BlackBerry Swings for the Fence With Well-Designed Z10 Smartphone
Performance testing revealed that the BB10 works as expected with T-Mobile’s Evolved High Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) network and with AT&T’s LTE network. While I was actively testing the device, I was unable to find an area near my office in Northern Virginia where T-Mobile’s LTE network was available. But after completing this review, T-Mobile turned on LTE in the Washington, D.C., area March 28. I ventured out to find a number of locations in the Washington suburbs with LTE service. I ran a few quick tests with the BlackBerry Z10 and Speedtest.net. The results were impressive. T-Mobile LTE on the BlackBerry Z10 produced download speeds averaging 27M bps and nearly 13M bps for uploads. Keep in mind that this test is on a lightly loaded network since few T-Mobile customers have LTE devices yet. Tests on the AT&T LTE network revealed download speeds averaging slightly below 20M bps on a network that is more heavily used.By now you’re probably used to the idea that you can really only do one thing at a time on your smartphone. While you can play music on your iOS device while you do something else, how many programs can you run at the same time? The answer is one, with perhaps some background process running as well. With the BlackBerry 10 you can open eight apps at once and keep them running at the same time. You can see them run in a minimized window and you can open them and move between them. You can have two apps open side-by-side, or you can have more than that. Although by the time you get eight apps open, they get hard to see. But running a lot of apps at once is one thing. Having a lot of apps to run is something else. And it’s here that BlackBerry 10 faces its biggest challenge. BlackBerry claims that there are more than 100,000 apps available for BlackBerry 10 devices. This is likely correct, but some of the apps you’re likely to want aren’t there. For example, there’s no version of Skype for BlackBerry 10 as of the time this was written. BlackBerry has told eWEEK that this is coming, but all they’d say was it would be soon. Other apps that you’d expect are available. There are apps for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, for example. Evernote is actually built-in with BB10 as part of the Remember app, so all you have to do is sign in. But the wealth of apps that make the iPhone and Android devices so important isn’t there yet. BlackBerry comes out with dozens of new apps daily, so this will eventually change. But for now, it’s a concern. What’s not a concern is security. BlackBerry’s servers still encrypt everything, BlackBerry Enterprise Server is still secure enough to drive repressive governments nuts, and with the SecuSmart card, the Z10 is secure enough to handle classified information. In testing, the BlackBerry 10 software showed its industrial roots by never having a glitch, much less a crash during the entire test, which is remarkable for a new smartphone. The on-screen keyboard shows the company’s experience in keyboard design. The phone’s text prediction feature works well and is intuitive. The predicted text appears right above the next key you would type, so you can just flick it up instead of typing the letter. So is the BlackBerry Z10 the home run it needs to be? It may be. An awful lot depends on the number and quality of the apps, and a lot depends on whether people decide to go back to BlackBerry after having gone on to something else. This is a seriously good phone, but we will have to wait a little longer to see if it clears the outfield fence. Editor's Note: This review was updated with the results of performance tests run on T-Mobile's newly activated LTE network in the greater Washington, D.C., area.
Of course, there’s more to the BlackBerry 10 than the hardware. There’s also the BB10 OS, which is a version of QNX, a Unix-like real-time OS that’s been optimized for reliability for years since it's used in a variety of embedded and industrial applications. The chances are pretty good that your car’s computers run QNX, for example. What QNX means to you is true multitasking.