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Will the new Z10 save BlackBerry?

Published: Sunday, April 21, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(AP file)
In this Jan. 30, 2013 file photo, the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone is displayed in New York.

In January, RIM renamed itself after its flagship product, BlackBerry. But is a new smartphone enough to save the beleaguered company?

The Z10 marks BlackBerry’s first foray into the smartphone arena. It’s a keyboardless device; its sibling the Q10 has a physical keyboard and will be released soon. Although BlackBerry is late to the game, the Z10 is a good introductory phone that packs enough features to appeal to consumers and corporations alike.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the Z10 is light and quick. In size it’s roughly the same as an iPhone: 5.1 by 2.6 by .35 inches, weighing 4.8 ounces. It feels comfortable in the hand, as you would expect from a mobile that will quickly become your close companion.

It’s surprisingly responsive for a device that doesn’t have much by way of horsepower. Inside the easy-to-open case you’ll find a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor with 2GB of RAM. It comes with a 4.2-inch 1,280-by-768 LCD display at 356 pixels per inch. That’s good enough to view videos and play basic games.

But the hardware exists primarily to showcase the BlackBerry 10 software. BlackBerry has put a great deal of effort into this latest version of their system. It’s easy to use and, better still, offers corporate manageability.

BB10 allows you to flow through its various functions via swipes and gestures. It doesn’t offer much by way of customization, so if you’re used to arranging your icons just so, you’ll be disappointed. Otherwise BB10 provides a smooth, integrated experience that doesn’t get in the way.

The Z10’s functions center around the Hub, which collects notifications from email, text messages, and social media. Unfortunately your ability to filter this list is limited, so if you get a barrage of updates from one account it may drown out notifications from another.

While the idea of a BlackBerry sans keyboard seems strange, the Z10’s software keyboard is so accurate you may not miss it. Predictive completion quickly becomes second nature. BlackBerry is known for the world’s best mobile keyboards and, in this regard, they’ve lived up to their reputation.

Help features are front and center, essential for a brand new device. During setup you’re given an interactive tour which gets you up to speed on the Z10’s gestures. The comprehensive Help section contains everything from FAQs and Getting Started guides to tips and techniques.

From a security standpoint I was pleased to see a prominent Passwords and Security section with all the info you need to protect your phone. Security is one reason the BlackBerry remains popular, since companies can integrate its security into their existing networks. This may boost the Z10’s sales, as corporates who have already bought into BlackBerry upgrade their infrastructure.

One major disadvantage of the Z10 is the lack of apps. As this is a first for BlackBerry, its app store is new and you may not be able to find all of your favorites. This could seriously hamper their ability to market this device to consumers if they are unable to get more developers on board.

BlackBerry has a lot riding on this phone. Gone are the days when addicts swore by their BlackBerrys, which have gradually been replaced by a steady stream of alternatives. It may be too little, too late for a company that’s betting the farm on the Z10 and the upcoming Q10, and the BlackBerry 10 software they run.

Will the Z10 be able to compete with industry stalwarts like Apple, Google, and Samsung? Time will only tell if it can reverse BlackBerry’s fortunes.

• Triona Guidry is a freelance writer and IT specialist. Her Tech Tips blog (http://www.guidryconsulting.com/techtips) offers computer help and social media advice. She can be reached at info@guidryconsulting.com or via Twitter @trionaguidry.

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