Monday, May 20, 2013

Blackberry Z10 thoughts

Update on the new Blackberry, now that I've had it for a little more than a week:

Overall, I like the phone.  My experience with the Playbook helped me get past some of the learning curve that people express concerns with, so that hasn't been a bother, though they could definitely clean some things up.

Things I don't like:
1.  Blackberry Maps is definitely not as good as Google Maps.  I initially had some issues with getting the voice navigation to work, but it did eventually become more consistent.  However, the initial directions are pretty much non-existent.  The compass is poor, so it is difficult to tell where you even need to go to start the journey.  As this is one of my most-used apps on my personal phone, it is disheartening.

2.  Only one alarm can be set, isn't very loud.  Even at max volume in my pocket, I didn't hear it.  That's not good, since I use my phone as my alarm when I'm on the road.  Extra alarms help me prepare for things like demos without having to set over my general alarm.  That stinks.

3.  Common tasks aren't streamlined -- in order to put your phone in airplane mode, for instance, you have to pull down a menu to open settings, then open network settings, then swipe airplane mode on or off.  It should just be in that initial settings window, with the bluetooth and wifi settings.  I can't seem to get the gesture to open the Hub to work correctly, and the Hub itself doesn't open where I would prefer it to (it goes to the last opened Hub app).

4.  App support:  Missing Trip-It, Amazon shopping, Amazon Cloud Player, Google+, Google Maps, Google Voice, and probably more that I just haven't wanted to use yet.  Plus, most apps have an additional charge -- apps that cost $0.99 in the Android ecosystems are mysteriously $3.99 in Blackberry World.  And some of them (like eBay and YouTube) are third-party apps, which leads me to trust them less (and I figure they'll always be a few updates behind).  I assume some of it will be fixed, but it's just a little frustrating for right now.  I know that many apps will work sideloaded as an Android app, and I'm finding that the mobile web pages are generally good enough -- but I'd still like some native apps to support the gestures that Blackberry has to offer.

5.  Battery life:  Granted, I've been using it fairly heavily, but the first full day, I used up 80% in 6 hours.  That included about an hour of talk time, 30 minutes of GPS use, and maybe 1-2 hours of data browsing on the 4g network, with synch for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and 4 email addresses turned on.  When I got the 20% warning, I pretty much stopped using it, and it stayed on until I plugged it in to charge overnight (5 hours later), but I was disappointed that under heavy use, it wouldn't really get me through a full day.  My typical day isn't quite as taxing, though I do tend to use it heavily for data browsing over lunch/dinner, GPS when I'm traveling, and a few phone calls.  There is no extended battery available yet (though there is a charging case, which I guess is the more popular alternative now).  Through the first week, the battery life did actually get better, but I still need to keep a battery charger handy for times that I use it heavily.

6.  Zooming doesn't change the wordwrap -- on a web page in Android (and I assume iOS), the word wrap will adjust for zooming.  Not so on the Blackberry -- prepare to scoll left and right as well as up and down.

And the things I like:

1.  The hardware itself is nice, from the rubberized back that feels secure in your hand, to the high resolution screen, to the balanced weight, it really looks and feels like a high quality device.  Plus, when using a headset, the button on the headset mutes the line instead of hangs up on the call.  That is much better use of the button -- I hate having to turn the screen on to mute/unmute.  Double-pressing the button still hangs up or calls the last call, so that functionality is still available, too.

2.  The keyboard is amazing.  It doesn't use the swipe technology, but rather as you're typing, it predicts what words you're going for by the next letter in the word, and then you flick the word up.  The words show above the next letter, so there are several options for you to choose.  It makes typing much quicker and more accurate -- I never used the word prediction capabilities in Android because it was clumsy to do so, but I use it all the time on the Blackberry, since they made it simple.  Autocorrect problems should be a thing of the past.

3.  Blackberry Hub -- it integrates all messaging, social, and notifications in one frame on the left that is accessible from just about anywhere.  It's not quite perfect, but it gives you much easier access to the things that you use your phone for the most.  It's like Apple's message center, except I actually use it.

4.  Some apps are better -- Yahoo! mail works with the built-in mail client, no extra client needed.  LinkedIn access is actually as useful as it is on the web -- I can get at stories, contacts, and updates much easier than I could on the Android version.    They have a free travel app (Blackberry Travel) that I'm testing out now to see if it can replace TripIt (and that integrates with LinkedIn).  Even the Reddit app (Reddit In Motion) works like a champ.

5.  The camera -- I know that the new Samsungs have a similar ability now, but the camera can be set to take several pictures in a row and give you some options for faces.  A coming update will give HDR capability for those times when you want a picture with uneven lighting, too.  I assume there will be a panorama update, as well (looking forward to a panorama of my gaming shelves).  Best of all, you can use the hardware buttons (volume/mute) to take the picture, so you have some extra stability vs. having to press on the screen.

6.  Balance is sensational.  It clearly divides your work and personal experiences, and lets you maintain all the security settings that you need for work while leaving you with the convenience of personal use. Unlike other containerization products (like Divide), it is seemlessly integrated, with no real impact on the performance of the phone.  It was also easier to set up than other corporate mail programs, and gives access to the corporate intranet in the work space.  There are different gateway addresses for the work and personal sides of the balance, so you can feel confident that your personal surfing isn't being logged at corporate, as well.  It just generally has a good feel to it.  And you can access both sides simultaneously -- once you've unlocked the work side, apps opened in it stay available to you while you work on the personal side -- but continue going through the BIS server.  Your calendar is combined, and blocks off the time from both the personal and work side -- with the work side descriptions showing only when work is unlocked.  Text messages show on the personal side, too -- which gives the ability to check them quickly without having to enter a password.  Very convenient, and something I really missed on the Android.

There are still many things that I am looking forward to playing with -- I've taken a few screenshots, but haven't shared my screen yet.  I've struggled a little with attachments and voicemail (it downloads them as a file, for some reason).  I haven't been able to merge contacts yet, and it still doesn't let me respond to calendar entries.  All quibbles that should be fixed with an early update, and which make me excited to be an early adopter for the platform.  For work, I don't think there is a better solution.