BlackBerry Z10 - Playing Catch-up

Launch SRP: S$918

Features

BlackBerry 10 OS 

The foundation of BB10 OS is built from QNX Software System, which it acquired from Harman International in 2010. QNX has been widely acclaimed by the industry to be a very versatile, scalable and reliable platform that is used in cars and space shuttles.

If you recall, the PlayBook is the first BlackBerry device to be powered by QNX although the initial version of QNX bears some resemblance to the BlackBerry 6 OS. For BB 10, it is a totally different OS with a unique look of its own. Here's a video presentation by Vivek Bhardwaj, Head of Software Portfolio at BlackBerry showing how the UI was designed and its key features. Right after the video break, we've rounded up a brief guide to navigating the interface:-


The Lock Screen

The lock screen looks similar to that of a stock Android or iOS mobile operating system. If there are any new notifications, they will appear on the left side of the screen. A camera shortcut button is visible at the bottom right corner of the screen.

To unlock straight into camera mode, tap and hold the camera icon. Do not expect the Z10 to unlock as fast as its Android, iOS and Windows Phone counterparts. To unlock onto the home screen, swipe up from the bottom bezel. The screen will reveal the home screen as you swipe upwards. PlayBook users should be familiar with this gesture as the tablet lock screen is unlocked in a similar manner. 

Compared to the competition, BB's concept seems basic. HTC and Samsung are well-known for enabling their users to unlock four or five apps/shortcuts straight from the home screen. For Android 4.2, users can swipe from the left edge of the screen to add or reveal lock screen widgets.

Windows Phone 8, on the other hand, gives its users the option to put app notifications on the lock screen. For example, there are options for you to choose to display detailed status updates from one app, upcoming appointments from the calendar or the latest email messages.

 

Home Screen and Multitasking

 

BB10's home screen looks like the typical iOS home screen - apps and folders are listed panel after panel. You can drag one app onto another to create a folder. To rearrange the app or folder, tap and hold until the app or folder "breathing". Again, PlayBook users are likely to be familiar with this.

Android interface has the flexibility of adding widgets and resizing them according to users' preferences on the home screens while Windows Phone UI is basically made up of Live Tiles, which displays information that can be easily viewed in a glance. In other words, BB10 offers nothing unique from the competition, and slipped behind in some aspects.

If you want to switch or launch another app, swipe up from the bottom bezel of the display. This will minimize the app into an Active Frame, a multitasking feature of BB10.  In its minimized state, the app is still active and functioning. Some apps such as Calendar and Weather will continue to display information to you.

BB10 supports up to 8 Active Frames (or 8 apps running in the background). The most recently accessed app will always occupy the top left corner of the Multitasking panel. It is important to note that if you open more than 8 apps, BB10 will automatically quit the older app(s). Tapping on the small "X" icon at the bottom right corner of each Active Frame will enable you to quit the app.

BB10's multitasking concept is somewhat similar to Windows Phone 8, where a maximum of 8 apps can run or remain suspended in the background. As for Android and iOS, you certainly can have more than 8 apps running in the background or remain suspended. 

 

BlackBerry Hub - Messaging and Social Media Matters

 

The most celebrated feature of BB10 is the BlackBerry Hub, which is a universal inbox for all messages and notifications (email text, BBM, social media, updates from third-party apps).

It can be accessed from any app or task that you are currently using via a swipe up gesture, followed by a swipe to the right. You can decide whether to read the incoming notification by swiping halfway to see if it is important or reverse the gesture to go back to what you were doing.

The first swipe gesture will bring you to the universal inbox where you will see all the messages and notifications. If you think it is too messy, you can either search for specific messages via the Search tool or swipe right to reveal a list of services and accounts linked to the BB Hub. From there, you can filter the content by service or account.

You also can view the agenda for the day by swiping down. Do note that the swipe gesture has to be done within the screen (and not from the the bezel) as you may accidentally pull down the quick settings menu instead.

What if you view a message in the Hub and want to reply? Long press on the message and a list of options will pop up on the right side of the screen. There is a button characterized by three vertical dots at the bottom of the list, which will reveal the labels of the options. This also works if you select multiple messages and if they come from different services or accounts, only the options that are supported on these accounts will be displayed.

If you come from the Android or iOS camp, the BB Hub may seem to be too much of a hassle since you rely on a series of swipe gestures to see the notifications and respond to them. This is especially true when you can just swipe down from the top, and see part of the contents of the messages. If you want to reply, simply tap on the notification and it will bring you straight to the app. Moreover, the swipe gestures used in the Hub may be confusing for first time users.

Nonetheless, the concept of having a universal inbox for all your notifications and messages may appeal more to busy users who want to have an overview of everything at a single glance. Below is video on how BB Hub works: - 

 

BlackBerry World - -The App Ecosystem)

The survival of a mobile platform depends mainly on the ease of use and ecosystem of apps. If a platform does not have popular apps that are available in competing platforms, consumers have less incentives to switch over. 

At launch, BlackBerry stated that its app store had 70,000 BB10 apps. Sounds impressive, doesn't it? Well, BlackBerry Vice President Martyn Mallick said in a Q & A session during the launch that 40% are made up of Android apps that are ported over to BB10. As ported apps lack the quality of native apps, BlackBerry is using financial incentives to attract developers to code native apps for BB10.

One of the most popular apps, WhatsApp, will be coming to BB10 this month, although no specific date is mentioned. Other commonly used apps such as Instagram and Pulse News Reader are notably absent on BlackBerry World. 

*Update: Evernote is integrated into BB10. A third-party Dropbox client is also preloaded on the Z10.

It seems that it might take a bit longer for developers to have confidence before consumers can see more popular apps being coded for BB10. BlackBerry may have a decent start, but we all know that sustaining the momentum in the long term is more crucial.

 

BlackBerry Keyboard 

When BlackBerry showcased the new touch screen typing experience for BB10 at BlackBerry World 2012, we were very intrigued at the concept of the keyboard being intelligent enough to predict the words that users will type, and how it is able to adapt to the individual's writing style.

According to BlackBerry, the keyboard learns the words you use frequently, and then offers these words as options as you compose your message. Therefore, the keyboard becomes "smarter" in predicting your next word overtime.

We were initially not used to flicking the words up as they appear above each letter, but within a short span of time, we were typing faster and more accurately. The difference in the typing experience is most apparent when you switch back to using an Android, iOS or Windows Phone devices; that's when you begin to appreciate the BB10 keyboard. Check out the video below on how advanced the BB10 keyboard is: - 

8.0
Design
8.5
Features
8.5
User-Friendliness
7.5
Performance
8
Value
6.5
The Good
Highly intelligent keyboard
Nifty camera tricks
Good design and handling
The Bad
Expensive
UI navigation takes time to adapt
Battery life in real-world use can be better
App ecosystem is limited
Screen Share limited to BB10 devices