When smartphones first came on the scene, Blackberry was the device to own. If you were interested in a device to keep your business in order, and wanted to impress everyone sitting at the table, you’d pull out your slick little Blackberry with its cool keyboard and stylus, and record their number or set your next appointment in the calendar, and it was impressive.
But then Apple introduced the iPhone, and everything changed. The smartphone, like the PC before it was no longer for some elite group of individuals and super geeks – it was a little personal computer, camera and phone that anyone could own and use –easily. It wasn’t exactly cheap, but it was definitely new.
Soon after came Google’s Android platform. Unlike both the iPhone and any Blackberry OS, Android was released as an open source OS, available to any hardware manufacturers. As an open platform, Android allowed each phone manufacturer to add their own skin or user interface to their own phone, which has proven to be both an advantage and detriment.
Also somewhat of a newcomer to the smartphone market is Windows Phone 8. Landing somewhere between the iPhone and all of the Android phones on the market, Microsoft has partnered with Nokia to create hardware/software compatible phones, while also offering the OS to third party developers like HTC. Likewise, the Windows platform is slightly more customizable than iOS, but nowhere near the open source capability of Android.
Blackberry was slow to catch up with the new competition. It finally released BlackBerry 10 in January of 2013, with its first update, 10.1, following in November. It began showing off this new technology with the full touch screen Z10, and followed it with the familiar tablet keyboard included on the Q10, and soon after on the budget Q5. So the obvious question is – how does BB10 hold up to its competitors? Let’s look at a few key features.
Top Features of BB10
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The lockscreen does display the time, date, and notifications, as well as unread messages and calendar events. There is also a quick launch button for the camera, though the 3 second lag to activate it is a little too long.
Unfortunately, the same quick launch isn’t available for email, messages or other notifications. Instead, you have to unlock the screen in the normal way, and then work through the BlackBerry hub.
The BB10 homescreen is very similar to Windows Phone 8, also featuring ‘Active Frames’. However, they aren’t as customizable, and will show only up to 8 at a time, only 4 of which will show on the display at a time. You can also access a full app list with a side swipe.
The interface is almost completely made up of gestures and taps, so there is a bit of a learning curve that can be frustrating at times. It is made up mostly of sweeps up, down, left and right. The peek feature is a nice addition to suspend apps and check notifications.
Multiple e-mail addresses, calendars and social networking accounts are all available, as is support for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, VPN, internet tethering and more. The virtual keyboard is particularly impressive with its responsiveness, auto-correct and other features. The browser and voice control features are adequate, but nothing special. As would be expected from a BlackBerry system, both the email and messenger systems are very good, but again unfortunately do not stand out from the competition.
Camera, apps, etc.
Camera and video function is going to be based greatly on the hardware, which is decent, but the supporting software is limited compared to the competition. The app store is clean and easy to navigate, but unfortunately, is sparsely populated. This may be one of the biggest downfalls of the BlackBerry. It’s trying to find a place in a market that may have been flooded before it could become a player. And, like Windows Phone, it is having a hard time finding the niche that will attract more users; which, in turn, attract programmers to write apps.
Ultimately, BB10, and the latest 10.1 upgrade are decent operating systems, and the phones are certainly respectable, but Blackberry is going to have to do a lot to keep up with the current market.