all I get that you have stock in BB. That, however in no way means the Z10 is a better phone than the Nexus 4 in any way. Android has multiple entire companies competing to produce the best keyboard, So even if the BB 10 keyboard is good it likely still doesn’t compare to Swype, Swiftkey, or even stock Jellybean’s.
        Second of all, calling Android or even Nexus phones a losing horse is bordering on moronic.
        Third, I used to run a custom rom that navigated almost entirely on gestures and I got tired of it, I actually preferred having navigation buttons and a logical hierarchy.

        • Actually I a am a Z10 user so I am also biased but I have yet to hear of anyone say (even in reviews bashing it) that the Bb10 keyboard isn’t the best on the market (probably because of the 10+ years developing the best possible physical keyboard on the market which was then used to create the Z10’s)
          Secondly the Nexus 4 I believe is not the losing horse but rather LG as I don’t see them competing after Google gives someone else the Nexus 5.
          Lastly that was not BB’s OS which is the one in question so your ‘point ‘ is moot

          • I can totally understand defending the choice you made, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t better choices for others out there.
            I wasn’t saying that the BB 10 keyboard was bad merely not as fast or intuitive as Swype or Swiftkey

            LG is starting to turn their game up but I really don’t care about brands I care about stock Andriod and updates/custom roms.

            You are right on the money with my last point, it was irrelevant but it was my experience with gestures to navigate.

          • Sorry, hit the down button while trying to reply on the bus, anyway there are some lesser known shortcuts on the BlackBerry keyboard probably not us (i.e. Swiping down on the keyboard to quickly access 1 number or symbol then switches back to letters) and the fact that the BlackBerry keyboard is scarily intuitive (there have been many times I wondered how the hell it guessed a town name etc..).
            You should care about brands though as they are responsible for updates to core functions etc…
            Just my thoughts

          • Those tests were done with people that were familiar with their own devices typing out a pre-planned sentence. Swype actually has crowd sourced words, so if enough people add a word to their dictionary it gets added to everybody’s dictionary automatically. Swiftkey has a similar feature, if you swipe left or right on certain keys it changes the symbol.

            The brands are irrelevant though, any brand can make a decent device as evidenced by the Nexus 4 and LG but getting good software and coherent design is a lot harder. I will buy a Nexus device regardless of who makes it as Google is getting really good with design. Google directly handles updates for Nexus devices as well so the manufacturer doesn’t have to update anything, and carriers can’t block the updates, and custom software/roms are easier on Nexus devices.

            Anyways I’ve enjoyed the debate and learned a lot about the BB 10 keyboard! As a Canadian I hope RIM does well..

          • nerdydaddyo

            Spotify IS available in the BB World. Do you research.

          • nerdydaddyo

            Make that Spotcast. You win this round. But Slacker Radio is a better setup and that IS available, as are other services such as 8Tracks, Songza, NoBex Radio, and many others.

          • Mark Mann

            just because they don’t say it’s not the best, doesn’t mean it’s the best…because honestly, they didn’t say it was the best either…i have not used the z10, so i’m not going to have an opinion on it…but just saying

  • YouTube player on BB10 is Xenozu. And the mobile website. I watch YouTube all the time on my Z10 and frankly, I never feel like I’m missing anything.

    Rock on BlackBerry 10!

  • Peter

    I’m a Z10 guy and I liked your review. Fair and honest.

  • phoneguy

    My z10 trial with VZW ended today after 3 weeks. Back to my RAZR max now and I must say I want the Blackberry back. :'(

  • steven

    Android! – They are the most virus riddled phones, 95% of virus and malware are written for Android phones – Does BB have this problem – Nope. I don’t get these comparisons, what period of time did this/these reviewers use the phone, BB Z10 and the Q is at least equal to if not better than G3, and then when the security of BB Platform is coupled with an outstanding device it puts it definitely over the top.

    This is I suppose a “honest” review from the prospective of a Android device user, who is predisposed to that device and has had limited user time with the BB device.
    Perhaps the same article written from the prospective of a BB owner is warranted as this would be at least equitable.

    • Josh York

      Sorry to be the one to enlighten you, but the virus “problem” with Android is basically nonexistent. I have used Android since day 1. Had G1, Samsung Vibrant, and now Samsung GS3. My three children use Android phones, as does my wife and other family members. I root my phones, install custom ROMs, try out many free apps and buy apps that I really like. I have never encountered malware or a virus. Free apps that pushed ads to my notification bar? Yep, so they were promptly uninstalled. If you are so enamored with BB, then by all means, that is the platform for you, but I have to disagree from much personal experience that Android is “virus riddled.”

      • Arsenal™

        lol viruses only come from pirated apps

      • I bought a Nexus 7, my first Android device. Within 24 hours malware installed itself. I returned it the next day.

        It MAY be possible to avoid viruses and malware but the fact that it is so easy to pickup makes Android the mobile equivalent of Windows.

        This is 2013, im not going back to the digital dark ages and spending my day running virus checks and malware scans.

        BB10 offers the security we all need today AND runs Android apps if needed. Best of both worlds, IMO.

  • Subliminal7X

    I’m impressed…. a very balanced and honest article ! From an Android site.. that’s really giving Jack his Jacket ! And honestly as stated, if specs on paper are what you’re after, then Android phones have the cake. Before BB10 launched, I was going to replace my Galaxy S3 with a Sone Xperia Z… I just think Sony’s UI is the most elegant Android implementation and has mature looking class in colour, font and smoothness. However, I just sold my GS3 today, and am totally happy with my new Z10. This thing is buttery smooth, fast and efficient, and it doesn’t even have 8 cores :D

    • cuebert

      I tend to swipe up now when holding another phone.

  • Giovanni64

    BlackBerry does not collect and sell your usage info like Google’s Android does. If you care about your privacy BlackBerry is for you.

    • williamworlde

      SORRY FOR SHOUTING, BUT I MUST! I am an Android user, but the first thing I did upon getting my GNex is lock it down. Google is an advertising company, so naturally, I don’t trust them one iota!

      Android users think Google is wonderful and it’s all free; IT IS NOT! What’s that saying? If you’re not paying for the product you’re using, then you ARE that product? Hmmm…..

    • Well said and often overlooked, even in this article. Security and privacy are the strong points for this phone and other BB 10 devices.

      Flexibility? I dont know any other mobile platform that runs apps from multiple OSs.

      For me, its like having security of BB, flexibility of Android and GUI like iOS.

      • cyano

        except you can’t customize its UI like android does.

        seriously I’d buy bb10 phone if I can use my own launcher on it. we all have preference.

        one thing I like from bb10, testing app on it is free but still secure. no developer key hassle like on ios & wp.

  • cuebert

    After a full week of hard use, the Z10 really shines among the rest. It gets better and better after use. The swipe gestures and UI is very efficient. The phone is like crack. You will go out of your way to get it charged.

  • LornePhi

    I thought this review is fair, except it comes with a youtube app and the screen resolution is HD and higher than iPhone. That being said in our house we have two blackberries an iphone5 and a Samsung Galaxy. So we notice the strength and weaknesses of each phone.

    • a girl

      i totally agree… i got blackberry..i got iphone and coming g-tab :) amazing consumers we are :)

  • a girl

    hey…just wanna share my experience using Blackberry bold, andro Galaxy and Iphone 5… so it all started with blackberry..and i must admit, BB push notification with emails and everything IS THE BEST! the notifications come within seconds… then i got bored and decided to buy andro phone was great i could do alot of things with it , dowloaded many apps, but somehow the virus got into the system and it destroyed my andro phone and the it cost the same as the new one if i wanna fix it . so yeah, it got me traumatized… then, when i moved overseas where my friends r using iphone, I decided to buy iphone 5 which until now it’s pretty amazing, except the screen is abit smaller comparing to GS 3 (which i really want apple can enlarge the screen..) and the most interesting thing is…i still have my blackberry with me :) i really hope they can be on top again :) – cheers

  • it was honest and for that i am a fan

  • pak_anggoro

    I think this is the most balanced review I’ve seen so far. And maintains positive tone along the way. Thank you. I used S2 moved to Lenovo S880 and now use Z10 (personal phone) and Galaxy Grand (company provided). I like Z10 more than the galaxy. The swipe, hub peek come second nature to me now and I like it very much. So so easy to use and feels natural. I stopped using BB in 2011 after using it since 2006. And 2 months ago I came back to BB mainly due to Z10 smooth UI. In many ways Android comes with a lot of features but at the end of the day, I only use 3, 4 or 5 max. And I realized I don’t really need a powerful phone. I’m not a programmer. So long as it doesn’t slow down, not rebooting itself, I can make a phone call, send email and text, whatsapp/bbm, open websites, do my expenses, I’m fine. I don’t understand why these companies keep making / upgrading their hardwares and it just gets more and more expensive each product cycle. It doesn’t make sense to me.

  • brendanhohoho

    The range of hardware and software innovations in the BlackBerry Z10 running the BlackBerry 10 OS shows that the company desperately wants to carve out a bigger future in smartphones. Unfortunately, there are a lot of factors that extend well beyond the actual Z10 device.