Hands on with the first BlackBerry 10 handset: The Z10 in photos

BlackBerry 10 has officially launched, so ZDNet went hands-on with one of the first handsets off the production line to see what it has to offer.
By Ben Woods, Contributor
1 of 10 Ben Woods/ZDNET

Research In Motion, now called simply 'BlackBerry', has finally announced details of its first BlackBerry 10 handset, the 4G-capable BlackBerry Z10.

The device is the first to use the new BlackBerry 10 OS based around the concepts of Hub, Flow and Peek, and signals BlackBerry's ambition to take on rival headline-dominating handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 or iPhone.

The Z10's core specs include a 4.2-inch 4-point multi-touch display with a 1280 x 768 pixel resolution, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 2GB RAM and 16GB of internal storage, which can be augmented by an additional 32GB with a microSD card.

While the device is clearly aimed at traditional BlackBerry users, BlackBerry also knows it needs to appeal to consumers too (including the Bring Your Own Device crowd). It's covering both input bases: the Z10 will come with a touchscreen, and a Qwerty and touchscreen equipped model (also announced on Wednesday) to be released in the near future.

The Z10's lock screen, which shows notification updates on the left-hand side without the need to unlock the device, is shown above.

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Other key specs include an 8-megapixel camera with auto-focus, capable of capturing 1080p HD footage and a front-facing 2-megapixel camera with digital zoom that can capture stills and 720p video footage.

If you're a 4G customer, the phone will also happily support 4G LTE in the 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2.1GHz bands. In the UK, the 800MHz and 1800MHz frequencies are used for 4G, as is 2.6GHz — although the latter is not supported by the Z10. In contrast, some networks in the US use the 700MHz and 2.1GHz bands.

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Firing up the device, you're not really greeted by a home screen, and there isn't a home button either. Instead, you'll see the screen with open/running apps displayed as an Active Frame (denoted by a slightly different icon to the left of the app screen indicators), similar to Windows Live tiles.

Developers also have access to this functionality, and can build apps that use the live update aspect of Active Frames.

The most recently used app is always top left of the screen and up to eight of the most recently running apps can be shown. In the image above, the app in the bottom left-hand corner is the system's File Manager, which gives a live display of how much space is left in each area: the SD card, the internal storage and in a linked Dropbox account. 

4 of 10 Ben Woods/ZDNET

Swiping from right to left from this screen takes you to a traditional list of apps, similar to those found on iOS and Android. These are split into pages of 16 icons, and you can also create folders of apps by dropping them on top of each other.

Ahead of the launch of BlackBerry 10, BlackBerry realised that it would need big-name apps in the BlackBerry World app store on day one. Out of the box, the Z10 comes with apps such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, YouTube, Box, DropBox, Flixster and some news apps pre-installed. There's also the obligatory Angry Birds game (Star Wars edition, if it's a deal-breaker).

It also comes with a new version of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) that now includes video calling, bringing the service in line with similar offerings such as Skype or Apple's FaceTime. BlackBerry 10 users can make BBM video calls with other BlackBerry 10 users and PlayBook owners, but with older BlackBerry handsets, they'll only be able to make voice calls.

5 of 10 Ben Woods/ZDNET

Hub is one of the three main concepts underpinning BlackBerry 10 (along with Peak and Flow).

BlackBerry Hub is the integrated inbox with all your messages and communications including calls, text messages, work email, personal email, social networking updates or calendar notifications.

If that all sounds a bit much, you can filter the inbox by service, so that you're only looking at one of those categories, for example.

6 of 10 Ben Woods/ZDNET

Peek refers to the way in which you can 'peek' at your Hub and notifications without leaving whatever you were already doing.

For example, in the picture above, swiping up from the centre-middle of the screen to the middle-right hand side of the screen activates Peek and shows notifications waiting in the Hub. The platform also uses a Peek-like dissolve animation as you swipe from the bottom to the top of the device to unlock it.

Flow, on the other hand, is BlackBerry's name for the way in which people navigate the BlackBerry 10 OS, flowing from task to task, peeking at things along the way.

7 of 10 Ben Woods/ZDNET

Quick, uniform access to features is something BlackBerry has paid particular attention to with BlackBerry 10, and as such, swiping from the left-hand side, bottom or top of the screen results in a predictable action.

For example, swiping down from the top gives you access quick access to system shortcuts, regardless of whether you're using an app or on the home screen (pictured above).

Similarly, swiping from the left-hand side brings up feature options of any open app, for example, allowing you to select between local, SD card and Dropbox storage within the File Manager app.

And swiping up from the bottom centre of the screen always returns you to the Active Frames screen and displays the shortcuts to the phone dialler, camera and universal search box (visible at the bottom of the screen in the picture above).

8 of 10 Ben Woods/ZDNET

The browser on board the Z10 includes a private browsing mode, tabs, bookmarks and Flash support, and is highly HTML5 compatible.

It also has options for pinning sites to the home screen and a Reader mode that strips out all the superfluous content, as shown in the before and after picture above.

9 of 10 Ben Woods/ZDNET

Think of BlackBerry and you think of a keyboard: while the Z10 doesn't have a physical QWERTY, it does have a smart onscreen one.

Like other systems, it uses predictive text to suggest the next potential word in the sentence, but it does it in-line with the letters being used, rather than a bar at the top (although this is an option). In the example above, it is suggesting likely words beginning with 'h' as well as 'j' in case that first letter was a mistype.

To insert one of the suggested words, you just swipe upwards; to delete, you just swipe backwards. The messaging application also accepts voice input.

In order to make typing more accurate over time, not only does it learn by scanning emails and texts (all done locally) but it also has a virtual second keyboard underneath the on screen one. So, if as you use the device, it realises you always hit the outer edge of the 'S' button, for example, it will very slightly shift the alignment of the keys to make sure you hit the one you intended.

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The Z10 itself measures 130mm tall, 65.6mm wide, 9mm thick and weighs just over 137g, making it about the same weight and slightly slimmer than the iPhone 4.

The device also came with an unexpected surprise in the box — a Bluetooth speaker. Even better, it didn't require any kind of pairing, just switch on both devices and it should auto-pair and start streaming audio out of the white box. 

The opening on the speaker clip was designed to be just large enough to fit on a sun visor in a car, BlackBerry told ZDNet.

All images Ben Woods/ZDNet

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