BlackBerry Z10 Review
The BlackBerry Z10 is the first handset from the company formerly known as RIM, now renamed BlackBerry, to run its new operating system BlackBerry 10, and there’s much more on the line here than simply making a few pennies – arguably the company’s survival rests on the success of this device and the BlackBerry Q10.
It’s no secret that BlackBerry has been on the rocks for the past year or so, with the company even admitting that it hasn’t been in the best shape of late, and the 4G toting Z10 is the start of what is hoped to be a successful revolution.
Since its launch a few months ago the BlackBerry Z10 has received a software update which has seen things become more stable, plus the app store has also witnessed some new arrivals, so we’ve taken the time to update the keys parts of our review with the latest information.
In the UK the handset has witnessed a slight price drop since launch and you can pick up the Z10 free on contracts starting at £32 per month, while you’ll need to fork out a still princely £470 if you want it SIM-free.
The US was only treated to the BlackBerry Z10 in late March, available for around $199.99 on contract and about $630 SIM-free.
Sporting a 4.2-inch 1280 x 768 display, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and its steep price tag, the BlackBerry Z10 finds itself jostling for position with the Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5.
Lock eyes on the BlackBerry Z10 and you’ll notice it’s an unassuming slab of black glass and plastic that mimics the general aesthetical design of many a smartphone these days.
The Z10 is a little bezel-heavy with a sizable gap above and below the screen, and that’s before we even get to the additional plastic chunks stuck on both ends of the handset.
It all seems a little unnecessary but luckily it doesn’t make the BlackBerry Z10 overly cumbersome, with the handset measuring a comfortable 130 x 65.6 x 9mm (5.1 x 2.6 x 0.4 inches).
Weight wise the BlackBerry Z10 finds a happy medium – weighing 137.5g (4.85 oz), it’s nowhere near as heavy as the Lumia 920 and Lumia 820, yet it’s not as feather light as the iPhone 5.
The weight gives it a reassuring presence in the palm and while the chassis is distinctly plastic, the handset’s heft at least restores some form of premium feel.
Around the back you’re greeted with a textured plastic rear that is slightly rubberised, providing a decent level of grip.
There are only a couple of things to note on the back of the BlackBerry Z10: the 8MP camera with a single LED flash, sat in the top-left corner, and the shiny metallic BlackBerry logo in middle.
We were pleased to find that the rear can be removed easily by placing a finger in the indented speaker grill at the base of the Z10, enabling us to simply peel off the plastic.
Underneath you’ll find microSIM and microSD slots, with the latter capable of supporting cards up to 32GB in capacity, although we’ve been told that a future update may see this support boosted to the 64GB variants.
This means you can build nicely on the already decent 16GB of internal storage, which will appeal to many who have been put out by the likes of the iPhone range and HTC One, which don’t offer storage expansion.
An added boon is the removable 1,800mAh battery, enabling you to switch out a dead battery for a fully charged one if you’re someone who likes to carry multiple power packs around.
On the rear cover itself you’ll notice the NFC pad, which enables the BlackBerry Z10 to interact with other compatible wireless devices.
On the right-hand side of the Z10, anyone familiar with the BlackBerry PlayBook will instantly recognise the triple button setup, with volume rocker switches separated by a central key – used for playing/pausing music and activating voice control when held down.
Up top you get a centralised power/lock key next to a 3.5mm headphone jack, while on the left there’s a couple of handy connectivity ports.
The metal finish of the keys gives the handset a touch of class – if not a little sharp when you catch your finger on them – and all are well positioned, enabling us to reach them easily when using the Z10 one-handed.
The now standard microUSB port that features on pretty much every phone these days (bar the iPhone) is present, alongside a miniHDMI port. This enables you to connect the BlackBerry Z10 directly to a TV for big screen viewing.
There’s no HDMI cable in the box so you’ll need to pick one up separately, but there is at least a USB cable so you can hook the Z10 up to your computer.
The BlackBerry Z10 doesn’t wow us with a new design, but it’s a sturdy handset with a decent build quality and functional layout that makes it easy to handle.
The key selling point of the BlackBerry Z10 is the BlackBerry 10 operating system, which may go some way to explaining the handset’s unassuming design, with the manufacturer focused more on the software inside.
BB10 was launched alongside the BlackBerry Z10 and signals a new era for a company which hasn’t had the best of times recently.
This has resulted in a platform which is very different to the one found on previous BlackBerry handsets running BB OS7, which means a steep learning curve is required for both new and current BlackBerry users.
BlackBerry decided to move away from the physical buttons found on iOS and many Android devices, instead opting for a gesture-based system as the main form of navigation.
Press the power/lock key at the top of the device and the 4.2-inch HD display comes to life greeting you with the BB 10 lock screen.
You get the date and time on the screen along with notifications of any new emails, messages, BBMs and missed calls.
There’s a shortcut to the camera app in the bottom right corner, while the general unlock function requires you to slide up from the bottom of the screen, which uncovers the homescreen below as your finger moves up.
Complete the unlock sweep to access your homescreen – which is some kind of odd mashup between Android widgets and Windows Phone Live tiles.
What you get is large thumbnails of your most recently opened applications. Only four can fit on the screen at once and you can have a total of eight applications in this list – you’ll need to slide down to view the rest.
This is basically the multi-tasking function in BlackBerry 10 and you can choose to close apps in this list by hitting the cross in the bottom right of the preview.
During our extended time with the Z10 we found that we hardly ever slide down to see the other four apps hidden below, instead sliding sideways into the app draw if the program we wanted wasn’t one of the last four recently used options.
We’d also preferred it if you could pin particular apps to this homescreen, as we’d have liked Facebook, Twitter and the web browser to be permanently on display and easy to reach – or you know, just the first page of your apps and get rid of the whole active screens completely.
For those of you who are fans of quick settings, you’ll be glad to know that BlackBerry has catered for you on BB 10 – just swipe down from the notification bar on the BlackBerry Z10 and you’ll get a small drop-down with toggles for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, alarm, rotation lock and notifications.
There’s also a short cut to the settings menu if you need to toggle the 4G mobile hotspot or NFC on the Z10.
Frustratingly you can only set one alarm on the Z10 – come on guys what year are we living in these days – surely the ability to have multiple alarms on your handset isn’t an overly taxing implementation.
Sliding to the right from the homescreen will take you to the app list, while going left will take you into the BlackBerry Hub – something we’ll cover in more detail in the messaging section of this review.
The app list is far more familiar territory for anyone with smartphone experience, with the icons lined up in the usual grid formation, plus the ability to create folders by simply dropping one app onto another – now where have we seen that before?
Holding down on an app icon will make them all start to pulsate, with the option to drag them around and reposition them in an order which suits you, or you can hit the bin icon to delete a particular app.
The 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM housed into the BlackBerry Z10 means it has more than enough power to glide through the BB10 system, and we got a generally smooth user experience.
A software update has pushed out to the Z10 since our initial review and since installing the latest version of BB 10 we haven’t experienced the lag and blank screens we sometimes noticed originally.
The fancy fade in/out animations as you skip between pages of apps is a nice touch, and applications open swiftly.
A responsive touchscreen aids navigation, and once we’d got to grips with the BlackBerry 10 way of doing things, the Z10 was pleasing to use.
Some gestures and layouts still seem a little confused, but the longer we spent with the handset the easier it became.
As there’s no physical back button below the display it wasn’t always clear how to get back to the previous screen, which left us feverously scrabbling around for a way to return to the start of an app without returning to the homescreen from time to time.
The way you exit applications is also new, with the Z10 requiring you to slide up from the BlackBerry logo below the screen to the centre of the device, which sees the app you’re currently in minimised and upon release popped into the top left position on the homescreen.
It look a while for us to get used to this, instead of just hitting a menu key below the screen and we found it didn’t always work particularly well – especially in the camera app and game World of Goo.
The BlackBerrry 10 platform succeeds at bringing BlackBerry into line with the other smartphone operating systems and the BlackBerry Z10 has no trouble running it, but it doesn’t seem to have a clear advantage over its rivals.
Contacts and calling
You can add contacts from a variety of sources on the BlackBerry Z10 including Google, Hotmail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and of course BBM.
During initial set up, the Z10 encourages you to sign in to all your accounts and then provides you with toggles for each so you can set which information it pulls through.
We were easily able to pull through our Google and Twitter contacts without issue, which meant we could get straight to calling and texting our nearest and dearest straight out the box.
Our Z10 seemed to struggle a little more with the Facebook integration, taking a day or so before it properly synced out Facebook buddies with our contact list.
It managed to match up people who had exactly the same name on their social network as we had them listed in our address book, but any variations in name meant a manual link was required.
We didn’t have any trouble linking a person’s various accounts together, but it’s a time consuming practice and certainly no where near as clever as HTC’s system.
It wasn’t a huge issue as we don’t rely on the details from Facebook, it just made our contact list a little bit drab with all the missing images.
Click through onto a contact and you’ll be able to view all their details, including various links to their social media accounts – tap on one of these and the Z10 will launch the native app to display their profile.
The Z10 can also help you when it comes to making new friends on your social media accounts, as it will notify you if you’re both on the same network but are currently not connected, with a button to send them a friend request from within the contacts app.
There are two further tabs within a contact’s profile after Details, labelled Updates and Activity, the former of which pulls through that person’s latest status updates from their various connected networks.
Activity, on the other hand, shows your communication with that person, giving you the most recent calls, texts, emails, tweets, Facebook events or other messages you may have shared with them.
Adding a contact is simple, with an Add key along the bottom menu bar in the contacts app that takes you to a form where you can fill out a whole myriad of information on your new chum.
The Phone app is a little bit special in BlackBerry 10, as it’s one of the few that gets a space in the toolbar displayed on the bottom of the homescreen and app list pages.
It lines up alongside the search and camera launchers, but there’s also an app icon in the application list if you fancy prodding that instead.
Fire up the Phone app and you’re taken to a screen displaying your call history and quick links to your favourite contacts and voicemail at the top of the screen.
There’s no visual voicemail available on the Z10, so you’ll need to make do with listening to that robotic mistress.
If the number you require isn’t in your favourites or call history then you can hit the contacts tab, which will display all your chums stored on the BlackBerry Z10.
And instead of launching you into their contact cards when you tap, it simply just slides down with the numbers attached to that person.
It’s a nice little effect and we found it pleasing to use, as well as being a nice time saver.
Of course you won’t have every number stored on your phone, so the final tab is the faithful Dial Pad.
It’s a pretty basic offering and doesn’t feature anything fancy such as smart dialling, but it’s functional and serves the purpose.
Call quality on the BlackBerry Z10 was acceptable as we could hear our mates on the other end pretty clearly and vice versa, but it wasn’t crystal clear audio.
The Z10 found and held signal well, managing to pick up decent 3G (we didn’t have a 4G SIM to hand) reception in most areas, and we didn’t experience any issues with dropped calls.
Messaging is one thing BlackBerry is famed for – its impressive history when it comes to email management and free messaging via BBM is well known and the BlackBerry Z10 picks up where the others left off.
BlackBerry 10 makes a big thing of all things messages, with its custom Peek gesture enabling you to quickly see who’s just messaged, Facebooked or tweeted you without having to exit an application.
If you hear the message tone or see the red flashing notification light in the top-right of the handset then no matter which screen you’re currently viewing you can check the details.
Just slide your finger up from the BlackBerry logo, which sees the current screen minimised to the centre of the screen, with new notification icons appearing to left, so you can tell if it’s a new BBM, text or whatever.
A movement left will enable you to see the new message in the BlackBerry Hub, so you can decide whether or not to respond straight away or just return to what you were doing.
It’s not without its flaws though. If you happen to be reading a message and exit the Hub while still in that message stream, peaking back at the hub to check a new notification doesn’t automatically show your inbox, but the page you were last viewing – plus it still counts that message as new until you return to the hub.
This meant the whole peak ability was made redundant as it required us to go into the BlackBerry Hub and navigate back to the main inbox. In this case a notification in the pull down bar at the top of the screen would have been more practical, but who wants to copy Android and iOS, right?
The BlackBerry Hub is the universal inbox found on BlackBerry 10 and it pulls in all forms of communications, from calls and texts to emails, BBMs and social updates.
As well as accessing the Hub via the Peek method, you can also jump to it by sliding to the left from your homescreen.
Once inside the Hub, you can filter it by account if it’s all a bit of an information overload, and things such as Facebook and Twitter replies and statuses can be posted from within the Hub, meaning there’s no need to fire up the official app every time.
Other third party applications are integrated here too, although things such as WhatsApp show up under the "Notifications" tab, instead of in a separate "WhatsApp" section – which is a little bit annoying.
Instead of having dedicated text messaging and email applications, they are all rolled into the Hub on the BlackBerry Z10, with the ability to hop between accounts.
Emails display nicely on the Z10 with the ability to zoom all the way out so you’re able to view the whole thing in all its HTML glory – something some Android handsets aren’t too fond of.
There are simple compose, reply and forward controls at the bottom of the screen to enable you to email to your heart’s content, while at the top of the screen tap the blue bar and you can view any folders in your email account.
A slight oversight when viewing an email is the lack of controls to skip to the next email in your inbox, forcing you to go back and select it.
Although this may not be an issue for lighter email users anyone who is using the Z10 for business may find it a frustrating additional step which slows the experience down.
The text messaging app is a relatively simple affair with a list of messages on the overview page – the Z10 doesn’t pull through profile pictures here.
The message flow between yourself and one of your friends isn’t the prettiest of designs, with blocky speech bubbles showing your conversation, but at least it’s functional and there are options to attach pictures, video and so on if you wish.
As a colleague pointed out, it does look a bit "my first smartphone", but it does the job and for that we cannot fault it.
As a colleague pointed out, it does look a bit "my first smartphone", but it does the job and for that we cannot fault it.
Of course another big draw for a lot of BlackBerry users is the BBM application, which effectively gives you unlimited free messages between yourself and your other BlackBerry buddies.
The layout of the BBM app has been given a revamp to follow the new BB10 theme with messages displaying in the same speech bubble design as texts.
You can also access your current BBM conversations from the BlackBerry Hub, enabling you to speedily bash out a missive without having to launch the full blown app.
Thanks to the inclusion of NFC inside the BlackBerry Z10 you can gain new BBM buddies by simply tapping the handset against other enabled BlackBerry devices.
There’s also a QR code which you can stick on your business card or get printed on a t-shirt, which people can scan with their BlackBerry Z10 or similar to link up with you on BBM. Who doesn’t love a good QR code?
BBM Voice was only recently announced for the messaging service, but BlackBerry has launched another new feature to coincide with the arrival of BlackBerry 10 – BBM Video.
As you may have already guessed, this enables you to make a video call via BBM – think FaceTime on iPhones, but now on BlackBerry devices – which uses your mobile data or Wi-Fi connection to beam the images of your smug face to your friends.
As well as beaming an image of your lovely head you can also share your Z10′s screen with your contact over BBM Video, perfect if you want to show them a spreadsheet or a picture of your cat wearing a banana outfit.
Now all this messaging capability is nothing without an input method, and keyboards are arguably the thing BlackBerry handsets are most known for.
But wait, nope the BlackBerry Z10 doesn’t slide up to reveal a physical QWERTY keyboard like the touchscreen BlackBerry Torch – that’s right, it’s touchscreen-only folks.
BlackBerry has spoken at length about how it’s engineered its onscreen keyboard to bring users the experience they get on the physical version with the all-new touch offering.
Straight up we can say it is miles better than the pitiful attempt that adorned the Torch range of BlackBerry devices, but it’s not perfect.
The keyboard sports the silver frets which can be found on the Bold 9900, providing additional spacing between lines and enabling better travel between keys.
These frets also act as the space for the next word prediction on the BlackBerry Z10, and the more you type the more it learns and offers smarter suggestions.
We were able to type at a reasonable pace, but we found the next word prediction if anything slowed us down as the font is too small to easily see and we found our fingers were covering most of the suggestions anyway.
What we also found frustrating was that all the punctuation apart from the full stop and comma were hidden away in a sub menu, with no option to hold a key down to get an additional symbol.
You can turn the BlackBerry Z10 around 90 degrees for a larger landscape keyboard, which some may find easier to type on with two hands.
The message you’re replying to is just about visible at the top, which is handy if you’re like us and forget what you’re replying to half way through.
The BlackBerry Z10 comes sporting BlackBerry’s new internet browser which it has developed specially for BlackBerry 10, and one that’s touted to be fast, really fast.
To keep up with that speed promise the Z10 not only comes equipped with Wi-Fi b/g/n but also 4G connectivity for super fast mobile data on the move.
During our time with the handset we only had a 3G SIM to hand, but we still experienced some impressive browsing speeds on the BlackBerry Z10.
Full-fat TechRadar loaded in just five seconds on the Z10, fancy ad banners and all over 3G, while the mobile version turned up in a flash with two seconds on the clock.
Load speeds are pretty similar over Wi-Fi, but a strong connection can see a second or so knocked off the desktop sites.
The layout of the browser on the BlackBerry Z10 reminded us of the setup of IE on Windows Phone 8 which also has a black toolbar located at the bottom of the display – compared to Android and iOS which both stick with the more traditional location at the top.
Text and images appear crisp and clear on the 4-inch HD display of the BlackBerry Z10, making browsing websites – even those which are content rich – a pleasing experience.
Text doesn’t automatically reflow when you zoom which can lead to a lot of sideways scrolling if you need to zoom in a fair bit to be able to read what’s on screen.
You can make the reading experience easier by selecting Reader in the menu, which strips out all the images and ads from an article to display just the text on the screen, allowing for an easily digestible read.
There is a simple text size tool at the bottom of the screen making it easy to increase or decrease the font for an even better reading experience.
Sadly there’s no offline mode, so you won’t be able to save pages to read later when you may not be in signal – it’s not a big issue in what is otherwise an excellent browsing experience.
Tabbed browsing is supported on the Z10 browser, just hit the panel icon in the bottom left corner and a menu will slide in, with an option to open a new tab.
Also in this menu are options to view your bookmarks and browsing history.
Bookmarks are easy to add, just navigate to the desired page, hit the settings key in the bottom right and then select Add to Bookmarks – it’s as easy as pie.
Interestingly while Google is phasing out Adobe Flash support, and with Apple never supporting it, the browser on the BlackBerry Z10 does provide support for the dying web format – meaning you can view all the videos and websites which still rely on it.
While fewer and fewer sites are dependent on Adobe Flash there are still some notable exceptions, and it’s great to see the support on the new BlackBerry 10 OS.
All in all the BlackBerry Z10 offers a fantastic browsing experience, with some of the fastest speeds we’ve witnessed on a smartphone.
The BlackBerry Z10 comes well equipped in the camera department, with an 8MP rear snapper and a 2MP front-facing senor.
A single LED flash accompanies the camera on the back of the Z10, and the handset is capable of shooting 1080p video with the rear lens.
The camera app can be accessed in a number of ways, including the shortcut on the lock screen where you hold down on the camera icon to launch the app, by selecting the icon from the app list or by tapping the camera on the homescreen dock.
It takes less than a second for the BlackBerry Z10 to load up the camera application, and once there you’re greeted with a simple setup.
It may not be the most feature-packed camera offering we’ve ever seen – there’s no photo sphere technology a la Android here – but what the Z10 does provide is an easy way to quickly take photos. After all, that’s what you’re here for anyway.
Shutter speed is rapid, although you’ll notice there’s no shutter button actually on the screen.
Instead the whole screen on the BlackBerry Z10 is the shutter, which makes taking self portraits easy, but it can be frustrating when you accidentally hit it when trying to get to the settings.
This issue can be partly avoided as both volume rocker keys on the side of the Z10 can be used to take a picture, which is a handy feature, especially for those with clumsy fingers.
Autofocus is in play, and it can take half a second to settle at times, but there’s no tap to focus as such. The focus can be changed by holding down on the Z10 display and moving around so the focus square follows you. Release your finger when you get to the point you want the camera to focus on and then tap the screen to capture the image.
It’s certainly not as quick as the simple tap to focus method, but it’s an effective one.
We pitted the Z10′s camera against the iPhone 5, the results of which you can check out below.
Dive into the settings menu and there are slim pickings on offer, with a toggle for the flash, front/rear camera and aspect ratio (you’ve got the choice of 16:9 and 4:3) along with three shooting modes (normal, stabilisation and burst) and four scene modes (action, whiteboard, night and beach or snow).
There’s a 5x digital zoom which is controlled by pinching the screen on the BlackBerry Z10, but picture quality is dramatically reduced the closer in you get, so it’s best to steer clear if you want a half decent photo.
But wait, there is an ace up the sleeve of the BlackBerry Z10 – it’s called Time Shift. Time Shift is a new feature for BlackBerry 10, and when you switch the camera to this mode and take a photo of a person or a group of people the Z10 will highlight all the faces in the picture.
Press on any face after taking the picture and a disc will appear on the screen with that person’s mug in it and a slider below. Move the slider left and right and you’ll see the BlackBerry Z10 has captured the face before and after as well as during the time the shutter was pressed.
This enables you to fine tune each person’s face to ensure everyone is smiling and has their eyes open – giving you the perfect picture. It’s an impressive feature, and we were surprised at just how well it worked.
Image quality is generally pretty good and even in near or total darkness the flash on the BlackBerry Z10 does a good job of lighting things up.
We did find quite a few of our snaps looked a little grainy though and means the Z10 isn’t quite on a par with a lot of its rivals, but you can at least rest assured you’ve got a capable, if not slightly feature-less snapper in your pocket.
Video recording on the BlackBerry Z10 is accessed through the camera app, where you’ll need to switch to video mode using the icon in the top right corner.
The rear facing camera on the Z10 is capable of capturing footage at full HD 1080p resolution, while the front facing snapper can grab 720p video.
With the rear camera you can choose whether to record in 720p or 1080p, and like the camera mode there’s a very limited selection on options.
Image stabilisation is a welcome addition which keeps your movies smooth, while over in scene modes you have a selection of just two – night and beach or snow.
An added benefit with the video recorder on the Z10 is when you’ve started to record (by pressing anywhere on the screen) you can then toggle the single LED light on and off.
This is great if you’re moving between light and dark areas during filming, or if you just fancy giving your friend a bit of a strobe light while he performs an embarrassingly poor rendition of Gangnam Style.
You can also use the 5x digital zoom while recording but as with pictures in camera mode video quality is greatly reduced if you decide to hone in on the action.
Video quality is pretty good and easy to watch on the handset’s display and you’ll see from the video clip below it doesn’t look too shoddy on a larger screen either.
BlackBerry smartphones have never really been seen as full blown multimedia devices, thanks in part to their small, low resolution displays, but the BlackBerry Z10 changes all that.
With an HD 4.2-inch display, sizable 16GB of internal memory with the option to expand via microSD and additional power under the hood the Z10 is ready to take on any type of media.
Using a microSD card is probably the quickest way to get content onto the BlackBerry Z10 as it circumvents the need to download and install the BlackBerry Link desktop before being allowed to drag and drop files when you hook the handset up to a computer with the USB cable.
BlackBerry Link enables you to sync and share your media files between your computer and the Z10 as well as backing up your data, just in case something untoward happened.
While relatively inoffensive and easy to use, we still prefer the method of simply dragging and dropping content between windows.
There’s no prizes for guessing where you need to head on the BlackBerry Z10 to listen to your favourite tunes – yep you’ve guessed it the Music app.
It’s a pretty simple, no thrills application which shows you your library, most recently played tracks and playlists.
Music is displayed as album art thumbnails, which gives the application a tidy look, although album track listings sport an unassuming grey tone. There is also the option to shuffle all the songs at the top of the list.
The now playing screen has all your typical audio controls; play/pause, skip, scrub, repeat and shuffle.
Tapping the album art here will see it slide down and show the other songs queued in the particular playlist, enabling you to quickly jump to another track if you so wish.
Dive in the settings menu and there’s very little to choose from with no sign of an equaliser. The only thing of note is the Play On option, which enables you to stream music from the Z10 to other DLNA enabled devices.
The major audio formats seem to be supported but we’re still waiting to hear official confirmation from BlackBerry on all the types which the Z10 will be able to handle.
Sound quality seems to be perfectly acceptable as far as smartphones goes, but audiophiles will probably want something more from their music player.
If your music collection is a little thin on the ground then you can bolster your library by jumping into BlackBerry World where you’ll find a music section powered by 7Digital.
The 7Digital library is a pretty extensive one, with most albums priced between £5 and £8/US$9 and $12, while single tracks are generally £1/US$1.29.
It’s not the easiest store to browse, with a seemingly limited number of controls and a distinct lack of top lists meaning only a very small proportion of the library is actually on show.
Things are being kept simple on the BlackBerry Z10, with all things movie-related housed in the Videos app.
The video app is even more basic than its music equivalent, listing the videos currently stored on the Z10 which when clicked on take you straight into the player.
In the player the basic theme continues, with a play/pause key and scrub option the only things to play with other than the aspect ratio toggle in the top right.
The Play On option is present in the menu here, enabling you to stream the currently playing video to a larger screen, so you can share the movie with a group of people.
Video playback is pretty good, but the Z10 doesn’t quite reach the heights of the iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3 in terms of quality. However movies are perfectly watchable with pretty good viewing angles.
The soft touch back of the Z10 coupled with the rounded chassis makes it a comfortable handset to hold for extended periods, with one handed holding not a problem.
The additional bezel around the screen is actually a benefit here, as there’s no worry of your thumb obscuring the screen.
BlackBerry World also offers various movies and TV series powered by Rovi, which you can either purchase or rent.
At launch the movie offering was pretty limited but we’re pleased to say the library has filled out nicely with a decent array of films and TV shows to choose from.
Rental prices seem to be from around £2.99/US$2.99, while to buy and download a film to keep you’ll need to fork out between £7.99 and £15.99/US$7.99 and $19.99.
TV shows seem to come in at £1.99/US$1.99 per episode, with no sign of a season bundle at the moment.
Last but not least photos are stored in the Pictures app, which is where you go to view all of your camera shots laid out in a series of thumbnails.
Annoyingly you can’t create albums on the BlackBerry Z10, with the system forcing you onto the computer and the BlackBerry Link software to set this up.
It all seems rather unnecessary and an annoying hurdle that people shouldn’t need to jump through for what is a pretty straightforward task.
A nice feature which is part of the Pictures app is the edit function, which enables you to choose from a whole range of effects to apply to your photos as well as tools to crop and rotate the image.
The way the effects have been implemented is a clever one, as you’re able to drag each effect across the image to see how it will look before deciding whether or not to apply it.
It’s such a simple system we found ourselves playing around with it a lot, and with 16 effects on offer there’s probably something there which will take your fancy.
From within the editor you can also adjust the white balance, brightness, contrast and sharpness of an image. The whole system is pretty intuitive and it’s a nice addition to have on the BlackBerry Z10.
Battery life and connectivity
The BlackBerry Z10 comes equipped with a removable 1,800mAh battery which will be music to some people’s ears, as this means you can carry additional power packs and swap in a fully charged one when the current pack gives up the ghost.
Performance wise the Z10 performed relatively well – we didn’t experience fast draining issues as with the One X, but equally it was never going to blow us away with its modest battery size.
The issue with the BlackBerry Z10 will be with current BlackBerry users who are used to their BB OS7 devices running for days between charges thanks to the smaller, lower resolution displays and less demanding processors inside the handsets.
With moderate use the Z10 will see you through a full working day, but don’t expect it to make it through a second. A nightly charge is definitely on the cards for anyone who picks up this device.
BlackBerry is quoting up to 11 hours of talktime on the BlackBerry Z10 and 408 hours of standby, which we reckon is pushing the boundaries a little, but it’s good to remember these figures are produced under lab conditions which are very different to real usage.
We did find that playing games, even for short periods of times ate into the battery quite significantly – with around 45 minutes of World of Goo draining a fair amount.
Connectivity wise the BlackBerry Z10 is exceptionally well equipped packing everything from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 to DLNA support and even an HDMI port.
To aid with global positioning the Z10 also features A-GPS and you can utilise the handset’s super fast 4G reception as a mobile hotspot, enabling other devices such as tablets and laptops to feed off the data connection.
BlackBerry has also stuffed NFC into the BlackBerry Z10, enabling you to wirelessly transfer content between handsets and other enabled devices without the need for wires or even a network connection.
As we mentioned during the interface section of this review, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can be easily toggled using the quick settings drop-down on the BlackBerry Z10, but features such as GPS, hotspots and NFC are controlled within the main settings menu.
Sharing content between the BlackBerry Z10 and other devices is easy – just navigate to your desired photo, video, track or other content and then hit the share button to open up a myriad of options.
The DLNA support means you’re able to wirelessly stream content to other enabled devices around your home connected to the same network. Just look for the Play On option in the menu – with types of content and devices controlled from within the settings menu.
That’s not all though: if you prefer a more traditional form of connection you can dig out the bundled USB cable and hook the BlackBerry Z10 up to your computer, or why not invest in an HDMI lead and plug the handset into your fancy television?
It’s all possible thanks to the microUSB and miniHDMI ports on the left side on the Z10, plus there’s that microSD slot hiding under the rear cover providing yet another way to manipulate content.
Maps and apps
The BlackBerry Z10 comes with its own mapping and navigation solution simply called Maps.
The maps themselves have been provided by TomTom, and while they give a pretty good account of the lie of the land, it’s not as polished as the excellent Google Maps.
There are far fewer features as well with just the standard map view available, no satellite overlay, no street view, no flyover, no public transport information – but at least it knows where places are.
We found the lack of train stations highly frustrating as we tried to the nearest one while out and about in London.
Visually the maps are not quite as impressive as Google’s offering, with the images not looking overly defined – especially when you zoom out.
Opening the maps app was one of the few occasions where we noticed the Z10 struggling a little, as we would have to wait several seconds for the application to load up and locate us.
Once located the BlackBerry Z10 was able to keep track of our position well, even in built up areas where GPS sometimes struggles to reach.
The Z10 also wasn’t the smoothest when it came to panning and zooming around the maps, with it needing a second or two each time to render the new image which made for a slightly jilted user experience.
There is live traffic information shown by coloured overlays on the roads to show the flow of traffic, with green being good, orange average and red highlighting delays.
This information is really useful, especially if you’re planning a trip, and coupled with the route planner you can see exactly what the traffic is like on the roads you’ll be driving.
It’s not just the maps the BlackBerry Z10 offers though, as with Android and now iOS, BB10 also offers free turn-by-turn navigation.
It’s a lifesaver if you end up getting lost, but beware that a data connection is required to load the map so it may struggle in you’re up a mountain.
Apps were the big talking point in the run up to the launch of BlackBerry 10, with BlackBerry assuring everyone that had loads of developers creating applications especially for the platform.
Sadly the app offering in the newly renamed BlackBerry World is hardly inspiring.
BlackBerry says it has over 70,000 applications in the store, but it certainly doesn’t feel like there’s anything close to that number in there at the moment.
While 70,000 doesn’t sound like a lot especially when you consider the likes of Android and iOS boast over 700,000 each, BlackBerry reckons it’s the quality not quantity in BlackBerry World which makes all the difference.
That may be the case, but we’d question the quality which currently resides in the store, with a lot of big name developers and companies missing.
During the launch event BlackBerry said that WhatsApp and Skype were both fully committed to BlackBerry 10.
We had to wait over two months for WhatApps to finally arrive in BlackBerry World, and as for Skype – well your guess is as good as ours when it comes to finding out what’s happened to that app.
We had hoped that since it was formerly announced at the end of January 2013 a deluge of apps which frequent the likes of Google Play and the App Store would arrive for BlackBerry 10, but alas that hasn’t happened yet.
Of course BlackBerry will point towards the vast number of apps which are in the store and the speed at which it has managed to build its catalogue, but the reality is that a lot of apps we use every day are simply not present – a few examples are Spotify, The Trainline, Shazam and various BBC and Sky apps.
BlackBerry Word itself isn’t our favourite app store in terms of design and navigation, with a confusing list of various apps, music and videos on the main page making it difficult to digest all the information.
You can refine your search by categories which goes some way to working out what’s on offer and if you slide from the left of the screen accross you can filter by apps, games, music and videos.
In terms of pre-installed applications we’re pleased to report BlackBerry hasn’t gone overboard with the BlackBerry Z10.
The Remember app is BlackBerry’s answer to Evernote (whish is another high-profile absentee from BlackBerry World) and it can even sync with the popular note taking app to ensure all your favourite shopping lists safely make the transition over to BB 10.
You can also share content such as pictures and videos to the Remember app if you want to make a note alongside a photo you’ve just snapped.
The app itself is pretty straightforward, with the ability to tap out a message as well as attach a file or audio clip to it.
DocsToGo is a great application for the business minded out there who may need to finish off a word document, spreadsheet or presentation while on the train to a meeting.
The full blown app enables you to fully manipulate your Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, although the 4.2-inch display on the Z10 is a bit on the small side for viewing a complicated spreadsheet.
Games is a hub for your gaming activity on the BlackBerry Z10 and works in a similar way to Apple’s Game Center. It logs all the compatible games you play on the handset and any achievements you unlock.
You can add friends who are also playing on their BlackBerry handsets, compare progress and even challenge them to a showdown.
The Newsstand app, as you may have guessed, is a store for magazines and newspapers which you can purchase and read on the Z10.
An innovative slider along the top of the app enables you to scroll through different categories, while covers of the magazines available are displayed in a pleasing thumbnailed layout.
If anything we wish BlackBerry World took its design cues from Apple’s Newsstand, since we preferred the layout there and navigation was much easier.
Single issues seemed to range from around £1.99 to £6.99 depending on publication, but there didn’t seem to be any sign of a subscription service – perhaps that will come later.
Voice control lets you bark commands at the BlackBerry Z10 for when you can’t be bothered to use your fingers.
It can be activated by holding down the central key lodged between the two volume switches, or you can tap the relevant icon in the app list.
We’re not talking Siri levels of controls and questioning here, it’s a far simpler offering, enabling you to say things like "Call this person", "Text that person" and "Make a note to buy milk".
As long as we spoke clearly then the Z10 had no trouble understanding what we were saying and was more than happy to carry out our orders – who’s a good phone?
We probably wouldn’t use this function day to day but we can certainly see its advantage in certain situations, such as driving.
Smart tags is an application that enables you to group together a bunch of information which can then be transferred onto an NFC tag, made into a QR code or passed directly to another NFC-enabled handset.
Instead of handing out a business card you could create a smart tag with all your contact information on and then share it via NFC to the phones of people you meet with.
You can save the tags you send so you can use them again and you can also save any you receive from other people.
The smart tags app enables you to easily create tags as well as mange the ones you’ve sent and received.
Hands on gallery
So is the BlackBerry Z10 the smartphone to save BlackBerry? Well it’s still too early to say, and it’s not just this handset which will make or break the Canadian firm over the coming year.
That said, the Z10 is a promising start to the BlackBerry 10 era, we just hope BlackBerry can build on it – and quickly.
The BlackBerry Z10 is a decent all round phone sporting a pleasing 4.2-inch HD display, a camera which can take some good shots and a messaging hub which could be the envy of some other platforms.
Web browsing deserves a special mention as we were seriously impressed with the speed of the BlackBerry Z10 when it came to loading pages.
It’s great to see a free mapping and navigation solution on board the Z10, even though it may not be the best service on the market.
The expandable storage, removable battery and Adobe Flash support are all small wins for the Z10 and will help as it tries to stand out in a crowded market.
The jury is still out on BlackBerry 10. On one hand it’s great to see an exciting new operating system but on the other it’s a completely new learning curve for everyone, and some may not be willing to learn.
BB 10 came across a little confusing a times, with the lack of a clear back button leading us to question how we return to the previous screen, while gestures took some time to fully grasp.
As the BlackBerry Z10 is set to be the flagship phone for BlackBerry and its new BB10 platform, we were a little disappointed with its obviously plastic case, which doesn’t exactly exude premium quality.
BlackBerry said that the BB10 keyboard is the best typing experience on a touchscreen smartphone, but we weren’t bowled over by the offering on the Z10.
It’s a perfectly serviceable option, but in our eyes it doesn’t quite hit the mark in the same way as the likes of SwiftKey on Android.
The lack of apps in BlackBerry World will remain a concern until we see the big hitters turn up, while some of the stock BlackBerry 10 apps seemed to lack features such as the camera, music and video applications.
The Z10 is a decent smartphone offering up a strong range of features and a fancy new operating system that may catch the eye of the technologically adventurous.
It does pretty much everything we’d expect from a high-end device and there are no major flaws to go running to the presses about.
That said, the Z10 also lacks any killer selling points. It’s hard to find reasons why we’d recommend this over say the iPhone 5, Sony Xperia Z or Nokia Lumia 920 – all of which are around the same price as the Z10.
Things haven’t been helped by the Samsung Galaxy S3 getting a healthy price cut after the announcement of the Galaxy S4, meaning the more powerful, bigger screened and featured packed handset is now £100 cheaper than the Z10.
The unproven operating system and severe lack of headlining applications will turn a lot of consumers off at point of sale, and it’s the image of the BlackBerry brand as a whole which needs to be worked on fast if it stands a chance of winning back the hearts of the general public.
The BlackBerry Z10 has the weight of a whole company on its plastic shoulders. It’s holding up, but we’re not sure for how long.
By John McCann, TechRadar