Review: BlackBerry 10
According to BlackBerry, there are 70,000 applications available to BB10 devices. What BlackBerry isn't telling you is that 40% of them are repackaged Android apps and not native BB10 apps. You probably can't tell the difference between the two. There are a number of good apps for U.S. users, there's no doubt of that, but I still find many marquee apps to be missing. For example, the following apps aren't available: Amazon, CNN, eBay, Tumblr, VeVo, PayPal, Slacker, Pandora, HBO Go, Soundcloud, Instagram, and many, many others. To be fair, apps that are available include USA Today, Foursquare, United, ESPN Sportscenter, Tunein Radio, Flixster, The Weather Channel, and others.
There are no Google apps at all, except Google Talk and YouTube, and those were made by BlackBerry, not Google. This will change over time, but make sure you're favorite apps are there before you take the leap.
BlackBerry Balance is a tool that will be used by businesses (through BES 10) to separate business information from personal information on BB10 devices. Since I am using a consumer device, I was unable to test this feature. There are two main principles behind the feature. First is work/life balance, and second is security.
The work/life balance component is most evident in BlackBerry Hub. Using the system settings, device owners can selectively turn on/off which messaging apps/services reach their device. For example, they can turn off their corpoerate email, but leave their personal email on. They can turn off LinkedIn, but keep Facebook running. Users can also do the reverse of these when they need to concentrate on work, but turning off or otherwise muting their personal accounts.
The other aspect is to safeguard corporate data. BlackBerry Balance can be used by IT administrators to delete all the work email, contacts, files, and apps, for example, while leaving the owner's personal email, photos, and apps untouched.
This is BlackBerry's Find My Phone equivalent. Once turned on, it can be used to track or locate a stolen BlackBerry. The location can be pinpointed on a map if you so wish. It can also be used to call the phone, send an alert to the device, flash the owner's contact details, lock the device, or wipe the device. It is free to use this service, and takes only a few moments to configure.
BlackBerry 10 can be customized far less than competing platforms. The background image (wallpaper) can be changed, but there's one wallpaper for both the lock screen and home screen. You don't get separate images for both. There are some stock backgrounds provided, but you can also choose to add your own or choose from your photo library.
BB10 does include plenty of tools for controlling ringer and alert profiles. There are a half dozen profiles, each of which can be set with its own incoming call ringers, email and messaging notifications, and so on. You can set fonts and font sizes, set passwords (hard ones, BB10 doesn't allow easy passwords), manage device storage, media sharing, and so on.
Apps can be arranged on the app screens and stored in folders, but there is no home screen to speak of, and there's no control over the multitasking screen. This is perhaps what bugs me most about the operating system.
The BlackBerry keyboard has been completely rewritten. It is much, much better than the horrid touchscreen keyboard offering in BB7 on devices such as the Torch.
The five-row virtual keyboard has a dedicated row for numbers. I like that. Punctuation is also easy to call up thanks to the shift key and dedicated period and comman keys. It’s pretty good at recognizing what you're typing, and I found my accuracy improved over time. I improved for two reasons: I got more used to it, and it got more used to me. The BB10 keyboard pays attention to where your fingers land and matches that against what it thinks you're trying to type and what you actually end up typing. It uses this to make corrections when you're typing to get the right word.
The keyboard also tries to predict what your next word will be. It takes awhile to get used to the word prediction, which I found was accurate less than half the time. But even 50% accuracy is half as many words you need to type. Part of the way it works is, as you type, completed words will appear on the frets between the keys. Those suggestions are positioned where the user needs to type next to finish the word. For example, if you want to type the word "have" you type "H" then "A". As you do that, suggetions will appear. The suggestion for "have" appears over the "V", but the suggestion for "hate" appears over the "T", and so on. It basically guides you along. Eventually, you'll get far enough along in the word and the entire thing will appear in the space bar. Press the space bar to load the entire word and then start with the next one. It really takes some getting used to.
BB10 supports near-field communications, ostensibly so the Z10 and Q10 can be used with mobile payment systems. There is an NFC control app on board. Despite my efforts, I could not get the Z10 nor the NFC control app to recognize any other NFC device or tag. I have a number of blank tags that haven't been programmed with actions. The Z10 could not even see these, which it should have, because they haven't been programmed by another OS. In other words, the NFC radio is useless at the moment, because it cannot seem to interact with anything.
There's a native weather app included, but without a widget or any sort of home screen presence, it is useless as far as I am concerned. I don't want to have to dig down into my application folders to check the weather. That said, the app is attractive and presents the weather in a readable and info-rich way.