I spent 30 minutes with a BlackBerry Z10 on Saturday after spending 15 minutes trying to get access to one. You see, the mobile phone shops don’t seem to want to let people actually experience the phone or the software. Phones 4U point blank refused to let me try anything outside of the demo even though I said (lied) that I was seriously considering buying one on contract and Carphone Warehouse had the phones attached to the shelves with a plastic band halfway up the screen which meant they could not be unlocked with the swipe up gestures.
Anyhow, they eventually relented and let me play with one.
I have to say that the hardware is relatively uninspiring and that it feels very HTC to me, which is not a good thing. I get the practicality of a grippy back covering and the shape and size are cleverly matched to create a smartphone that feels quite pocketable despite the large screen, but there is little sense of a phone that costs more than £500 when you hold it. Also, the screen is incredibly prone to fingerprints and grime despite claims by BlackBerry to the contrary. If I had to sum up the hardware, I would say that it feels and looks quite cheap which I did not expect at all.
On to the software and I have to say that this was also disappointing. The interface felt quite crowded and the hub seemed to dominate too much to me. I get what it is supposed to do and maybe more time is needed with the software to truly appreciate the subtle features that are supposed to make it do usable, but first impressions are confusing, at times irritating and dare I say full of bugs. The Z10 crashed twice on me for no apparent reason and I found myself struggling to understand how each screen was supposed to work and where the home screen was half of the time. For a 2013 smartphone, you should be able to pick it up and have a fairly good understanding of how to use it. This sense of familiarity was missing from the start. There were highlights and everything felt smooth and quite powerful in normal use, but I could not help feeling that this was a computer rather than a phone and eventually handed the phone back and said I would think about it.
I walked out of the store feeling somewhat perplexed, but this may not be a bad thing. Sometimes the best music needs time to listen to and to appreciate, maybe that is the case here. But in the fickle world of smartphone ownership we live in today, that could be a problem. I can see now why the stores are reluctant to let people try BlackBerry 10 without a demo to guide them because many people will probably get lost immediately.
Note: My small time with the Z10 is not really a review, but when I first used an iPhone or an Android device I had a sense that I knew what I was doing and they both felt fresh. The Z10 feels like just another in a large crowd.