Weeks before the launch, I reserved my Z10 with Rogers. I logged into their website and made sure that I had Black version set aside. I figured that I had nothing to worry about. Well I was wrong. February 5th, 2013 came along and by 9 AM I was texting my local rep to make sure he had my phone ready to go.
His reply was not what I wanted to hear.
Flashback to 6 days earlier. The long anticipated launch where everything would be made clear. Thorsten Heins, CEO of RIM (now BlackBerry) revealed the devices, Z10 full touch, and Q10 with keyboard. Both beautiful looking devices, with that solid business look that is consistent with the top of the line BlackBerries. Release dates were announced. January 31st for the UK, and February 5th for Canada. I had watched all the videos and read all the articles. I knew about QNX, the operating system underlying it all. The only things I was missing was one in my hands to replace my BlackBerry Bold 9900.
Which brings us back to Tuesday, February 5th….
“we still haven’t gotten our allocation. We should know more later today.”
Ummmmm…..I don’t think so.
Future Shop was my first stop. Only white in stock. It isn’t “Whiteberry” is it? My heart was set on black. Next stop Best Buy…again only white. The department manager assured me that he was getting some black ones later that morning, and since we had played touch football together a few years earlier I had an in. He assured me he would put one away.
After a meeting, and a quick coffee, I returned. I looked at him. He nodded. My nerves calmed. I got one.
Little did I know that there was a shortage of them. In fact, BlackBerry announced that Tuesday was the best launch day in company history in Canada, by over 50 percent.
There is a special feeling having a piece of hardware before everyone else. Especially if it exceeds expectations and catches the market off guard. I think too many people (media people and people who are brand loyal not technology loyal) underestimated what BlackBerry was bringing to the market. I just brought the box home unopened and had lunch before diving in.
My history with smart phones starts with an early Palm Treo, followed by the Windows version, then a few HTC Windows based phones, and then I was convinced to use a BlackBerry. I knew about their security, and their keyboards, but my first BlackBerry was a Storm 2. It wasn’t the experience I wanted but the messaging was excellent as expected. That was what has remained consistent in the face
of all the adversity that RIM/BlackBerry have faced.
Your stuff stays safe. Personal or business.
Email works better. All messaging will actually work better.
A real keyboard will always be faster than a touch keyboard.
BBM blows away the pretenders when it comes to real time messaging.
I have written a few other articles about the operating system, as well as my thoughts on the future. This article is about my experiences from first power up, to charging it up at the end of the night.
I open the box. Right away I applaud BlackBerry for using both recyclable packaging, and their efficient use of space. You get the standard fare. Charger with removable USB B micro connector. Standard, which means I won’t have to buy new adapters for anything. Included was also basic headphones that can be used for hands free operation. I removed the phone from it’s packaging and got my first feel of the materials. Comfortable. Nicely rounded along the back, and glass the width of the front. The only buttons are on the top, and the sides. The volume/play/pause rocker, and the lock button on the top next to the standard headphone jack. The back panel can be lifted up from the bottom to gain access to the micro sim card (new for BlackBerry with this model) and micro SD slot. This allows you to add up to 64GB of additional storage memory to compliment the included 16GB internal.
I got a good feel for the phone as I popped in the battery and snapped the cover back on. It really feels good. The screen is bigger than the iPhones I have held, and the pixel density is extremely high. Colors are solid. I could tell this by the boot up icon. I tend to spin my phone in my hand and did this instinctively . Natural. Booted up faster than my Bold did, but then I do remember a day when my Bold booted up fast too. Feel is so important when it is a device that you will hold in your hand for hours every day.
I had the advantage of knowing the gestures from reading and watching video in the lead up to launch. I also was a Playbook owner, adopting one when they were first released and marveling at how much tablet you can get for just over 100 dollars. The fact that there will be a PB upgrade to BB10 is great news for all current and future owners. Learning to swipe from the sides is a skill you learn with the PB and translates well. The phone was now booted up and waiting for me to go through the starting setup where you pick your language and base settings. In no time I was looking at a pretty empty Hub that needed filling.
The Hub is where messages live. All of them. It is the home base for your what defines BlackBerry. A BlackBerry user is someone who communicates. They message a lot and having a place that everything integrates into is a great idea. My world is about communication, and anything that removes steps saves me time. I populated the Hub with a couple of email addresses, one my work exchange based email (which pulled my contacts in nicely as well as calendars and tasks), BBM contacts came in with my BlackBerry ID. Great feature. Facebook took no time at all. Now things started happening. That brings me to my first issue.
My POP email account sucked in about 500 old emails that were sitting on the server. There was no way to select an email, and then select another one lower down, and have all the ones in-between be selected as well. You have to get to your options and pick “Select More”. Now you tap each item one after another. Like selecting with the Ctrl key held when working with email. Better, but still a pain when you are talking about 500. Other than that, I took quite easily to the concept. The Hub is always available. It is like the bottom layer, the layer above is apps you have running, or Active Frames. You can have eight of them running at once, and loading a ninth kicks off the last one used. You can flip through them very easily. Swiping up from the bottom minimizes the app from full screen, and tapping it maximizes it. The apps rest on the top layer, and you can have a few pages on that top layer.
Swiping from left to right, or right to left, moves you between those layers. If you get a message, then from wherever you are, move up from the bottom and to the right to peek back to the Hub to see what message you got. There are plenty of videos showing how this works. Question is does it? Absolutely. Became second nature within a half hour. A few basic swipes moves you around effortlessly.
I admit that right after opening it and playing with it for a few minutes, I had to pick up my daughter and it ended up in my pocket. I had gotten quite used to my Bold with it’s keyboard and had not liked the typing on other touch keyboards. I then had an hour to play with it. Like playing with a new toy that makes you smile the more you play with it. It is obvious that this device was play tested. The keyboard is brilliant and gets smarter. It knows how to adjust to how you type. The thought process of how to maneuver is natural. Intuitive. The layout is simple and efficient.
Gradually over the course of supper, and while watching a hockey game on Centre Ice, I downloaded some apps, and tweaked things my way. Swipe down from the top gives me my help and settings. Pull the app to the right to reveal a menu that lets you move from groups to contacts in BBM, or catagories in BlackBerry World. Brilliant.
I’m not an app fanatic. Quoting volume of apps is meaningless. Quality of apps is everything. If I have a great picture editor that comes with my device, then I don’t go looking for an app to do it. Apps for me fill a void left by the manufacturer. A flashlight. BeBuzz that lets me mess with the colors of my LED so I know what messages await. Skype for video cross platform, though I hope all my friends invest in BB10 on some device as I prefer that video to anything I have seen to date.
Screen share works, and works well. I am able to help friends with the same phone by showing them my screen….on their screen. I can show pictures without having to send them. BBM truly has things done right. By 9 PM I am paying more attention to my phone than the game. Multitasking truly works on this device. I played with the great time shift on the camera as I listened to TuneIn Radio and it didn’t miss a beat. A music player, video player, picture editor, and all the other staples were there. Nothing more was needed. The security of the device is unquestioned. The keyboard is easily the best on any current device. QNX is the RTOS (Real Time Operating System) it is built on. It is the RTOS that already powers a lot more than phones. Trusted in no fail environments. A powerful beast that makes it all happen. Then on top of that you add the beauty of the screen, the build, and the feel. Any quirks I had were minor and software only. As a launch device, I applaud BlackBerry. Finally. My patience has been rewarded. That bad taste that was creeping up has receded and my faith in you has been restored.
1 AM and I am sitting on the edge of my bed checking to make sure that it was charging, and becoming distracted by the design again until I remember that I have to get up in the morning. It may not have the amount of apps that the big boys do, but it has the smoothest interface of them all. BlackBerry has risen to the occasion and surpassed expectations. As a Canadian, that makes me proud. Now where is my phone?
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