On Wednesday, January 30th, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Toronto launch for the BlackBerry 10 smartphone. I had been eagerly anticipating the launch and was thrilled to be invited to both the party and a special pre-event for the BlackBerry Elite program. I am very lucky to be a member of such a great program from a brand that truly knows how important its fans are to its long term success. As a member of the program, I’d had sneak peeks at the Z10, participated in a conference call / slide share presentation with Alec Saunders – the Vice President of Developer Relations for BlackBerry, and had the chance to chat with other BlackBerry fans through BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and on social media. There was a reception for the members of the BlackBerry Elite program at a wonderful restaurant on Church Street prior to the evening’s fan night activities. The always wonderful Kerri Birch was there (she’s one of the awesome people who manage the @BlackBerry twitter account). There was some socializing, and then she announced that we were all getting BlackBerry Z10 smartphones to use and show off and generally do what I’ve always done with my devices. I seriously debated squealing with delight but it wasn’t that type of restaurant. I’m pretty sure that my friend Christine and I didn’t stop grinning for hours. Some of the people there had received their phones earlier that day, and some had had them for a few days already so they helped those of us who had just received our phones put the micro Sim cards in and get started with our phones.
Let me say now that I was a bit hesitant about going to a touch screen phone. I’ve had some horrible auto correct fails on the iPhone and on an Android phone. I found the keyboards hard to get used to and slow to type on. The predictive text was average at best. I created a new BlackBerry ID for my Z10 – because I was going to keep my Bold 9900 around as a backup, and because my Fido e-mail address wouldn’t migrate to the BlackBerry 10. Within 10 minutes of getting the Z10 up and running I was marveling at the ease of typing on this touch screen. While a lot of the pre-launch information was describing the ability to type one handed, I was thrilled to discover that I could still “thumb type” on the Z10. The predictive text is amazing – as you start typing words appear where your eyes would go on the keyboard if you were typing the whole word, and a simple swipe up will select that word. For example if you were typing the word “hello”, you would type “h-e” and then as you look to the “l” the word “hello” is above it, a single swipe and it’s there. It’s pretty cool. Another neat feature of the predictive text is if you type a few words “Testing out” the phone will suggest words that you’ve used before after those words or words that commonly come after the words you typed. You just need to swipe up to select them.
The other thing that amazed me right away was how light the Z10 is. It weighs less than 140g (5oz). The light weight makes it easy to use one handed (even if I still prefer to type with 2 hands).
It’s the little things that are making me love my Z10. The address bar for the browser is at the bottom of the screen, not the top so that if you’re using it one handed you can tap the bar to enter an address without trying to stretch and reach the top of the rather tall screen. I love how functional the documents to go feature is – I can create, edit, and share Excel, Powerpoint, and Word files on the go. It’s a big improvement over the documents to go on my Bold 9900 that lets me edit and share documents but not create them. Some of the apps aren’t quite as useful as I’d like them to be – Twitter for instance doesn’t yet allow multiple accounts and doesn’t let me use the lists I’ve meticulously created to manage all of the accounts I follow. This isn’t a knock on the BlackBerry Z10 – it’s a criticism of the native app, and one that I’ve been told is being fixed. I’ve been playing with different twitter apps, and though I still prefer the native app on my Bold 9900, I’ve found that Neatly is a nice little app for the Z10. It allows me to mute hashtags (a huge plus) but didn’t import my lists from Twitter, which is kind of annoying since I don’t want to have to recreate them. Likewise, the Facebook app is not as fully featured as the app on my Bold 9900. I can’t say that I miss Facebook chat but some people will.
I’ve had a lot of fun playing with the time shift camera – taking pictures with friends and their kids is so easy with the camera – the only thing i would change about it is to have the flash work with timeshift. Some of the times when I most need the feature have been in dimly lit situations where I need a flash too. In fact it’s the flash that often makes people blink. I’m hoping that there will be a way to let the flash stay on (like it does for a flashlight app) in a future update of the OS.
The Hub has won me over completely. I love being able to see all my messages immediately and decide if I want to stop what I’m doing in order to reply or if they’re not worth my time. It’s now at the point where rather than being frustrated by the things I was used to about my Bold 9900 and don’t have on my Z10 (like the physical keyboard), I’m trying to do things like access the Hub on my 9900 and am frustrated when I can’t get there.
One thing that I’m not using as much on my Z10 but that I can see a lot of other people using is the filters that are built into the camera. I have to confess, I’m not huge on Instagram – mostly because it seems to just be a vehicle to share pictures that I don’t really need to see. The one thing that intrigued me about Instagram was the photo filters. I have a photo editing program on my Z10 ( KVAD Group Photo Studio Pro) that allows me to edit any pictures but for the simplified filter effects, I don’t even need to leave the camera. You can take a picture of the pretty snow:
Then you can add any one of a number of artistic filters (black and white, sepia, antique, lomo, whiteboard, watercolor, negative, or sketch), styles (smooth face, sixties, grain, age photo, filmstrip, halftone, cartoon, or big eyes), auto enhance it, adjust the brightness, remove red eye, or change the contrast, sharpness, white balance, and saturation of the picture. Of course you can also rotate the picture, change its orientation or its aspect ratio; all within the editing program that is part of the camera package on the Z10. The only style I really like to use so far is the age photo. Here’s the picture with the Age Photo style applied.
Do you have a BlackBerry Z10? Are you holding out for the Q10? What is your favourite feature on the BlackBerry 10?