The BlackBerry Z10 is the first smartphone to run BlackBerry 10, the mobile operating system that BlackBerry is counting on to make it, once again, a top-selling brand.
The Z10, with its button-free facade, is dominated by a 4.2-inch touch-screen that's more pixel-rich than the Apple iPhone's Retina display. And while it won't win any prizes on the scale, it's as thin as the iPhone 5, though at a glance you wouldn't think it.
The Z10, really, isn't much to look at—it's fine-looking. What's fantastic is the software.
BlackBerry gave a handset to everyone in the audience of its Jan. 30 New York City event, though without SIM cards, which are said to be following in the mail; the phone won't go on sale in the United States until at least mid-March. After spending even an hour with the Z10, all that CEO Thorsten Heins promised during the 12 months between taking the CEO position and introducing BB10 becomes more understandable.
He promised an end to the old user paradigm, and the way one navigates the Z10 and accesses information is certainly something new. It's as though other mainstream operating systems are essentially the same style of house with very different furnishings, but BB10 has an entirely different layout—a layout that challenges what we imagined to be the architectural options of a house.
Heins also said that BB10 was designed neither for business users nor consumers but for what's thought of in-house as "the BlackBerry people"—people who have a lot going on and want to do it all and do it well, whether that means managing an acquisition or a Little League team.
I get it now.
If you want to play Angry Birds for an hour, go for it. It's in the BlackBerry World app store (though some will complain that with only 70,000 apps, too many other apps are still missing). But if what you really want to do is get in and get out—make sure you have all the information you need, and that you aren't missing anything—that's where BlackBerry 10 excels.
Heins and company have been talking endlessly about Peek and Hub and Flow. Again, I get it.
The Hub is a central place where, at a glance, a user can see all her latest correspondences, from text messages to calls and email to new Facebook and Twitter updates. The way mobile users are accustomed to seeing emails in an inbox, the Hub, using icons for clarity, lines up all of one's latest information.
Alternately, within the Hub, with a tap, one can choose to instead see all of one type of information delineated—just new Tweets, or just email, for example.
BlackBerry 10 also allows many applications to be open at once, which is not only convenient but a great time saver. Until you close them, they're open and updating. The browser is also very fast, even on content-dense sites like The New York Times.