Thursday, March 7, 2013

Blackberry Z10


Blackberry had lost its way over the last few years. It had frankly average hardware paired to cloud-centric intelligence in the form of BIS or BES. With both, polling of your e-mail, calendar data and the like was done centrally, and then results pushed to the end-device. You couldn't ad hoc add a POP3 account, for example; it had to be added at the centre.


So in my opinion, Blackberry has never really had smartphones; they've had smart terminals, but as smartphones, they were pretty poor. I've played previously with a Bold 9000, and a Curve 8520; nice enough build, average performance and downright rubbish app selection.


That was the past. When Blackberry announced the Blackberry 10 OS, based on QNX (of single-floppy bootable GUI fame), there was the promise of getting to par with Blackberry's unarguable competition, Android and iOS, at least in features. And while I've only had a Z10 for two days, I thought it good to share some opinions.


Gone is the requirement for BIS or BES to do anything useful! The device is actually a smartphone; it has ActiveSync support out of the box, IMAP support and the like. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are integrated into the central messaging environment (called Hub), as are your texts, BBM's and other messaging systems. In addition, your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn contact data sync with your phonebook, so you can look at your contacts holistically rather than across multiple applications.


The device itself is very well made; it feels of premium quality, with a relatively minimalistic design. Easy and comfortable to hold, feels like a solid device and packs a 1800maH removable battery and removable microSD card. Yay, removable storage. Hardware is definitely a pass.



Software, on the other hand, is different. Not good or bad different, just … different. You can see that its got a UNIX or UNIX-like backend, and it feels like a polished skin on Android frankly. You swipe down from the top to access menus or additional features, you swipe up to access the task bar, and then its a swipe to the left to access the central message Hub, or a swipe to the right to access the fairly ubiquitous and Apple-like application menu.


So far, so good. In terms of the applications available, its a little miserable at the moment. The core ones (Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) are there, but nice to have applications like Skype and Whatsapp, and core applications to me like Google Drive, Google+ and in fact anything Google-related are simply not available. While I can live with these omissions for a short time, no matter how slick the experience is, I will ultimately be forced away from the platform due to a lack of "killer app".



And then the event (™) occurred. The device was charging, and several notifications for application updates, including one for Blackberry World, appeared. As you would, I chose the install all option, and went to sleep. I woke up and noticed the Blackberry World application's icon had changed, and it was now simply a square with a triangle, a circle and a crescent. And trying to run it would simply bring up the task manager. Hmmmm, this wasn't a good sign. And guess what ? There is no way to delete it, no way to repair, and no way to download another copy.



Ok, although its painful, lets reset the device. The only on-device option is called a security wipe, which other than taking very long, does what it says. All your user data is gone; and this is important, ONLY user data is removed. The phone rebooted and lo and behold, now I didn't have a broken Blackberry World application; I didn't have ANY Blackberry World application. Shit.


So, lets try and reinstall the OS. Oops, you can't. At least, not as a user. You have to give it to Blackberry. Given that this is a test device from Blackberry SA, I'd assume they were quite keen to resolve this problem quickly. Well, now been 24 hours since the problem was reported, and no action. Sigh.

Would I recommend this device ? Right now, no. In 3 months time ? Maybe.