Here comes BlackBerry 10

What’s that coming over the hill? It’s BlackBerry 10, a complete reboot for RIM’s ailing smartphone business. The new platform is available in the UK right now on the touchscreen-only BlackBerry Z10 handset and early reports suggest it is selling well. The more traditional looking BlackBerry Q10, with a full physical QWERTY keyboard, is set to follow in the next couple of months. Can BB10 rekindle the popularity of the BlackBerry brand? Let’s take a look at what it has to offer.

BlackBerry 10 features to entice you

The new platform has been designed from the ground up and it looks slick and inviting. It certainly meets expectations for a modern smartphone, but what does it offer beyond the standard?

  • Navigation - The gesture controls are intuitive and you’ll find yourself swiping around in no time. This is a proper touchscreen operating system and while it has learned from Android and iOS, it does try to do things its own way. The focus is on your most recently used apps and you can swipe left for your inbox or go right to launch apps. There’s even a peek function so you can check up on notifications without leaving the app you’re in.
  • Typing – There’s an excellent virtual keyboard on the Z10 that’s responsive and easy to use. It offers solid predictive text and autocorrect so you can type at speed. There are also a few gesture shortcuts and it can support three languages at the same time. The Q10 offers a quality physical keyboard experience for those that can’t do without.
  • Unified Inbox – You get a central hub for all of your incoming messages whether it’s an email, a text, a tweet, or a message from anywhere else. That gives you one at-a-glance location to check up on messages and it’s easy to filter if you’re concerned about overload.
  • Balance – If you use your phone for work then the ability to have two distinct profiles (one for work and one for your personal life) is a real attraction. Install whatever you want on your personal profile without corporate IT telling you off.
  • BBM – It’s always been a killer feature for BlackBerry and with BB10 it goes beyond real-time conversations to support voice chat, video chat and the ability to share your screen.
  • Camera – With 8 megapixel cameras in the Z10 and the Q10 you’ll be able to capture some great photos with your new BlackBerry. BB10 also includes some photo editing tools and, most exciting of all, the Timeshift feature lets you rewind and choose the best facial expression to match up with a pose.

The old favorites

All of these new features are backed up by all the things that BlackBerrys are traditionally known for. That means great support for email, document editing, and serious security credentials. There’s also solid support for music, a good browser, and basic voice controls.

So what’s the problem?

There are some obvious weaknesses with BlackBerry 10 that iOS or Android users will struggle to overlook. For a start, the native maps app is not great and there’s no Google Maps available. In fact there are no dedicated Google apps at all and a number of the big third-party apps that everyone uses, things like Netflix, Instagram and Spotify, are missing. There’s no telling when or even if they’ll make an appearance.

Then there’s the hardware. You have a choice of two handsets, the Z10 and the Q10. The specs are respectable, but they don’t match the iPhone 5 or the latest high-end Android smartphones. Most people have accepted the touchscreen revolution, but for those who haven’t the Q10 is going to be a welcome option and probably offer the best specs of any smartphone with a physical QWERTY keyboard. Check out our QWERTY shootout for more on that.

For a free Z10 on a two-year contract your options start at £36 per month. That’s fairly competitive and we’ve got no doubt that BlackBerry fans will be quick to jump onboard. We’ve got to assume that the Q10 will be cheaper. For anyone yet to make the leap from an old feature phone BB10 could be a good place to start. The big question is whether Android or iOS users can be tempted over the fence.

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About Simon Hill

Simon is an experienced tech writer with a background in games development. He has been covering the world of mobile technology for several years now and writes for a variety of popular websites.