Walking around Toronto with the BlackBerry Z10 in hand after BlackBerry’s big launch event, yet before it went on sale in Canada, the shiny new device caught the eye of several strangers who asked me how I liked it.
It’s the sort of awareness that’s normally reserved for Apple products, and perhaps demonstrates how much Canadians really care about the success of the new BlackBerrys. The company that was so recently known as Research In Motion is a bit like our home team in the technology market, we feel, and we want them to win. But to do that, BlackBerry will have to win over more than the eager Canadian home market – they’ll need to convince Americans, Britons, and others around the world that its new platform is better than the competition.
So how does the BlackBerry 10 excel compared to iOS and Android? Where does it fall short? I’m sharing here a few things I told those strangers on the street.
BlackBerry 10 strengths
The BlackBerry Hub – I’ve never seen a better way to organize messages and calendar information than this hub. It elegantly unifies all your e-mail, social messages, and text messages into one place. You can view all your messages at once or quickly tap to drill down into separate inboxes. The idea to swipe down on the screen to peek at your calendar is very useful (someone asking you to meet for lunch? Just swipe down to see if you’ve got something booked). The calendar appointments pull in so much information with so little effort it’s almost creepy – you can seamlessly navigate through who’s attending the appointment and what they’re doing on social media lately. It’s an insanely efficient delivery of personalized and useful information.
The touch keyboard – Something about the size of the keys, the frets dividing the rows, and the predictive text capability make this the best touch keyboard I’ve ever used. Normally I type on an Android touch screen smartphone, but I found I was much quicker with this keyboard. The predictive text mode is very intuitive – the words appear above the next letter you’d be typing anyway, and you just swipe up to choose it. Swiping backwards across the screen to backspace and swiping down to switch between letters and numbers are simple features that also improve speed.
Smooth experience – This hardware that powers the Z10 and the upcoming Q10 is up to par with the best smartphones on the market. As a result, the operating system runs smoothly and without lag. It didn’t seem to matter what apps I used or how many I opened, my experience remained smooth and untarnished.
BlackBerry 10 weaknesses
Getting back to the home screen – Without any hard buttons to return to the home screen, the BlackBerry 10 demands you use a gesture that is a swipe up from the bottom of the screen towards the top. Most of the time this works fine, but I found it had some problems when I used apps that were touch sensitive across the entire screen, such as the camera or a game. I found myself stuck in an app, swiping repeatedly to get back to the home screen, or over to the Hub for a text message I just received. I yearned for a hard, reliable button I could click to get out of the app.
Multi-tasking – Again, without that single hard button to press, you must use gestures to switch between apps. First you must successfully return to home screen, then you have to swipe from left to right to get to the screen showing your open apps, then you must scroll up and down to find the running app that you want. This could be faster, as on iOS or Android, a simple button press allows you to switch back to an open app from anywhere.
BlackBerry Maps – Using this app brought back memories of using my old Curve phone. But at least then I had the option to download Google Maps to use instead. I’m sure Google Maps will be available on BlackBerry 10 eventually, but until then you’re stuck with an inferior app that doesn’t include as much business listing information, no walking or transit routing, and just takes longer to load.