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February 1, 2013

BlackBerry Z10: How Does It Stack Up Against Its Competition?

Device Garnering Many Good Reviews, and Some Bad

BlackBerry Z10
BlackBerry Z10

BlackBerry’s newly launched Z10 makes a good first impression.

It looks great with its sleek body and touchscreen technology, but will it be enough for BlackBerry to regain a healthy slice of the Smartphone market dominated by Samsung’s Android-powered devices and Apple’s iPhone?

Here are the specs:

Pricing for the BlackBerry Z10 — which will launch in Canada and the U.K. next week, but not until March in the U.S. — will vary depending on the carrier, but the Z10 will retail for roughly $150 on a three-year contract in Canada and about $200 for a two-year contract in the U.S.

The device has 3G and 4G LTE connectivity and features a 4.2-inch display — larger than the iPhone at four inches, but smaller than Samsung’s Galaxy S III at 4.8 inches.

The Z10’s display boasts 1280 x 768 resolution at 356 ppi pixel density. Only the Droid DNA has a higher density at 440 ppi. The device is 0.35 inches thick and weighs in at 0.3 pounds, which makes it comparable to Galaxy S III.

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BlackBerry Z10

The device is made of plastic and metal with a rubberized back. The back comes off easily allowing access to the battery. Its display features an all-glass panel fitted into the metal frame. While it is not made of Gorilla glass, it has similar properties and boasts an anti-grease coating.

The Z10 is powered by a 1.5 GHz dual core processor and has 2GB RAM — double that of the iPhone or Galaxy S III. It offers 16GB of storage, but will accept cards up to 32GB.

It features a USB 2.0 high speed port, allowing charging and data synchronization of the device with a USB cable and a micro HDMI for connection to HDTV or a projector.

The battery has up to 10 hours of talk time and up to 13 days standby time.

The Z10 features a standard eight-megapixel camera on the back that snaps 1080p HD videos and a two-megapixel camera in front with 3x digital zoom and is capable of 720p HD video.

The top three items of the BlackBerry 10 platform are Hub, Flow and Balance. Here is a breakdown:

• BlackBerry Hub — a single place to manage all conversations whether personal or work in e-mail, BBM messages, social media updates or notifications.

• BlackBerry Flow — enables features and apps to “flow seamlessly” together, helping the user complete the task at hand. “For example, you can tap on an attendee listed for a meeting to see their latest tweet or LinkedIn profile,” a BlackBerry press release reads. “Or tap the thumbnail of a picture you just took to launch the Picture editor and quickly apply a transformation or filter, then instantly share it with your contacts.”

• BlackBerry Balance — technology that separates and secures work applications and data from personal content on BlackBerry devices.

What the critics say:

Reviews of the Z10 have, primarily, been good although some faults have been noted.

CBC’s Peter Nowak describes the Z10 as “slick, fast and good looking, with only a few noticeable holes.”

On the plus side, Nowak says, is the speed and interface, the design and the Hub as well as the ports and removable battery.

“In terms of plugging things in and taking things out, the Z10 is everything the iPhone is not,” Nowak says.

He also says it is “ready to work.”

“The new BlackBerry comes office ready, with several pre-installed productivity apps, such as Evernote. Docs To Go lets you create documents, spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations, while Dropbox and Box cloud storage both come integrated.

“That means less set up and they work more smoothly with the phone as a whole. I had no problems opening all sorts of documents, photos or audio files.”

On the downside, he says, the Z10 has only 70,000 apps and, while many of the key ones are included, some notables such as Netflix and Instagram are missing.

Its Maps app is functional but boring, he adds, and the predictive typing can be annoying.

The New York Times’ David Pogue describes the Z10 as “lovely, fast and efficient, bristling with fresh, useful ideas.”

“And here’s the shocker — it’s complete. The iPhone, Android and Windows Phone all entered life missing important features. Not this one; BlackBerry couldn’t risk building a lifeboat with leaks,” Pogue says. “Some of BlackBerry 10’s ideas are truly ingenious. A subtle light blinks above the screen to indicate that something — a text, an e-mail message, voice mail, a Facebook post — is waiting for you. Without even pressing a physical button, you swipe up the screen; the Lock screen lifts like a drape as you slide your thumb, revealing what’s underneath. It’s fast and cool.”

In fact Pogues’s review was glowing almost the entire way through, although he did make note of a few missteps like needing more apps, a more powerful battery, a physical silencer switch and the inability to drag appointments in the calendar.

Also, “when you’ve used the faux Siri to dictate a message or e-mail, you can’t edit it, even manually,” he says.

CNet’s Jessica Dolcourt was less enthusiastic about the Z10, however.

While she says the “slick-looking” Z10 has enough features to satisfy both consumers and professionals such as a good camera and a sharp user interface, its “long list of OS inefficiencies and omissions sour the experience.”

The “unintuitive” gesture paradigm creates a learning curve and the device’s bare-bones maps app and a deficit of camera features are drawbacks.

The verdict:

The Z10 will breathe new life into the Canadian company and will likely increase its market share, especially if BlackBerry works on increasing its app library.

The fact that Grammy-winning pop singer Alicia Keys is the new face of BlackBerry may even help make the device a bit cooler with the under-30 crowd.

But, the Waterloo, Ont. firm took a long time coming up with the answer to its woes and it is unlikely it will catch Apple, let alone Samsung in the Smartphone race.

BlackBerry should be able to pull ahead of other smaller competitors like Nokia, Huawei and Sony, but the best finish the firm can achieve is third place.

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