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Review: New BlackBerry Z10 fails to stir interest

2012-07-04_14.27.36Improvements do not always translate to success. BlackBerry’s entry into the touchscreen smartphone market is hailed as a great step forward by many, but is not enough to bring back life to the ailing Canadian phone maker.

Formerly known as RIM (Research In Motion), BlackBerry established itself well among corporate clients and consumers before the smartphone became the norm. But the company failed to keep up and is now struggling to cope with the ever decreasing number of users over the past few years. Its new Z10 smartphone is the first concrete indication of the company’s willingness to take on the challenge to remain relevant, though as far as users are concerned the phone is generally boring. The Z10 will be released in North America soon and will be distributed by Verizon and AT&T. For all the generated hype about the phone, the Z10 is still not a flagship phone and is certainly not a savior for BlackBerry.

The Z10 can certainly compete with the current crop of smartphones in the market in terms of hardware. Proportion-wise, this phone is perfect: not too heavy, thickness is just right, and screen size is desirable. Yet, all these do not make the Z10 any better than say the iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S 3 or the newly launched S 4.

While the design is simple yet sleek, it still is not as exciting as the design on HTC One. Like phones with large-sized screens, the battery of Z10 is not that great although it allows you to use the phone through most of the day with moderate use. It handles voice calls smoothly and LTE is fast. Nothing impressive here though as most phones can do these things well now too.

The phone’s 1280×768 screen is not better than the top phones right now. Its camera is decent but works poorly on low light conditions, unlike Nokia Lumia’s 920.
The 1.5 GHz dual-core processor is a step behind Samsung Galaxy’s S 3, which sport a quad-core processing hardware.

Software and Apps
BlackBerry needs redemption but the Z10 is not the phone that can do it. While it falls under the modern smartphone category, the Z10 works well as a giveaway phone rather than as a flagship phone. That means BlackBerry has some hard work to do ahead. Even if this phone will feature the most amazing hardware today, this should only be part of the equation. A good smartphone should be able to also offer interesting software to be able to compete with the leading products like the iPhone 5 and Samsung’s Galaxy S series.

Because BlackBerry creates its own operating system, this should have been the major selling points of its phones. Rather, the company fails to differentiate itself from the competition by not creating features and designs centered on software.

Even with the best software features on the Z10, BlackBerry still needs to improve its platform significantly if it hopes to remain competitive. The new software updates are still boring and seem to cater only the needs of its loyal fanbase–government and corporate employees.

The fresh looking BlackBerry Hub allows a user to easily monitor one’s messages and social networking sites without switching between apps. But still this does not matter.
Apps-wise, the Z10 is bland. There are only a limited number of apps to use. Popular ones like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and Angry Birds are available but that’s about it. There are other thousands of useless apps to choose from that are as boring as the overall feel of the phone. There had been rumors that Rdio is making an app for the Z10 but so far none has surfaced yet. Other popular streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, Soundcloud, and Spotify are not available.

The built-in browser is a disappointment. It is slow, unattractive, and unintuitive. While it does function as a browser by giving you information you need, it is not as suave as the other mobile browsers available like the Google Chrome.

And if you think the Apple Map fiasco was the worst that could happen to a mapping mobile client, the BlackBerry 10 map will certainly make Apple Map a much better option. The bad news is that BlackBerry 10 users cannot even use Google Maps as an alternative.

But Z10 excels in one feature despite having all these downsides. The new phone’s keyboard is the best one in any smartphone there is right now. The touch detection capability as well as key spaciing offers unmatched accuracy compared to any leading smartphones available in its class.

Also, the predictive text feature can remember your regularly used phrases and words, sometime allowing you to type just one letter for an entire sentence. It picks up your conversation habits over time really fast.

Great as it is, perfecting the keyboard seems the only good thing that came out of this new phone if we compare it with other smartphones. BlackBerry is apparently trying to retain its loyalists who can’t seem to switch to touchscreen during the last few years while the rest of the world has already been using touchscreen.

While the rest of the competition like Apple and Google are busy focusing resources in coming up with innovative products, BlackBerry on the other hand occupies itself pleasing its loyal fanbase with an excellent keyboard, while offering nothing fresh or exciting.

This is enough reason to steer clear of BlackBerry Z10.

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