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BlackBerry Z10 smartphone: Bloggers, tech sites praise hardware, mixed on software

Early testers don't see Android, iPhone users making leap to BlackBerry 10 in big numbers

By , Network World
February 01, 2013 10:02 AM ET
BlackBerry Z10
Credit: BlackBerry
BlackBerry Z10 smartphone

Network World - Tech blogs and news sites have been reporting on their weeklong experience with the just-announced BlackBerry Z10 smartphone, from BlackBerry, the company formerly known as Research in Motion. Here's a summary of some of their analysis and conclusions.

Many of the reviewers sounded almost surprised at the quality of phone's hardware and software. The new "gesture" user interface and its navigation conventions seemed to intrigue most reviewers, despite the fact of needing some time to learn and practice gestures and conventions. But their conclusions about whether the UI was a plus or a minus were more divided. Most seemed to think battery life was barely adequate.

[ FIRST LOOK: BlackBerry 10 smartphones ]

The number of native BlackBerry 10 apps is far,  more limited than the 70,000 currently being touted by BlackBerry: The latter number includes thousands of BlackBerry PlayBook tablets apps, some of them running unchanged on the smaller-screened Z10, and Android apps that run in a software emulator on the phone. BlackBerry has said that "1,000 of the top app partners will be making their applications available" for the Z10. But via email, through a PR staffer, the company wouldn't say which or even how many of those 1,000 partners had apps approved for the online catalog; or when the others would be available.

CIO.com's BlackBerry ace, Al Sacco, spent a week with the Z10 and praised the well-designed gesture UI, the underlying OS, and the overall industrial design of the new phone.

The BlackBerry 10 UI creates a unique experience. "It's very easy to check messages and notifications using the [BlackBerry] Hub [a central inbox that consolidates all notifications and messages, including social media] and I love that I can check any new notification without having to open up the inbox and leave the app or pages I'm using," Sacco writes. "Overall, I'm a big fan of the new UI and navigation features."

The Z10 is a "huge step in the right direction for the company," he writes.

But of the 17 apps he regularly and repeatedly uses on his Samsung Galaxy S III, only five (less than 30%) are present in the BlackBerry's online store, BlackBerry World: Twitter, Foursquare, Untappd, Facebook and a third-party Dropbox client. Missing are apps such as Instagram, Google+, Google Maps, Amazon Kindle, Netflix and Spotify.

"I've asked myself repeatedly since I received the BlackBerry Z10: Could I ditch my Android phone completely and use only the Z10?" Sacco writes. "The answer is no. Not yet at least. And that says an awful lot."

The Verge's Joshua Topolsky had a similar assessment of the phone's hardware, writing that it has a "safe, refined look; classy but understated. ... The Z10 is a fine, handsome phone."

The all-important display is equally "handsome," he writes. "I found its color reproduction, clarity, and touch response to be among the best I've used. That said, the screen's backlight seemed noticeably darker than many devices I compared it to ..." The phone's overall performance was "generally snappy and responsive."

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