BlackBerry lost out when other smartphones (mainly iPhone and Android) used apps to tempt business users and touchscreens began to prevail over keyboard-driven interfaces.
BlackBerry 10 is the former business and teen-messaging brand’s comeback. It’s a decent revamp, with an infinitely swipable screen that eventually takes you through all the content on your phone.
It makes the few home screens on Android and iPhone handsets seem a bit passé. Navigation is still a little strange though. You swipe upwards from the very bottom of the Z10 to unlock the phone, and can then peek at incoming messages and friends’ status updates via a vertical split screen. A 3D effect sees you zooming in and out of panes. BlackBerry’s new mantra is that everything is seamlessly connected and you don’t need to dive in and out of separate apps to see what’s happening.
Messaging support is unsurpassed, with amazingly fast text entry possible. Word suggestions pop up as you type but without distracting you. Contacts, BBM and text messaging apps, plus a Remember app to prompt you about appointments are included.
Web browsing is very slick and, as with previous BB operating systems, media management is very good. You can rename as well as enhance photos, then search for anything within your media library. Disappointingly, you can only use BBC iPlayer in its browser incarnation and downloads are not supported, as they are for iOS and Android. However, the BlackBerry 10 version launched before the Windows Phone 8 one, suggesting at least one big app player’s confidence in its future.
More than 70,000 apps launched with BlackBerry 10 OS in January, many of them high-profile such as Kindle ebook reader, Skype and WhatsApp for free messaging and media download tools to come. Business apps are well represented, while social media must-haves Facebook, Twitter and the more corporate LinkedIn are all preinstalled. Skype is promised soon.
Installing apps is straightforward, though app reviews on BlackBerry World are understandably scant. Music, Games and Books are presented as sections of a single app and content hub.
Video editing via the excellent Story Maker joins the standard photo, music and video libraries in BlackBerry 10. Docs To Go offers native document editing. Store and sync them via Dropbox or Box online archives. You can even Print To Go.
NFC smart tags and voice controls ensure BlackBerry 10 covers most bases, but there’s no stand-out feature to put this slick system ahead of its rivals. However, for many people, it's the dearth of apps which make the Z10 or Q10 less appealing than a new iPhone or Android handset.
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