The BlackBerry Z10 is the first all-touchscreen flagship of the new BB10 OS. Unlike other attempts at touch-centric devices we’ve seen from BlackBerry in the past, the Z10 has solid specs on paper and even sports a modern, sleek design.
The new BB10 UI will go far in deciding the popularity to which the Z10 will, or won’t, rise, but the phone itself still deserves attention. Set to be launched in March in the US, this week in the UK and next week in Canada, BB10 and the Z10 are finally within reach of the public.
It’s none too soon. We’ve been waiting on BB10 ever since the release of the ill-fated PlayBook around two years ago. Luckily for BlackBerry, initial opinions of tech pundits seem to be optimistic of both the Z10 and BB10.
The BlackBerry Z10
The Z10 isn’t one of the most unique-looking devices we’ve ever seen, but it still appears quite stylish, if a little standard. Sharp edges down the side meet rounded corners at the top and bottom. The back plate is plastic, and is somewhat similar to that of the GS2 in that it takes on a rough texture to improve grip and reduce the obviousness of minor scratches. It’s a far cry from what we’ve seen on some of our favorite devices as far as style goes, but it’s not an out-dated or cheap look, either.
An interesting quirk that many might notice quickly is the lack of any buttons below the screen. This is because BB10 is primarily a gesture-based OS, with virtual buttons occasionally popping up on the bottom of the screen in various bits of the UI. This makes it sound a bit like Android with its virtual buttons, but the UI itself relies much less on key-based input, so the screen is devoid of buttons more often than Android.
The 4.2 inch, 768×1280 display offers 356 pixels per inch (ppi). That level of resolution density puts it at or above the current Android, iOS and WP handsets, but it’s soon to be surpassed by upcoming 1080p Android models. Still, 356ppi is nothing to turn one’s nose up at and it should easily provide a great viewing experience to all but the most resolution-focused users.
Of course one of the major issues with any touchscreen BlackBerry device is its keyboard. Many BlackBerry enthusiasts have only remained loyal because of their love for the traditional hardware QWERTY clicker that RIM/BlackBerry made famous all those years ago. Any die-hards like this still have the option of getting the Z10’s QWERTY sibling, the Q10, but the BB10 on-screen keyboard is definitely one of the cooler default options we’ve seen in a long time.
The predictive text part of the experience is done a bit differently to on other platforms. Any word that BB10 thinks has a high likelihood of following a previous word appears on the next letter than one would have to press to type or continue typing said word. In order to select it, the user hits the key and swipes immediately upwards. Similarly, erasing the last word requires swiping from right to left across the keys.
One thing we think is very cool is the downward-swipe to access the two pages of extra symbols. This replaces the annoying need to tap a symbol button. Swiping downwards to scroll through keyboard pages sounds much faster and more efficient than any other method we’ve previously seen and we’re keen to give it a go.
It seems that BlackBerry can still offer a unique quality of keyboard experience, even when they’re working with an on-screen keyboard.
- Other than all this the BlackBerry Z10 boasts:
- 16GB on-board storage
- MicroSD slot for expandable storage
- 1800mAh battery
- 8MP rear camera
- 2MP front camera with 720p video capture
- WiFi a/b/g/n
- Bluetooth 4.0
Its dimensions are 130mm x 66mm x 9.3mm and it weighs 138g.
As far as pricing goes it looks like it will be US$599 unsubsidized in the USA, free on a £36 contract in the UK and hopefully of similar pricing in the rest of the world.
All up we think the Z10 looks like a solid device that should be able to handle any modern operating system with ease and grace. Whether or not it can is yet to be seen, but we think the end results will depend more on the BB10 OS than on the Z10 itself.
It looks to be a good first step for BlackBerry in to a potentially new world of modern smartphone design and we can’t wait to get our hands on one to test it out.