Whatcha got … BB10?

Applico CTO Matt Powers goes two weeks with the Blackberry Z10. He puts BB10 through its paces in this two week review which will cover the good, the bad and the ugly.

This is the first in a multi-part series, chronicling my two-week trial of the Blackberry Z10: the good, the bad, and the ugly in-between.

I consider myself a mobile “power user” and with good reason; over the course of 2012 I cycled through the following phones:

  • iPhone4, running iOS 5+
  • Samsung Focus 2, running Windows Phone 7
  • Samsung Nexus, running Jelly Bean
  • Nokia Lumia 920, running Windows Phone 8

New year, new phone, new and “improved”BB10… I guess it makes sense.

Our CEO, Alex Moazed recently brought back a Z10 from the BB10 launch event in New York City.  At first I wasn’t even fazed by the device; in my mind it already had a place in the Applico “Graveyard” with the likes of the Playbook and Nexus Q.  But as the day went on I thought more about it, and wondered; how would switching over to this new operating system really impact me? After all, I had switched to Windows Phone after years of using devices running iOS and Android.  That had been painless so how bad could this be?

When I opened the Z10, my first thought was about how eerily similar the size and shape was to the iPhone5. Great, I thought to myself – another cheap phone; nothing compared to the 920.  I turned it on and within the first five minutes I found myself severely frustrated by how unintuitive the UI was.  I am not the type of person that reads instruction manuals, but with the Z10 I found that I needed to memorize a control set, almost like I was memorizing combinations in Mortal Kombat.  This was in complete contrast to my experience the first time I picked up a Windows Phone.  I can do this, I thought; just hold on for two weeks!

As I muddled through the phone I consistently found myself looking for a way to get “home”.  Windows, iOS, and Android make this easy with hardware and software keys, but BB10 took a different approach by using a swipe gesture from the bottom bevel.  Swiping upwards to minimize its applications took some getting used to and I constantly found myself bleeding into other application specific gestures; this lead to a jarring and disjointed user experience.  Worse yet, once I conquered minimization I found the recent application tiles cluttering my home screen to be extremely distracting.

So what was next,? Well, I moved on to the “70,000” apps that BB had promised me, via App World.   Once I started poking around I quickly realized that most, if not all (with the exception of Facebook and Twitter) of the apps that I use on a day to day were no here to be found on BB10.  In a time when the most of the mobile hardware and software ecosystem’s have caught up, if not exceeded the standards set by Apple, a robust, diverse and innovative app offering is more important than ever.   Unfortunately what I found was a subpar app store featuring native Android apps, legacy BB apps, some HTML5 based applications and only a handful of BB10 powered applications. Banking – if you are a BOA or Chase user forget about it.  Music and Entertainment – no Spotify, the alternative,  the clunky yet popular Android app, Songza is only worse on BB10.  The VM must take up some serious resources, because not only is the user experience confusing (two action bars, one for the native android app and one for the wrapped BB10 experience) the application is slow to load, slow to transition and slow to play music (Hey maybe the JB update will help: www.phonescoop.com/articles/article.php?a=11888)

So alas, I moved onto Twitter and Facebook, they couldn’t do me wrong right?  Wrong.  The Facebook app is completely stripped down, worse yet, the news feed seems totally out of date and inconsistent with what I see on the web and in my iOS and Android apps.  Want a full in app native Twitter experience?  Don’t look here.  The Twitter application constantly dumps the user in the mobile web experience, which proves frustrating.

So where am I now?  Well I am three days in, extremely frustrated and cautious that this experience is going to get better.  Hopefully AppHub, the Camera, NFC and the UX will ultimately keep this device from meeting the same fate as the Playbook before it (see Graveyard)

Stay tuned

Filed under: Product Engineering | Topics: bb, bb10, blackberry, Blackberry Development, mobile, native BB, platforms, RIM

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