We’ve been playing with the BlackBerry Z10 for the past few days and we’ll be updating this review over the coming weeks with more in-depth findings.
Usually when a manufacturer launches its flagship smartphone it’s looking to show off its latest technological advances with eyes set on raking in cash – with the BlackBerry Z10 however the stakes are quite different.
The BlackBerry Z10 is the first handset from the company formerly known as RIM, now rechristened BlackBerry, to run its new operating system BlackBerry 10, and there’s much more on the line here than just simply making a few bob – arguably the company’s survival rests on the success of this device.
It’s no secret that BlackBerry has been on the rocks for the past year or so, with the company even admitting that it hasn’t been in the best shape of late, and the 4G toting Z10 is the start of what is hoped to be a successful revolution.
TechRadar was lucky enough to get its hands on the BlackBerry Z10 ahead of the official launch, so we’ll update this review with its price and release date once the event has ended.
Sporting a 4.2-inch 1280 x 768 display, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage the BlackBerry Z10 finds itself jostling for position with the Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5.
Lock eyes on the BlackBerry Z10 and you’ll notice it’s an unassuming slab of black glass and plastic which mimics the general aesthetical design of many a smartphone these days.
The Z10 is a little bezel heavy with a sizable gap above and below the screen, and that’s before we even get to the additional plastic chunks stuck on both ends of the handset.
It all seems a little unnecessary but luckily it doesn’t make the BlackBerry Z10 overly cumbersome, with the handset measuring a comfortable 130 x 65.6 x 9mm.
Weight wise the BlackBerry Z10 finds a happy medium – it’s no where near as heavy as the Lumia 920 and Lumia 820, yet it’s not as feather light as the iPhone 5.
The weight gives it a reassuring presence in the palm and while the chassis is distinctly plastic, the handset’s heft at least restores some form of premium feel.
Round the back you’re greeted with a textured plastic rear which is slightly rubberised, providing a decent level of grip.
There are only a couple of things to note on the back of the Z10, the 8MP camera with a single LED flash is sat in the top left corner and the shiny metallic BlackBerry logo is in middle.
We were pleased to find that the rear can be removed easily by placing a finger in the indented speaker grill at the base of the Z10 allowing us to simply peel off the plastic.
Underneath you’ll find microSIM and microSD slots with the latter capable of supporting cards up to 32GB, although we’ve been told that a future update may see this support boosted to the 64GB variants.
This means you can build nicely on the already decent 16GB of internal storage which will appeal to many who have been put out by the likes of the iPhone range and HTC One X+ which don’t offer storage expansion.
An added boon is the removable 1,800mAh battery allowing you to switch out a dead battery for a fully charged one if you’re someone who likes to carry multiple powers pack around.
On the rear cover itself you’ll notice the NFC pad which allows the BlackBerry Z10 to interact with other enabled devices wirelesses.
On the right hand side of the Z10 anyone familiar with the BlackBerry PlayBook will instantly recognise the triple button setup, with volume rocker switches separated by a central key – used for playing/pausing music and activating voice control when held down.
Up top you get a centralised power/lock key next to a 3.5mm headphone jack, while on the left there’s a couple of handy connectivity ports.
The metal finish of the keys gives the handset a touch of class and all are well positioned, allowing us to reach them easily when using the Z10 one handed.
The now standard microUSB port which features on pretty much every phone these days bar the iPhone is present alongside a miniHDMI port – allowing you to connect the BlackBerry Z10 directly to a TV for big screen viewing.
There’s no HDMI cable in the box so you’ll need to pick one up separately, but there is at least a USB cable so you can hook the Z10 up to your computer.
The BlackBerry Z10 doesn’t wow us with a new design, but it’s a sturdy handset with a decent build quality and functional layout which makes it easy to use.
The key selling point of the BlackBerry Z10 is the BlackBerry 10 operating system, which may go some way to explaining the handset’s unassuming design with the manufacturer focussed more on the software inside.
BB10 was launched alongside the BlackBerry Z10 and signals a new era for a company which hasn’t had the best of times recently.
This has resulted in a platform which is very different to the one found on previous BlackBerry handsets running BB OS7, which means a steep learning curve is required for both new and current BlackBerry users.
BlackBerry decided to move away from the physical buttons found on iOS and many Android devices, instead opting for a gesture based system as the main form of navigation.
Press the power/lock key at the top of the device and the 4.2-inch HD display comes to life greeting you with the BB 10 lock screen.
You get the date and time on the screen along with notifications of any new emails, messages, BBMs, missed calls etc.
There’s a shortcut to the camera app in the bottom right corner, while the general unlock function requires you to slide up from the bottom of the screen, which uncovers the homescreen below as your finger moves up.
Complete the unlock sweep to access your homescreen – which is some kind of odd mashup between Android widgets and Windows Phone Live Tiles.
What you get is large thumbnails of your most recently opened applications. Only four can fit on the screen at once and you can have a total of eight applications in this list – you’ll need to slide down to view the rest.
This is basically the multi-tasking function in BlackBerry 10 and you can choose to close apps in this list by hitting the cross in the bottom right of the preview.
For those of you who are fans with quick settings you’ll be glad to know that BlackBerry has catered for you on BB 10 – just swipe down from the notification bar on the BlackBerry Z10 and you’ll get a small drop down with toggles for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, alarm, rotation lock and notifications.
Sliding to the right from the homescreen will take you to the app list, while going left will take you into the BlackBerry Hub – something we’ll cover in more detail in the messaging section of this review.
The app list is far more familiar territory for anyone with smartphone experience with the icons lined up in the usual grid formation, with the ability to create folders by simply dropping one app onto another – now where have we seen that before?
Holding down on an app icon will make them all start to pulsate, with the option to drag them around and reposition them in an order which suits you, or you can hit the bin icon to delete a particular app.
The 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM housed into the BlackBerry Z10 means it has more than enough power to glide through the BB10 system, and we got a smooth user experience without any stutter or lag.
The fancy fade in/out animations as your skip between pages of apps is a nice touch and applications open swiftly.
A responsive touchscreen aids navigation and once we’d got to grips with the BlackBerry 10 ways of doing things the Z10 was pleasing to use.
Some gestures and layouts still seem a little confused but the longer we spent with the handset the easier it became.
As there’s no physical back button below the display it wasn’t always clear how to get back to the previous screen, which left us feverously scrabbling around for a way to return to the start of an app without returning to the homescreen from time to time.
The BlackBerrry 10 platform succeeds at bringing RIM into line with the other smartphone operating systems and the BlackBerry Z10 has no trouble running it, but it doesn’t seem to have a clear advantage over its rivals.
Contacts and calling
You can add contacts from a variety of sources on the BlackBerry Z10 including Google, Hotmail, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
During first time set up the Z10 encourages you to sign in to all your accounts and then provides you with toggles for each so you can set which information it pulls through.
We were easily able to pull through our Google and Twitter contacts without issue, which meant we could get straight to calling and texting our nearest and dearest straight out the box.
Our Z10 seemed to struggle a little more with the Facebook integration, failing to pull through all of our friends, and the ones it did we noticed a distinct lack profile pictures.
It wasn’t a huge issue as we don’t rely on the details from Facebook, it just makes our contact list a little bit drab with all the missing images.
Click through onto a contact and you’ll be able to view all their details, including various links to their social media accounts – tap on one of these and the Z10 will launch the native app to display their profile.
The Z10 can also help you when it comes to making new friends on your social media accounts, as it will notify you if you’re both on the same network but are currently not connected, with a button to send them a friend request from within the contacts app.
There are two further tabs within a contact’s profile after details, Updates and Activity, the former of which pulls through that person’s latest status updates from their various connected networks.
Activity on the other hand shows your communication with that person, giving you the most recent calls, texts, emails, tweets, Facebook events or other messages you may have shared with them.
Adding a contact is simple, with an "Add" key along the bottom menu bar in the contacts app which takes you to a form where you can fill out a whole myriad of information on your new chum.
The Phone app is a little bit special in BlackBerry 10, as it’s one of the few that gets a space in the toolbar displayed on the bottom of the homescreen and app list pages.
It lines up alongside the search and camera launchers, but there’s also an app icon in the application list if you fancy prodding that instead.
Fire up the Phone app and you’re taken to a screen displaying your call history and quick links to your favourite contacts and voicemail at the top of the screen.
There’s no visual voicemail available on the Z10, so you’ll need to make do with listening to that robotic mistress.
If the number you require isn’t in your favourites or call history then you can hit the contacts tab which will display all your chums stored on the BlackBerry Z10 and instead of launching you into their contact cards when you tap, it simply just slides down with the numbers attached to that person.
It’s a nice little effect and we found it pleasing to use, as well as being a nice time saver.
Of course you won’t have every number stored on your phone, so the final tab is the faithful Dial Pad.
It’s a pretty basic offering and doesn’t feature anything fancy such as smart dialling, but it’s functional and serves the purpose.
Call quality on the BlackBerry Z10 was acceptable as we could hear our mates on the other end pretty clearly and vice versa, but it wasn’t crystal clear audio.
The Z10 found and held signal well managing to pick up decent 3G reception in most areas and we didn’t experience any issues with dropped calls.
Messaging is one thing BlackBerry is famed for – its impressive history when it comes to email management and free messaging via BBM is well known and the BlackBerry Z10 picks up where the others left off.
BlackBerry 10 makes a big thing of all things messages, with its custom "Peek" gesture allowing you to quickly see who’s just messaged, Facebooked or tweeted you without having to exit an application.
If you hear the message tone or see the red flashing notification light in the top right of the handset then no matter which screen you’re currently viewing you can check the details.
Just slide your finger up from the BlackBerry logo, which sees the current screen minimized to the centre of the screen, with new notification icons appearing to left, so you can tell if it’s a new BBM, text or whatever.
A movement left will allow you to see the new message in the BlackBerry Hub and you can decided whether or not to respond straight away or just return to what you were doing.
The BlackBerry Hub is the universal inbox found on BlackBerry 10 and it pulls in all forms of communications from calls and texts to emails, BBMs and social updates.
As well as accessing the Hub via the "Peek" method you can also jump to it by sliding to the left from your homescreen.
Once inside the Hub you can filter it by account if it’s all a bit of an information overload, and things such as Facebook and Twitter replies and status can be posted from within the Hub, meaning there’s no need to fire up the official app every time.
Instead of having dedicated text messaging and email applications they are all rolled into the Hub on the BlackBerry Z10, with the ability to hop between accounts.
Emails display nicely on the Z10 with the ability to zoom all the way out so you’re able to view the whole thing in all its HTML glory – something some Android handsets aren’t too fond of.
There are simple compose, reply and forward controls at the bottom of the screen to allow you to email to your hearts content, while at the top of the screen tap the blue bar and you can view any folders in your email account.
The text messaging app is a relatively simple affair with a list of messages on the overview page – the Z10 doesn’t pull through profile pictures here.
The message flow between yourself and one of your friends isn’t the prettiest of designs with blocky speech bubbles showing your conversation, but at least it’s functional and there are options to attach pictures, video etc if you so wish.
As a colleague pointed out it does look a bit "my first smartphone", but it does the job and for that we cannot fault it.
Of course another big draw for a lot of BlackBerry users is the BBM application, which effectively gives you unlimited free messages between yourself and your other BlackBerry buddies.
The layout of the BBM app has been given a revamp to follow the new BB10 theme with messages displaying in the same speech bubble design as texts.
You can also access your current BBM conversations from the BlackBerry Hub, allowing you to speedily bash out a missive without having to launch the full blown app.
Thanks to the inclusion of NFC inside the BlackBerry Z10 you can gain new BBM buddies by simply tapping the handset against other enabled BlackBerry devices.
There’s also a QR code which you can stick on your business card or get printed on a t-shirt, which people can scan with their BlackBerry Z10 or similar to link up with you on BBM. Who doesn’t love a good QR code?
BBM Voice was only recent announced for the messaging service but RIM has launched another new feature to coinside with the arrival of BlackBerry 10 – BBM Video.
As you may have already guessed this allows you to make a video call via BBM – think Facetime on iPhone – which uses your mobile data or Wi-Fi connection to beam the images of your smug face to your friends.
Now all this messaging capability is nothing without an input method and keyboards are arguably the thing BlackBerry handsets are most known for.
But wait, nope the BlackBerry Z10 doesn’t slide up to reveal a physical QWERTY keyboard like the touchscreen BlackBerry Torch – that’s right it’s touchscreen only folks.
RIM has spoken in length about how it’s engineered its onscreen keyboard to bring users the experience they get on the physical version with the all new touch offering.
Straight up we can say it is miles better than the pitiful attempt which adorned the Torch range of BlackBerry devices, but it’s not perfect.
The keyboard sports the silver frets which can be found on the Bold 9900, providing additional spacing between lines allowing for better travel between keys.
These frets also act as the space for the next word prediction on the BlackBerry Z10 and the more you type the more it learns and offers smarter suggestions.
We were able to type at a reasonable pace, but we found the next word prediction if anything slowed us down as the font is too small to easily see and we found our fingers were covering most of the suggestions anyway.
You can turn the BlackBerry Z10 90 degrees for a larger landscape keyboard which some may find easier to type on with two hands.
The message you’re replying to is just about visible at the top, which is handy if you’re like us and forget what you’re replying to half way through.
The BlackBerry Z10 comes sporting BlackBerry’s new internet browser which it has developed specially for BlackBerry 10, and one that’s touted to be fast, really fast.
To keep up with that speed promise the Z10 not only comes equipped with Wi-Fi b/g/n but also 4G connectivity for super fast mobile data on the move.
During our time with the handset we only had a 3G SIM to hand, but we still experienced some impressive browsing speeds on the BlackBerry Z10.
Full-fat TechRadar loaded in just five seconds on the Z10, fancy ad banners and all over 3G, while the mobile version turned up in a flash with two seconds on the clock.
Load speeds are pretty similar over Wi-Fi, but a strong connection can see a second or so knocked off the desktop sites.
The layout of the browser on the BlackBerry Z10 reminded us of the setup of IE on Windows Phone 8 which also has a black toolbar located at the bottom of the display – compared to Android and iOS which both stick with the more traditional location at the top.
Text and images appear crisp and clear on the 4-inch HD display of the BlackBerry Z10 making browsing websites, even those which are content rich, a pleasing experience.
Text doesn’t automatically reflow when you zoom which can lead to a lot of sideways scrolling if you need to zoom in a fair bit to be able to read what’s on screen.
You can make the reading experience easier by selecting Reader in the menu, which strips out all the images and ads from an article to display just the text on the screen, allowing for an easily digestible read.
There is a simple text size tool at the bottom of the screen making it easy to increase or decrease the font for an even better reading experience.
Sadly there’s no offline mode, so you won’t be able to save pages to read later when you may not be in signal – it’s not a big issue in what is otherwise an excellent browsing experience.
Tabbed browsing is supported on the Z10 browser, just hit the panel icon in the bottom left corner and a menu will slide in, with an option to open a new tab.
Also in this menu are options to view your bookmarks and browsing history.
Bookmarks are easy to add, just navigate to the desired page, hit the settings key in the bottom right and then select Add to Bookmarks – it’s as easy as pie.
Interestingly while Google is phasing out Adobe Flash support, and with Apple never supporting it, the browser on the BlackBerry Z10 does provide support for the dying web format – meaning you can view all the videos and websites which still rely on it.
While less and less sites are dependent on Adobe Flash there are still some notable exceptions and it’s great to see the support on the new BlackBerry 10 OS.
All in all the BlackBerry Z10 offers a fantastic browsing experience with some of the fastest speeds we’ve witnessed on a smartphone.
The BlackBerry Z10 comes well equipped in the camera department with an 8MP rear snapper on the back and a 2MP front facing senor.
A single LED flash accompanies the camera on the back of the Z10 and the handset is capable of shooting 1080p video with the rear lens.
The camera app can be accessed in a number of ways including the shortcut on the lockscreen where you hold down on the camera icon to launch the app, by selecting the icon from the app list or by tapping the camera on the homescreen dock.
It takes less than a second for the BlackBerry Z10 to load up the camera application and once there you’re greeted with a simple setup.
It may not be the most feature-packed camera offering we’ve ever seen, there’s no photo sphere technology a la Android here, but what the Z10 does provide is an easy way to quickly take photos – after all that’s what you’re here for anyway.
Shutter speed is rapid, although you’ll notice there’s no shutter button actually on screen.
Instead the whole screen on the BlackBerry Z10 is the shutter which makes taking self portraits easy, but it can be frustrating when you accidentally hit it when trying to get to the settings.
This issue can be partly avoided as both volume rocker keys on the side of the Z10 can be used to take a picture, which is a handy feature especially for those with clumsy fingers.
Auto focus is in play and it can take half a second to settle at times, but there’s no tap to focus as such.
The focus can be changed by holding down on the Z10 display and moving around so the focus square follows you.
Release your finger when you get to the point you want the camera to focus on and then tap the screen to capture the image. It’s certainly not as quick as the simple tap to focus method, but it’s an effective one.
Dive into the settings menu and there are slim pickings on offer, with a toggle for the flash, front/rear camera and aspect ratio (you’ve got the choice of 16:9 and 4:3) along with three shooting modes (normal, stabilisation and burst) and four scene modes (action, whiteboard, night and beach or snow).
There’s a 5x digital zoom which is control by pinching the screen on the BlackBerry Z10, but picture quality is dramatically reduced the closer in you get so it’s best to steer clear if you want a half decent photo.
But wait, there is an ace up the sleeve of the BlackBerry Z10 – it’s called Time Shift.
Time Shift is a new feature for BlackBerry 10 and when you switch the camera to this mode and take a photo of a person or a group of people the Z10 will highlight all the faces in the picture.
Press on any face after taking the picture and a disc will appear on the screen with that person’s mug in it and a slider below.
Move the slider left and right and you’ll see the BlackBerry Z10 has captured the face before and after as well as during the time the shutter was pressed.
This allows you to fine tune each person’s face to ensure everyone is smiling and has their eyes open – giving you the perfect picture. It’s an impressive feature and we were surprised as just how well it worked.
Image quality is generally very good especially in well lit areas, and even in near or total darkness the flash on the BlackBerry Z10 does a good job of lighting things up.
The pictures produced by the Z10 are certainly on par with a lot of its rivals, and you can rest assured you’ve got a capable, if not slightly feature-less snapper in your pocket if you plump for it.
Video recording on the BlackBerry Z10 is accessed through the camera app, where you’ll need to switch to video mode using the icon in the top right corner.
The rear facing camera on the Z10 is capable of capturing footage at full HD 1080p resolution, while the front facing snapper can grab 720p video.
With the rear camera you can choose whether to record in 720p or 1080p, and like the camera mode there’s a very limited selection on options.
Image stabilisation is a welcome addition which keeps your movies smooth, while over in scene modes you have a selection of just two – night and beach or snow.
An added benefit with the video recorder on the Z10 is when you’ve started to record (by pressing anywhere on the screen) you can then toggle the single LED light on and off.
This is great if you’re moving between light and dark areas during filming, or if you just fancy giving your friend a bit of a strobe light while he performs an embarrassingly poor rendition of Gangnam Style.
You can also use the 5x digital zoom while recording but as with pictures in camera mode video quality is greatly reduced if you decide to hone in on the action.
Video quality is pretty good and easy to watch on the handset’s display and you’ll see from the video clip below it doesn’t look too shoddy on a larger screen either.
YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbcfWaMEhNY
BlackBerry smartphones have never really been seen as full blown multimedia devices, thanks in part to their small, low resolution displays, but the BlackBerry Z10 changes all that.
With an HD 4.2-inch display, sizable 16GB of internal memory with the option to expand via microSD and additional power under the hood the Z10 is ready to take on any type of media.
Using a microSD card is probably the quickest way to get content onto the BlackBerry Z10 as it circumvents the need to download and install the BlackBerry Link desktop before being allowed to drag and drop files when you hook the handset up to a computer with the USB cable.
BlackBerry Link allows you to sync and share your media files between your computer and the Z10 as well as backing up your data, just in case something untoward happened.
While relatively inoffensive and easy to use, we still prefer the method of simply dragging and dropping content between windows.
There’s no prizes for guessing where you need to head on the BlackBerry Z10 to listen to your favourite tunes – yep you’ve guessed it the Music app.
It’s a pretty simple, no thrills application which shows you your library, most recently played tracks and playlists.
Music is displayed as album art thumbnails which gives the application a tidy look, although album track listings sport an unassuming grey tone but there is the option to shuffle all the songs at the top of the list.
The now playing screen has all your typical audio controls; play/pause, skip, scrub, repeat and shuffle.
Tapping the album art here will see it slide down and show the other songs queued in the particular playlist, allowing you to quickly jump to another track if you so wish.
Dive in the settings menu and there’s very little to choose from with no sign of an equaliser. The only thing of note is the "Play on" option, which allows you to stream music from the Z10 to other DLNA enabled devices.
The major audio formats seem to be supported but we’re still waiting to hear official confirmation from RIM on all the types which the Z10 will be able to handle.
Sound quality seems to be perfectly acceptable as far as smartphones goes, but audiophiles will probably want something more from their music player.
If your music collection is a little thin on the ground then you can bolster your library by jumping into BlackBerry World where you’ll find a music section powered by 7Digital.
The 7Digital library is a pretty extensive one, with most albums priced between £5 and £8, while single tracks are generally £1.
It’s not the easiest store to browse with a seemingly limited number of controls and a distinct lack of top lists meaning only a very small proportion of the library is actually on show.
Things are being kept simple on the BlackBerry Z10 with all things movie related housed in the Videos app.
The video app is even more basic than its music equivalent, listing the videos currently stored on the Z10 which when clicked on takes you straight into the player.
In the player the basic theme continues with a play/pause key and scrub option the only things to play with other than the aspect ratio toggle in the top right.
The "Play On" option is present in the menu here allowing you to stream the currently playing video to a larger screen, so you can share the movie with a group of people.
The soft touch back of the Z10 coupled with the rounded chassis makes it a comfortable handset to hold for extended periods with one handed holding not problem.
The additional bezel around the screen is actually a benefit here, as there’s no worry of your thumb obscuring the screen.
BlackBerry World also offers various movies and TV series powered by Rovi, which you can either purchase or rent.
The movie offering seems pretty limited at the moment but that may be due to the fact we’ve got the Z10 ahead of its official launch.
Rental prices seem to be £2.99 or £3.99 while to buy and download a film to keep you’ll need to fork out between £7.99 and £15.99.
TV shows seem to come in at £1.99 per episode, with no sign of a season bundle at the moment.
Last but not least photos are stored in the Pictures app which is were you go to view all your camera shots laid out in a series of thumbnails.
Annoyingly you can’t create albums on the BlackBerry Z10, with the system forcing you onto the computer and the BlackBerry Link software to set this up.
It all seems rather unnecessary and an annoying hurdle that people shouldn’t need to jump through for what is a pretty straight forward task.
A nice feature which is part of the Pictures app is the edit function, which allows you to choose from a whole range of effects to apply to your photos as well as tools to crop and rotate the image.
The way the effects have been implemented is a clever one, as you’re able to drag each effect across the image to see how it will look before deciding whether or not to apply it.
It’s such a simple system we found ourselves playing around with it a lot and with 16 effects on offer there’s probably something there which will take your fancy.
From within the editor you can also adjust the white balance, brightness, contrast and sharpness of an image. The whole system is pretty intuitive and it’s a nice addition to have on the BlackBerry Z10.
Battery life and connectivity
The BlackBerry Z10 comes equipped with a removable 1,800mAh battery which will be music to some people’s ears, as this means you can carry additional power packs and swap in a fully charged one when the current pack gives up the ghost.
Performance wise the Z10 performed relatively well – we didn’t experience fast draining issues as with the One X, but equally it was never going to blow us away with its modest battery size.
The issue with the BlackBerry Z10 will be with current BlackBerry users who are used to their BB OS7 devices running for days between charges thanks to the smaller, lower resolution displays and less demanding processors inside the handsets.
With moderate use the Z10 will see you through a full working day, but don’t expect it to make it through a second with a nightly charge definitely on the cards for anyone who picks up this device.
BlackBerry is quoting up to 11 hours of talktime on BlackBerry Z10 and 408 hours of standby which we reckon is pushing the boundaries a little, but it’s good to remember these figures are produced under lab conditions which are very different to real usage.
Connectivity wise the BlackBerry Z10 is exceptionally well equipped packing everything from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 to DLNA support and even an HDMI port.
To aid with global positioning the Z10 also features A-GPS and you can utilise the handset’s super fast 4G reception as a mobile hotspot, allowing other devices such as tablets and laptops to feed off the data connection.
RIM has also stuffed NFC into the BlackBerry Z10 allowing you to wireless transfer content between handsets and other enabled devices without the need for wires or even a network connection.
As we mentioned during the interface section Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can be easily toggled using the quick settings drop down on the BlackBerry Z10, but features such as GPS, Hotspots and NFC are controlled within the main settings menu.
Sharing content between the BlackBerry Z10 and other devices is easy, just navigate to your desired photo, video, track or other content and then hit the share button to open up a myriad of options.
The DLNA support means you’re able to wireless stream content to other enabled devices around your home connected to the same network, just look for the "Play on" option in the menu – with types of content and devices controlled from within the settings menu.
That’s not all though, if you prefer a more traditional form of connection you can dig out the bundled USB cable and hook the BlackBerry Z10 up to your computer, or why not invest in an HDMI lead and plug the handset into your fancy television?
It’s all possible thanks to the microUSB and miniHDMI ports on the left side on the Z10, plus there’s that microSD slot hiding under the rear cover providing yet another way to manipulate content.
Maps and apps
The BlackBerry Z10 comes with its own mapping and navigation solution simply called Maps.
The maps themselves have been provided by TomTom and while they givea pretty good account of the lie of the land, it’s not as polished as the excellent Google Maps.
There are far fewer features as well with just the standard map view available, no satellite overlay, no street view, no flyover – but at least it knows where places are.
Visually the maps are not quite as impressive as Google’s offering, with the images not looking overly defined – especially when you zoom out.
Opening the maps app was one of the few occasions where we noticed the Z10 struggling a little, as we would have to wait several seconds for the application to load up and locate us.
Once located the BlackBerry Z10 was able to keep track of our position well, even in built up areas where GPS sometimes struggles to reach.
The Z10 also wasn’t the smoothest when it came to panning and zooming around the maps, with it needing a second or two each time to render the new image which made for a slightly jilted user experience.
There is live traffic information shown by colouied overlays on the roads to show the flow of traffic, with green being good, orange average and red highlighting delays.
This information is really useful, especially if you’re planning a trip and coupled with the route planner you can see exactly what the traffic is like on the roads you’ll be driving.
It’s not just the maps the BlackBerry Z10 offers though, as with Android and now iOS, BB10 also offers free turn-by-turn navigation.
It’s a lifesaver if you end up getting lost, but beware that a data connection is required to load the map so it may struggle in you’re up a mountain.
Apps have been a big talking point in the run up to the launch of BlackBerry 10, with RIM assuring everyone that it’s got loads of developers creating applications especially for the platform.
At time of writing – just ahead of the official BlackBerry Z10 launch – the app offering in the newly renamed BlackBerry World is hardly inspiring.
BlackBerry reckons it will have over 70,000 applications in the store when the platform launches, so we hope a few more show up when the launch event kicks off as it certainly doesn’t feel like there’s anything close to that number in there at the moment.
While 70,000 doesn’t sound like a lot especially when you consider the likes of Android and iOS boast over 700,000 each, RIM reckons it’s the quality not quantity in BlackBerry World which makes all the difference.
We’ll update this section after the official BlackBerry 10 launch event has taken place to see if any of the big firms release killer apps for a platform which desperately needs them.
The BlackBerry Word app itself isn’t our favourite app store in terms of design and navigation, with a confusing list of various apps, music and videos on the main page making it difficult to digest all the information.
You can refine your search by categories which goes some way to working out what’s on offer, but there’s no option to view say just free apps for example.
In terms of pre-installed applications we’re pleased to report RIM hasn’t gone overboard with the BlackBerry Z10.
The Remember app is BlackBerry’s answer to Evernote and it can even sync with the popular note taking app to ensure all your favourite shopping lists safely make the transition over to BB 10.
You can also share content such as pictures and videos to the Remember app if you want to make a note alongside a photo you’ve just snapped.
The app itself is pretty straight forward, with the ability to tap out a message as well as attach a file or audio clip to it.
DocsToGo is a great application for the business minded out there who may need to finish off a word document, spreadsheet or presentation while on the train to a meeting.
The full blown app allows you to fully manipulate your Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, although the 4.2-inch display on the Z10 is a bit on the small side if you’re viewing a complicated spreadsheet.
Games is a hub for your gaming activity on the BlackBerry Z10 and works in a similar way to Apple’s Game Center.
It logs all the compatible games you play on the handset and any achievements you unlock along the way.
You can add friends who are also playing on their BlackBerry handsets, compare progress and even challenge them to a show down.
The Newsstand app as you may have guessed is a store for magazines and newspapers which you can purchase and read on the Z10.
An innovative slider along the top of the app allows you to scroll through different categories, while covers of the magazines available are displayed in a pleasing thumbnailed layout.
If anything we wish BlackBerry World took its design cues from Newsstand as we preferred the layout and navigation was much easier.
Single issues seemed to range from around £1.99 to £6.99 depending on publication, but there didn’t seem to be any sign of a subscription service – perhaps that will come later.
Voice control lets you bark commands at the BlackBerry Z10 for when you can’t be bothered to use your fingers.
It can be activated by holding down the central key lodged between the two volume switches, or you can tap the relevant icon in the app list.
We’re not talking Siri levels of controls and questioning here, it’s a far simpler offering allowing you say things like "Call this person", "Text that person" and "Make a note to buy milk".
As long as we spoke clearly then the Z10 had no trouble understanding what we were saying and was more than happy to carry out our orders – who’s a good phone?
We probably wouldn’t use this function day to day but we can certainly see its advantage in certain situations such as driving.
Smart tags is an application that allows you to group together a bunch of information which can then be transferred onto an NFC tag, made into a QR code or passed directly to another NFC enabled handset.
Instead of handing out a business card you could create a smart tag with all you contact information on and then share it via NFC to the phones of people you meet with.
You can save the tags you send so you can use them again and you can also save any you receive from other people.
The smart tags app allows you to easily create tags as well as mange the ones you’ve sent and received.
Hands on gallery
So is the BlackBerry Z10 the smartphone to save BlackBerry? Well it’s still too early to say and it’s not just this handset which will make or break the Canadian firm over the coming year.
That said the Z10 is a promising start to the BlackBerry 10 era.
The BlackBerry Z10 is a decent all round phone sporting a pleasing 4.2-inch HD display, a camera which can take some good shots and a messaging hub which could be the envy of some other platforms.
Web browsing deserves a special mention as we were seriously impressed with the speed of the BlackBerry Z10 when it came to loading pages.
It’s great to see a full fledged mapping and navigation solution on board the Z10, even though it may not be the best service on the market.
The expandable storage, removable battery and Adobe Flash support are all small wins for the Z10 and will help as it tries to stand out in a crowded market.
The jury is still out on BlackBerry 10. On one hand it’s great to see an exciting new operating system but on the other it’s a completely new learning curve for everyone, and some may not be willing to learn.
BB 10 came across a little confusing a times, with the lack of a clear back button leading us to question how we return to the previous screen, while gestures took some time to fully grasp.
As the BlackBerry Z10 is set to be the flagship mobile for BlackBerry and its new BB10 platform we were a little disappointed with its obviously plastic case which doesn’t exude premium quality.
The lack of apps in BlackBerry World will remain to be a concern until we see the big hitters turn up, while some of the stock BlackBerry 10 apps seemed to lack features such as the camera, music and video applications.
The Z10 is a decent smartphone offering up a strong range of features and a fancy new operating system which may catch the eye of the technologically adventurous.
It does pretty much everything we’d expect from a high-end device and there are no major flaws to go running to the presses about.
The unproven operating system and severe lack of headlining applications will turn a lot of consumers off at point of sale and it’s the image of the BlacBerry brand as a whole which RIM needs to work on fast if it stands a chance of winning back the hearts of the general public.
The BlackBerry Z10 – it’s got the weight of a whole company on its plastic shoulders. It’s holding up, but we’re not sure for how long.