After using my BlackBerry Z10 for a few weeks now, my initial excitement for the BlackBerry 10 platform has not worn off — thanks to the BlackBerry Hub, awesome keyboard, application switcher, and attractive hardware.
Everything in BlackBerry 10 is based on Flow, the gesture-based navigation and controls; and after using the Z10 for a few weeks I now find myself swiping all over my other phones. Like the Nokia N9 with MeeGo, I love that I can unlock the Z10 with a simple swipe up from below the display. After the display is on, the fun just continues.
I find that both Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 are more focused on centralized communications than Android and iOS. In Windows Phone, you can quickly view relevant communications (text messages, status updates, call history) with pinned Live tiles associated with people or groups. BlackBerry 10's Hub lets you quickly view communications and notifications in one central location, and I find myself living in the Hub probably 75 percent of the time I am using the Z10.
While Windows Phone is more centered around people, the BB Hub is focused on accounts — so you can view all of your communications or easily filter by type of communication. I also like that all the communications are actionable from within the Hub. Android now does a better job of this with Jelly Bean notifications, but the notification drawer is not "sticky" enough for efficient communications management.
My only real issue with the BB Hub at the moment is the inability to move to the next message in an account from within a message you are viewing. It requires a swipe back to the Hub first. Granted, it is only an additional tap, but it seems a simple swipe to go to the next message (like we see in Gmail on Android) is a valid gesture.
I can adapt to most phone keyboards and prefer them over QWERTY keyboards. I tried different types on Android, and am satisfied with the ones on iOS and Windows Phone. However, the BlackBerry 10 keyboard — with its slick next letter word prediction — rocks. I love how I can enter text in sentences by only tapping and swiping up a minimum number of times. The more you use BB10, the more the keyboard improves for your vocabulary, and I feel it is the best software keyboard available.
RIM has always excelled at hardware QWERTY keyboards, and now they are showing they can also lead with the software keyboard.
In addition to the gestures, BlackBerry Hub, and keyboard, another aspect of BlackBerry 10 that makes it efficient is the functional task switcher/manager. The task switcher on BB10 is a mashup of Windows Phone Live tiles and Android application switchers. On Android, the task switcher is different for each manufacturer, so the experience isn't always consistent. I like how BB10 supports up to eight applications at once, and provides useful updates in the task switcher view.
Integrated apps and well developed third-party apps will have the active thumbnail in the task switcher changing to support the thumbnail view. Given that the task switcher is where you end up with a "home gesture", it is used quite a bit on BB10.
BlackBerry Z10 hardware
I think the BlackBerry Z10 hardware also lends itself to efficiency and usefulness as a vital communications device. Like the iPhone 5, the BlackBerry Z10 is perfect for one-handed usage. Most high-end Windows Phone and Android smartphones are too large to use with one hand, and people today seem to prefer large displays. I do enjoy using my Galaxy Note II, but have to say that carrying the Z10 in my pocket and using it with one hand is actually pretty refreshing and enjoyable.
The display is just about perfectly sized at 4.2 inches and it looks fantastic, even to my aging 44-year-old eyes. I also like that I can output the display using the standard micro-HDMI port on the side of the Z10, and hope for some kind of landscape cradle accessory.
The battery life is not as good as I had hoped, but it is easy to swap it out for a backup on the go. I do carry external battery packs to charge devices up, but it is much more efficient and desirable to simply swap out a battery for another one. Also, the hardware will last longer since you can easily swap out a battery rather than having to tear apart a device to attempt a battery change.
I also like that the Z10 supports microSD cards up to 64GB in size. I found that putting photos and music on a microSD card and then popping it in the device is faster than transfer via BlackBerry Link.
Overall, I think BlackBerry has come out with an efficient and enjoyable communications-focused operating system that will serve BlackBerry fans well. It seems to me that the OS is designed to help you get things done without wasting time messing around with inefficiencies. The hardware is attractive as well, and hits the sweet spot for size and functionality.