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Apple and Google have nothing to fear from BlackBerry 10 -- but Microsoft does

Galen Gruman | Feb. 1, 2013
Hands-on review: BlackBerry 10 is a big step up, but it's awkward to use in key areas

Thorsten Heins, CEO of the company formerly known as Research in Motion and now named simply BlackBerry, has kept his core promise to retool the BlackBerry OS for the modern era. TheBlackBerry 10 OS announced yesterday, and available in the new BlackBerry Z10 smartphone in the United Kingdom today and the United States in March, is a big shift away from the outdated platform that has all but faded in terms of sales.

But the BlackBerry 10 OS poses no threat to Apple's iOS or Google's Android, which are both much more sophisticated and much more capable. It's Microsoft that should worry about BlackBerry 10, both because Windows Phone 8 pales in comparison and because BlackBerry 10 echoes many of the familiar messaging capabilities that will appeal to those old-school BlackBerry users who have so far resisted iOS and Android.

The sharp BlackBerry Z10

 The Z10 is a slick smartphone, made of textured plastic that is comfortable to hold and Apple-like in its simple design. The 4.2-inch screen is sharp, though middle of the pack in size, larger than an iPhone's and smaller than the popular Samsung Galaxy devices running Android.

Although BlackBerry promotes the device as perfect for one-handed thumb-centric use, the truth is the screen is too large for most people's hands to reach the top; plus, I found that thumb taps were often ignored by the touchscreen. The culprit seems to be angle: The screen is quite good at detecting direct, straight-down taps such as from our index finger when holding the device with one hand and tapping with the other. Directly down thumb taps are also registered, but those that come in at 45-degree or shallower angles often are not.

The hardware specs are comparable to those of other quality smartphones, though the mono speaker is a bit "breathy" and flat compared to the iPhone 5's. The battery is replaceable, which is important given the so-so battery life; you'll get a workday's use, like most Android smartphones, but not the two-day life typical of an iPhone. You can also add an SD card for increased storage beyond the 11.4GB of available capacity on the device, such as to store media files.

 

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