Blackberry Z10 Review
2014-03-18 (updated 2014-04-14)
For the past 4 or 5 years, I've been using a Blackberry Bold as my smart
phone. Since Blackberry released the Z10 and Z10, I have wanted to
upgrade to a BB10 device; however, I have a grandfathered data plan with
Verizon and their current policy is to push customers off those plans when
they upgrade to a subsidised handset. As a result, I have been holding
off upgrading to a BB10 device until unsubsidised BB10 devices become more
affordable. In December, 2013, Blackberry in conjunction with US
mobile operators began to sell Z10s for $299 USD. In January, 2014, after
discussion with Verizon personnel, I opted to buy a Z10 for $299; upon the
assurance that I would retain my grandfathered data plans (US unlimited and
250 MB per country international roaming).
Verizon shipped me a Z10—I chose a white version—which I received in early
January. That device was running OS version 10.2.0.424 and during the initial
configuration I allowed the device to upgrade to version 10.2.1.537. That Z10,
running .537, never functioned properly: it had
trouble interacting with my MS Exchange server, and it was unable to pair with
Bluetooth headsets—both common issues with devices upgrading to version .537.
After several days of futzing with Bluetooth pairing,
Verizon agreed to send me a new handset. That replacement handset was running
version .424, and it had neither the MS Exchange issues or the Bluetooth
pairing problems. After 2 weeks of running the OS version .424, I used
Blackberry Link (on Windows 7) to upgrade the OS in the handset. Following that
upgrade, my Z10 continued to pair with Bluetooth devices, and it didn't have the
MS Exchange issue I had previously seen.
Now to the Z10 Review
My Z10 Hopes
I have been a Blackberry user for a long time. I
particularly like the fact that my BB Bold (running BB7) changes its behaviour when I
placed it in its holster. As well, I was able to sync my whole company's
directory to my BB Bold. That said, the BB Bold didn't do a great job
synchronising email with my MS Exchange account (deletions didn't flow both
directions). My hope for my Z10 was that it would continue to deliver the distinguishing
functionality of a Blackberry, as well as offering a faster processor, larger
touchscreen, and the major apps
of a modern-day smartphone.
The reality is that the Z10 is still only a beta-class product; that is, it's
not quite ready for prime time. It does have some wonderful new features; but,
it's missing some core BB7 functionality and it has a number of serious bugs.
This section of the review documents both the plusses and minuses of the Z10
running OS version 10.2.1.537.
Let's start things off with what Blackberry has done right on the Z10:
- Camera: I am very happy with the Z10's camera. The resolution is
sufficient for the kind of smartphone photos I take, and the camera's
features make it very usable—the image stabilisation mode is especially
helpful, as I don't have the world's steadiest hands.
- Display: the display is bright, clear, and has more than
sufficient resolution. Surprisingly enough, I have not had any
trouble using it outdoors in daylight.
- Blackberry Hub: the Hub, with its pull-down to view upcoming
calendar events works very well. This is a big step-up from BB7. While the
Hub's default configuration results in too much noise (that is, it presents
messages from all accounts & applications), it is easily customised and I am
able to leave non-important messages in their own message areas. For me, the
jury is still out on the Priority Hub feature: I simply don't receive a
large enough volume of important messages for me to find value in sorting
- 4G LTE: I am using my Z10 on Verizon's 4G LTE wireless network,
and data transfer speeds are excellent (especially compared to my old BB
- Map App: I am very pleased with the new Blackberry map
application. I had been a little concerned with the loss of access to the
Google Maps app; but, the new BB map app is very capable and performs well.
I especially like the audible turn-by-turn direction mode.
- Reply Now: when I'm not able to answer a call, the Reply Now
feature is fabulous. It's great to be able to send the caller an SMS message
to explain why I can't answer their call.
- Android Apps: in version .537, BB10 is able to easily run many
Android applications. In fact, after installing the Amazon Appstore it's
even easier than ever to install Android apps. My favourite is the BBC News
Now let's talk about functionality that was present in BB7 and is missing
from the Z10:
- Holster: unlike my BB Bold, the Z10 does not change its behaviour
when placed in a Blackberry holster. The Z10 is able to detect that it has
been placed in a holster, and so it turns off its screen when holstered and
can answer/hang-up when removed/put in the holster; but, BB10 does not offer
any other differentiated functionality. This is a big disappointment, and
I'm a little stunned that this unique-to-Blackberry functionality was
deprecated by Blackberry in the BB10 OS.
- Volume Control: in BB7, different types of sounds have individual
volume levels; specifically, BB10 only has two classes of sounds: media and
alerts. Media sounds are those produced by music and video players, and
alerts are everything else (ringtones, reminders, etc.). On my BB Bold, I
set my ringtone to maximum and reminders to minimum. To achieve this
functionality on the Z10 I was forced to Google for a pleasant reminder
tone, use a sound editor to lower its volume, and then load that tone into
the Z10. In fairness to Blackberry, this idiotic behaviour is identical to
Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile; so, on this score Blackberry is just as
f***ed-up as everyone else.
- Vibrate, then Ring: when holstered, my BB Bold was configured to
vibrate several times for incoming calls, and then to ring if the call was
not answered. This was another unique-to-Blackberry feature that has been
lost. Yet more shame on Blackberry for not valuing their differentiation.
- Voice Dialling:
the Z10 has completely lost its ability to voice
dial. Blackberry removed that feature and replaced it with something they
call "Voice Control"; but, that replacement feature is slow, inaccurate, and
sends the voice command off the device to a server to interpret (thus,
disabling the feature whenever the data network is unavailable). The net
result of this feature change is that I have completely lost the ability to
use voice dialling of my smartphone. I have no issue with Blackberry adding
an app to provide expanded voice control of the device; but, to abandon the
robust, handset-native functionality was a tremendous mistake.
Update 2014-04-14: in late-March, Verizon pushed OS update 10.2.1.2122. That
update has restored voice dialling when not connected to a data network. The
feature now seems to work as reliably as it did prior to BB10.
- Per Account Message Deletion: on BB7, I was able to configure
message deletion behaviour for each account individually: handset only for
some accounts, and handset plus server for the others. This is now a handset
Finally, here are the bugs that I've encountered on the Z10:
- Contacts Slowness: I have 2,293 Outlook contacts synced to my
Z10. It has become apparent that this is many, many more contacts than
Blackberry planned me to sync. Whenever any action is taken that involves
accessing my contacts (making a call, sending a text, composing an email,
etc.) the Z10 goes into slow motion mode. It does eventually respond and
find the required contact information; but, it is far less responsive than
my BB Bold.
- Exchange Item Access: opening an email or calendar event is
excruciatingly slow. If I turn off all data services (mobile network & WiFi)
then this slowness disappears; so, the slowness is somehow related to the
Z10 connecting to the Exchange server prior displaying the item. Because the
item appears immediately when no data connection is available, the entire
item has been cached; so, it's not a header or header+body setting issue.
- Incorrect Contact Name: When calling a contact that was retrieved
using the Remote Lookup feature, the contact name displayed during dialling
and during the call itself is sometimes incorrect: rather than the name from
the remote contact, the Z10 displays the local contact name that is closest
to the name that was retrieved.
- Music Player Limits: the music player is unable to deal with playlists
that contain more than 5,000 entries. As part of switching to a Z10, I
abandoned my iPod and put my music on a 64GB microSD card installed in my
Z10. My ability to use the Z10 as an iPod replacement is impeded by the
Z10's inability to properly deal with large numbers of tunes.
- Music Player & Tags: The music player is also unable to read MP3
ID3 tags. This bug is particularly puzzling because OS version .424 was able
to read the ID3 tags in my MP3 files, but version .537 lost that ability.
Update 2014-04-14: Other than voice dialling, as noted above, OS
version 10.2.1.2122 did not any of the Z10/BB10 issues I have noted in this
I cannot recommend the Z10 in its present form. If Blackberry can restore the
missing functionality and correct the bugs, then I will be able to change my
recommendation. I will be looking to change to another device (either a
Windows 8 or Android handset) in the near to medium future.
©Copyright 2014, Christopher & Jean Rath
Address: 1371 Major Rd., Ottawa, ON, Canada K1E 1H3
2014/04/14 @ 15:52:36 (