Verizon BlackBerry Z10 Review: From an iPhone Owner

The BlackBerry Z10 arrives to a crowded smartphone market, crashing headlong into the iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One.

BlackBerry upped their game with the BlackBerry Z10, offering a full touch screen experience that delivers a very good keyboard, even without the trademark physical keyboard that BlackBerry users cling to in the face of iPhone and Android competition.

I spent the past two months with the Verizon BlackBerry Z10, in an attempt to immerse myself in the new BlackBerry 10 operating system which uses gestures instead of a home button to find out if the BlackBerry Z10 is worth trading in an iPhone or Android device for.

This BlackBerry Z10 review comes not from a diehard BlackBerry fan but from a daily iPhone and Android user who wanted to see if he could switch to the BlackBerry Z10.

Pros

  • Good Screen Quality
  • Removable Battery
  • Good Software Keyboard
Cons

  • Touch Gestures May Fail
  • Animations Slow App Launching
  • App Selection

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BlackBerry Z10 Review Video

Check out the BlackBerry Z10 review video for a quick summary of the Z10’s features, design and display, and to see how it compares to the iPhone 5.

Design

The BlackBerry Z10 looks a bit like a plastic iPhone 5 with no chamfered edges. The BlackBerry Z10 is slightly larger than the iPhone 5 thanks to a larger display, but overall the looks are similar.

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Despite the plastic design, the Z10 is well-built with a very solid feel. There isn’t the same cool metal feel as the iPhone 5, but the soft textured back makes for an easy to grip surface and there’s no worrying about scratches when you set the Z10 down on any surface.

The back of the BlackBerry Z10 pops off to provide access to a replaceable battery, the Verizon Wireless SIM card and a Micro SD card slot.

On the left side of the device is a Micro USB port for charging and connecting to a computer and a Mini HDMI port that can connect the Z10 to a HDTV or a projector. This makes for universal access to chargers and easy presentation sharing in a meeting room if you have a Mini HDMI to HDMI cable.

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The right side of the BlackBerry Z10 features volume control and a voice button sandwiched between them that users can hold to launch BlackBerry 10’s built-in voice control feature. It’s similar to holding the home button for Siri or finding the Google Now shortcut on Android devices.

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The power button is in the middle of the top of the device, next to a headphone jack. The Verizon BlackBerry Z10 features a Verizon logo near the earpiece and on the back.

While it’s no iPhone 5 in terms of design, it is a well-built smartphone that offers expandability thanks to a removable back, an area where the iPhone falls short.

BlackBerry Z10 Display

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The BlackBerry Z10 features a 4.2-inch display, slightly larger than the iPhone 5’s 4-inch display. The BlackBerry Z10 display is also higher resolution at 1280 x 768, compared to the iPhone 5’s Retina Display resolution of 1136 x 640. Both fall behind the large 1080P displays of the Galaxy S4 and HTC One.

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The BlackBerry Z10 display does boast a high pixel-per-inch ratio of 356, which translates into a good viewing experience. The 4.2-inch Z10 display offers sharp text, good-looking colors for photos and is quite bright. Ultimately the display is as good as the iPhone 5 when it comes to reading, watching photos and everyday use.

When it comes to touch, the Z10 display is good, but several times gestures and swipes did not register. This makes navigating a gesture based operating system difficult. It’s impossible to tell if this is something that a software update can fix, or if it’s a hardware issue.

BlackBerry Z10 Performance

BlackBerry Z10 Review -  008The BlackBerry Z10 isn’t a slow device, so users shouldn’t be scared off by specs listing a dual-core processor, when many smartphones come with a quad-core processor.

Navigating around the BlackBerry Z10 is fluid, and apps run well, but there are un-necessary animations that add to the time it takes to open an app and to unlock the device. When you tap on an app to launch, BlackBerry 10 pops you over to the running apps page and then opens it, which gets annoying quickly.

As far as swiping and gesture controls, the system is smooth though there are occasional swipes that don’t register.

The BlackBerry Z10 connects to Verizon’s 4G LTE network which performed better than the iPhone 5, holding a 4G LTE signal where the iPhone 5 would only connect to 3G. Speeds vary based on location, but are consistent with the fast speeds we’ve encountered on other Verizon 4G LTE devices. BlackBerry 10 includes a personal hotspot feature that can share this connection with other devices.

BlackBerry Z10 Battery Life

The BlackBerry Z10 includes a swappable battery, but it’s sufficient enough that average users won’t need to pack a spare. During an average day of use with emails, some web browsing and use of the camera, the Z10 lasted a full day.

On days with very heavy use of web browsing on 4G LTE and many phone calls, expect to recharge after about 8 hours. In terms of battery life this is about on par with an iPhone 5.

BlackBerry Z10 Call Quality and Audio

The BlackBerry Z10 excels at phone calls with a very nice dialer app and good call quality. Callers couldn’t tell a difference as I switched between the Z10 and the iPhone 5.

The Z10’s speakerphone is ok in an office or in the car, but the volume isn’t incredibly high so if there is background noise it may be un-usable.

As for music, the Z10 features a loud speaker that directs sound out the bottom of the device. It is loud enough to fill a small office or hotel room, but sound quality trails behind the iPhone 5 and the HTC One with muddy middle tones. Bring a Bluetooth speaker if you plan to listen to music.

BlackBerry Z10 Camera

The Z10 camera is ok, but when it came to capturing fast-moving subjects like puppies or photos in even average lighting the camera didn’t match up to the iPhone and Android competition.

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Launching the camera from the lock screen takes a few seconds as you must hold the camera icon to launch the app. Once inside the app, tap anywhere to take a photo or tap on the volume up slider. To focus, you cannot tap, but need to drag a focusing box around the screen and then tap to take a picture.

The camera offers a few options, but no HDR or panorama photos are in the settings. Check out a collection of samples below.

Software and Apps

With the BlackBerry Z10 comes BlackBerry 10, a new operating system designed to bring BlackBerry into the modern smartphone market. BlackBerry 10 relies on gestures to navigate through the operating system which means a large learning curve for iPhone and Android users.

After a few weeks it was easy to remember which gestures did what, but in practice it can be frustrating because not every app offers settings in a swipe down gesture and if the phone rotates to landscape as you hold it a swipe up won’t exit unless the screen is oriented correctly. The Kindle app would not offer access to settings no matter how or where I swiped, until 2 weeks later when it magically worked and let me sync progress on a book.

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A swipe up on the lock screen unlocks the phone, while pulling down offers access to the Alarm and a clock. Launching apps is delayed by the animations that push users over to the running apps screen.

When swiping up, if you stop halfway you can check notifications in the BlackBerry Hub. The BlackBerry Hub is where Email, BBM, calendar, Facebook, twitter and other notifications live. This is accessed with a left swipe from the main screen. This is handy to check things, but in practice if you read a Twitter notification on a desktop there is nothing to mark it as read here and marking all as read is a cumbersome process.

Where the BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry 10 experience started to fall apart for me as an Android and iPhone user was the app selection. Yes, it is better than in the past, but it is missing apps I use on a daily basis. Here are just a sample of missing apps.

  • Spotify
  • Pandora
  • Netflix
  • HBO GO
  • Google Authenticator
  • An official Gmail App

While there are some paid third-party options, the lack of first-party support from these companies is an issue that can’t be ignored if you are switching from iPhone or Android to BlackBerry 10.

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The BlackBerry Z10 lacks a physical keyboard like most BlackBerries, but it includes a very good software keyboard that lets users swipe up on a letter to push a prediction to the text entry box. This is very nice to use, and quick to learn. The typing experience is better than on the iPhone 5, and it beats the built-in Galaxy S4 keyboard.

Is the BlackBerry Z10 Worth It?

If you already own a BlackBerry and or are required to use a BlackBerry for work, and can switch away from a physical QWERTY keyboard the BlackBerry Z10 is worth considering.

However, if you are using an iPhone or Android device, switching to the BlackBerry Z10 will not be an easy experience. Learning the new operating system and gestures is simple enough, but the lack of important apps, animation delays and overflowing BB Hub are too important to overlook.

BlackBerry is offering updates to BlackBerry 10, and there are rumors of a BlackBerry Z10 successor in the works, so there is hope for the platform to compete with iPhone and Android, but ultimately it’s not the BlackBerry Z10 that will win the fight.

BlackBerry Z10 Gallery

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Comments

  1. Homer says

    Fair enough review. I think the main issue is what you use your phone for. If it is a media/app consumption device, then the z10 isn’t there yet. If it is a productivity device, the z10 (and even moreso the Q10) is spot on.

  2. Larry says

    Ya I think the same as you there homer, for media and app cons. It’s def not there, but my opinion I will give blackberry a thumbs up they came a long way since the faulty blackberry storm!! And to step up to the plate in today’s busy smart phone time I will have a great score card for blackberry, it’s very nice I did have a hands on a while ago but chose the HTC ONE!! Even that’s not all 100% nothing is 100%

    • emma rex says

      Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job Ive had. Last Monday I got a new Alfa Romeo from bringing in $7778. I started this 9 months ago and practically straight away started making more than $83 per hour. I work through this link, http://Bling6.com

  3. Nne (@SpirytSista) says

    I just swtiched to an iphone5 from a Bold touch, and it drives me crazy. Like homer says. it depends on what you need the phone for. Blackberry is optimized for productivity, while iphones are optimized for when you want to be unproductive- games and browsing through random photos on instagram. the iphone is fun, but when it comes to effective and efficient communication, BB is still tops. the BB can still catch up in the fun-and-games- rankings, steadily but surely

  4. pfezziwig says

    re: From an iPhone Owner

    I respect your iPhone owner reference in the title. Listening to Android and iPhone reviewers try the Z10 for a day (or not at all) and trash it online is the norm nowadays, your critique holds much more credibility.

  5. Steve-G says

    Fair review over all.

    It would be interesting if you tried side-loading your favorite apps and review how they work on the Z10. I installed Netflix and it works fine for me.

    BB World has a huge selection of music and movies… all the latest box office hits are available for download. And you can watch them on a big screen using the HDMI port/cable. If you have a Playbook, you can connect it to the TV set and use the Z10 as a remote.

    • Jason says

      yea, I got the netfix working also… of course the reviewer left that out about side loading cos he is apple fan and wouldn’t want to point that out,, can an iphone runs android apps too? really this phone doesn’t win the fight as he says. lol. Reminds me of the Microsoft fans of yesterday. lol I love how these fans get so personal about win or loss. Apple will be just like Microsoft.. antiquated!

      • Bbrysucks says

        You sir, are a whiny little beatch. Nothing less, nothing more.
        Face it, you failed at buying a new crapberry. Blame no one but yourself.

  6. Dan says

    Z-10 is not a toy it is a business tool. Your recap comparison failed to mention, Security,HDMI out,superior web browser, memory card (32-64 gig) and the fact that any i-phone is can be hacked in one minute….

  7. Dan says

    Ten Things a Blackberry Z-10 can do that a i-phone can’t.
    HDMI out and standard charging ports
    Expandable storage 64G
    Removable battery
    Runs Android apps
    Share screen feature
    virtual keyboard (superior)
    Blackberry Hub for all messages
    Blackberry 10 active frames
    Blackberry balance for personal and corporate

    Sorry I-phone you do not stack up..you are a little long of tooth

    • Bbrysucks says

      Yawn.

      Who wants an HDMI cable when you can do it wirelessly and not have your phone attached to your tv. Lol.
      Who cares about expandable storage with the 30 different free online storage facilities plus far better streaming options (and codecs). You don’t needs to have 3 months worth of junk on your device that you don’t need or use.
      Who cares about a removable battery unless your battery can’t last a day.
      Who cares about running android apps if using an iOS device. No one, because not only the largest selection but the best quality apps are on iOS.
      Who gives an F about screen sharing. No one. Period.
      Keyboard is subjective. Most people get alone just fine with whatever keyboard they use.
      The hub is very much like the notification cent on any other device. Too bad the email client is sub par. That and blackberry has to write its own apps since major vendors (ie Facebook) want nothing to do with it.
      Active frames are just another task switcher. Stolen from an iPhone jailbreak tweak called card switcher no less.
      Why have a “balance” when there’s nothing to balance with. No apps.

      • mirza says

        Can your iPhone download any file from your computer to your device? Battery swaps are useful when working heavy hours. The browser is one of the fastest out there. In notification center can you open an email, download pdf attachments, and reply, without pausing the song you are playing? Active frames can give you vital info without having to actually open the apps. And it’s a STOCK feature.

        • Sanjeeva Shukla says

          Well said Mirza! Xcept for its build quality, the bb10 wins hands down against the iPhone 5. In fact, in build, bb10 loses out to fair many other phones too. Even my Storm 2 felt sturdier. Don’t think the bb design guys cared too much about design and feel of bb10 anywayz. Hope Fairfax, the new owners of BlackBerry put more steel and metal in the next avatars of the blackberries.

  8. Brian Dowd says

    The author ignores the side loading option for Android apps- even though he claims to have used the Z10 for 2 months “immersing” himself in the experience?? The odd thing for me about this review is his criticism that BB10 does not have an “official Gmail App”. What is that? In 2 months was he unable to realize BB can handle any gmail account natively within the operating system. He didn’t bother to add his gmail account to BB?
    I also think it’s odd he did not note the browser’s speed- my Z10 seems to be quite a bit faster than my friends’ iPhone 5 browsers.
    And no mention of time shift with the camera?
    I will not bash the iPhone, I bought my first Mac SE in 1989 and am writing this from my MB Air, but it seems that in the 2 months this fellow “immersed” himself with the Z10, it was probably for the 10 minutes a day he spent in the commode.

  9. Sanjeeva Shukla says

    Yups friends…. Z10 is an eminently business phone boldly trying to pretend it’s some fun too. Z10 does everything that’s less important almost as well as an android or an iphone 5. But beats both on things that’re most important for smartphones – connectivity, security and productivity. let’s not compare apples with workhorses.

    • Bbrysucks says

      Sorry Sanyo, better keep up with your security knowledge. Android and iOS have caught up and far surpassed any security blackberry was once known for. Not just in email, but every single communication protocol.
      Try using pgp and openvpn. Not gonna happen.
      Also, everything on a bb is encrypted with 3DES. Not so bright. iOS uses AES as standard whole device encryption.

      • Sanjeeva says

        Sucks! I don’t need to protect jingle bells and rhymes and playboy pin-up blondes lad. There’s serious business data and communication that needs to be secured. AES notwithstanding, iPhone 5 looks best in ToyzRus!’

      • Sanjeeva Shukla says

        Sucks! Clear your head on security, kid. IPhone simply locks you inside your own flat while the BlackBerry tricks gaurd the whole of your apartment block. Apple has understood security only as something to bar it’s devices from talking to other platforms and to protect your lullybys and cartoons from being hacked, your emails and spreadsheets be damned. Even media stuff, I’ve managed to break into laughing. Grow up.

  10. wyatt says

    I think this is inaccurate because there is a Pandora app just under a different name also there is an hdr camera mode with the blackberry 10.1 software update. Finally my sister switched from a galaxy s3 to the BlackBerry z10 and she loves the BlackBerry.

  11. james says

    Terrible review. This person is def an I phone fan. Listen Blackberry z10 does way more than the sorry ass I phone. More features etc. Better keyboard. You do things so much faster on the z10. Faster Brower than ios, or android. Need I keep going? I’m so tired of writers clinging on to that tired old ios. Listen. It’s over. Apple had its time now they are sliding because users are bored with them. Look at the amount of people that have left and went to SG 4… people want a better experience and apple doesn’t offer it, SG 4 and Z 10.

    • Bbrysucks says

      To sum it up. You lie. And you couldn’t be farther from the truth. Dumb dee dumb dumb.

  12. Ben S. says

    I disagree that the gestures are confusing. I’ve been using a z10 for less than a week and I’m faster moving between apps and checking email than on any other device I’ve owned.

    Having said that I think the iPhone keyboard or android keyboard with Swype are more efficient than the BlackBerry keyboard although I think blackberry will improve on this soon.

  13. thinhsonys says

    Tonight in Live Event BlackBerry 2013, BlackBerry has officially launched the BlackBerry Q5 – high-end smartphone operating system, BlackBerry OS 10 (which many times previously leaked as the R10). In the hardware configuration, the Q5 is equipped with a touch screen size 3.1 “, with physical QWERTY keyboard complete as Q10, Q5 but the keys are designed as separate – similar BlackBerry Curve previous
    line. known though is the cheap phone, but the Q5 is integrated some advanced technology such as the Z10 and Q10 Time Shift feature BlackBerry Maker and Story…Readmore: http://goo.gl/rxosx

  14. Asset Mobile says

    Over all I like what blackberry is doing. It just seems like there was lag on the phone from the video. I am not convinced on switching back to blackberry for it.

  15. Volpes says

    I think it would be just easier to look at the price tags and see which one is actually worth the money. Try even used devices.

  16. Alvin says

    BlackBerry’s BlackBerry Z10 is genuinely a pretty nice phone. Performance, helped by the lightweight QNX-based OS, is more than acceptable. The form factor offers you plenty of screen size in a device that may not feel luxurious, but does at least seem durable.

  17. Andy says

    After about 15 minutes with the Z10, we can’t help but walk away impressed with their new BlackBerry 10 mobile device. BlackBerry hasn’t been on the minds of mobile phone users for some years now, but they certainly got our attention with the Z10.

  18. Alagamuthu Malhotra says

    iPhone 5s is at best the 2nd best phone after Blackberry Z10. I would rather give preference to my security than just go for fun in an iphone. Even Apple &Google accept that Blackberry is superior in security, BB sells just because of its high security. On other features Z10 matches iPhone 5s so where is the worry? Android as such is a 3rd choice for all sane minds who are in business. Z10, 5s & then the androids. This guy seems to have no knowledge about phones to write a review.

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