The upcoming launch of the BlackBerry Z10 is really all about software. I like to think of the new operating system as a last ditch attempt by the company to win back market share from iPhone and Android devices. The company stressed that the entire OS has been rewritten from the ground up and that certainly seems to be the case.
I only had some brief hands-on time with the BlackBerry Z10, but the first aspect that impressed me about the software was its speed. There was no evident lag or delay on show during my first look. Screen transitions are smooth, apps open without a delay and the entire user experience feels both fresh and slick.
The BlackBerry 10 operating system certainly will have a learning curve. The gestures will take time to learn and using the OS does feel a little daunting if you've never picked it up before. However, after a few minutes of use, I found that most of the gestures seem natural. There's no back or home buttons, but once you get used to flicking up from the bottom of the screen it's not something that's a real issue.
The main screen of the phone is a grid of up to eight currently open applications. Some of these are widgets, while others are static apps. There's minimal control over this list: if you open nine apps, an older app will be removed from the screen. There's also no way to re-order this list as its based on which app you've most recently opened.
BlackBerry 10 also utilises a central "BlackBerry Hub" to manage all messages and notifications, so it's best described as a unified inbox for all notifications. We found it a little odd that there are notification icons on the home screen, but you can't enter the hub by tapping any of them. You need to use the a "peek gesture" to open this hub.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry 10 is the new touch screen keyboard. The company says it will learn and adapt to your keystrokes to offer word suggestions and predictions while typing. It appears to offer many similar features found in the popular Swiftkey for Android app, so we'll be keen to see how well it compares when we receive a review unit for a more thorough test . We particularly like the ability to flick up on a full word that often displays above the key you're typing.
The BlackBerry Z10 will launch sometime in March and will be sold through Australia's two largest telcos, Telstra and Optus. Pricing and specific availability dates have yet to be announced.
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