“Is that the new BlackBerry?” asked the woman in the hotel elevator. So distracted by the Z10, she ended up getting off on my floor.
There’s a lot of interest out there for BlackBerry 10, and I’ve been showing mine off for the week that I’ve had it. My impression so far is that BlackBerry 10 is the fastest, most efficient mobile operating system on the market.
There is a learning curve to this phone, but one overcome after a couple of days of use. When I used an iOS device after just a day of BB10 use, I was actually a bit frustrated with iOS not being as efficient, and slowing me down. I’ve been handing my phone over to iPhone users,
and they seem a bit puzzled at the lack of a home button, but can pick it up after being shown a few swipe gestures. So far, they seem most impressed by the Time Shift camera, but perhaps that’s just my favourite feature, and it shows in my demonstrations.
I’m still learning lots about the BlackBerry Z10, and am finding the unified inbox of the Hub to be quite useful. When my phone makes a noise and vibrates, I can quickly access the hub from any screen with a swipe from the bottom of the screen, and to see what has come in. The best of the hub doesn’t end there though.
On day 2 with the BlackBerry Z10, I was at Madison Square Garden to watch the NHL Ice Hockey game between the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
At a crowded venue that can fit 17,200 people for a Rangers game, mobile phone networks get very congested. You may well get coverage – but just try using it, particularly to get onto social networks such as Facebook.
In all the network congestion, my Z10 had fallen off the 4G LTE network, and landed way back in time on the EDGE network. When I opened the Facebook app, it was hourglassing (to borrow a Windows term), and with all the network congestion – wouldn’t load the newsfeed.
To upload a Facebook status update, there was another way. I swiped into BlackBerry Hub and selected ‘Compose’, and chose Facebook. From there I could write an update and press submit. As soon as there was enough capacity on the congested mobile network, BlackBerry Hub alerted me that my status update was uploaded successfully. As people commented on my status, their messages came through to me on BlackBerry Hub, even though there was still not enough network capacity for me to open up my profile in the Facebook app.
Back at work in Sydney a few days later, I tend to have frequent phone calls with the same group of people. As I made or received phone calls, it shows up as an event in the BlackBerry Hub, and to call one of those people again, I can quickly swipe into the Hub and press the call record, and it will dial their phone. The BlackBerry Hub is a useful feature for shortening the time it takes to communicate with your regular contacts.
When using various mobile operating systems, I look at the icons of static images, and wonder why they can’t be live. The closest iOS gets is showing you what date it is on the calendar app. BlackBerry 10 features Active Frames for the apps that you’re currently running, and for apps that have been developed with this in mind, you can see what your apps are up to, such as what song and album you’re listening to, and see what’s going on with your Facebook newsfeed.
I do have to get back to talking about the camera though. I figured what better place to test it out than Times Square in New York. I went there late at night when all the billboards were lit up and when the video screens stand out.
Most noticeable with the camera is the lack of shutter lag. When you press the screen to take your photo, it is pretty instantaneous with taking the shot, and it cycles very quickly to be ready to take the next shot. You can just keep clicking away. Compared to an iPhone, the Z10 easily wins on speed.
I also used Time Shift for a photo of myself with BlackBerry President & CEO Thorsten Heins, and Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben. I would like to see a tweak made to Time Shift though. For some reason you can’t use the LED or flash when you’re taking photos in this mode.
BlackBerry 10 also features what has been tested as having the best performing mobile Internet browser available. Hidden in the settings is a switch to enable Adobe Flash (you can’t do that on an iPhone!). Once I enabled it, I could watch overseas streaming TV channels through my phone. I want to pick up a Mini-HDMI adapter so I can plug it into my TV and watch through that. Prices seem to be about AUD $20 for a 2 meter HDMI cable with Mini-HDMI at one end. To buy an HDMI adapter for an iPad or an iPhone costs AUD $45 at the Apple Store, and then you have to fork out again for the actual HDMI cable.
Keeping with accessories, at the launch event, I was shown a battery charger, shown here with a BlackBerry Z10, with which you can charge your Z10 on the run through an external battery, saving the need to battery-pull and replace the battery – although you still have that option as the back cover is removable. This brilliant mobile charger can then be daisy chained to a car charger, so you can charge both the battery in the Z10 and the external spare at the same time.
I was told that this charger will sell for around US $50 (nicely priced), with the car charger for an extra $30, which seems kind of steep, but apparently there’s something special about it, and it charges your device faster, and it has an extra USB port on it for charging a second device.
Do you need a BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) plan to use BlackBerry 10 on Telstra?
This is confusing a lot of people on the Internet, with different sets of information out there, and BlackBerry should put out statements on this issue. Up until earlier today, I was on my old Telstra plan that included unlimited BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) Internet (although Telstra seem to refer to it as the ‘BlackBerry Individual Solution’), and an extra paltry allotment of 100 MB for direct Internet access. As pretty much everything went through BIS on my old BlackBerry Torch 9800, this always worked well for me. BlackBerry 10 works differently though. I got a text message from Telstra, informing me that I was at 108% of my Internet quota.
People on Internet forums are saying that BIS is not needed for BlackBerry 10, and that everything goes through the open Internet. To setup my e-mail account on my Z10, I just had to enter in my e-mail address and password on the handset itself, and everything worked perfectly. The browser, and applications such as Facebook and Twitter all now directly access the Internet, and no longer use BIS. As my existing mobile phone plan was no longer working for me, I ditched BIS from my account and switched to a 3 GB/month data plan. Everything was running great under my new plan, and then I opened BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). It was dead in the water, stating “Unable to connect. You need a data plan to use BBM. Please contact your service provider for details.”
I called up Telstra, and they assured me that if I re-enabled BIS, that I could still keep my 3 GB/month of data (yeah …I’ll wait for the bill). Lets just say that it took a bit of drama and a lot of phone calls to get BBM working again. Apparently when I first asked them to re-enable BIS, they just re-enabled the BlackBerry Web Browser. I called them back and had them enable BIS, which didn’t work, and then I called back and spoke to other operators who variously told me that BIS was or was not enabled on my service. If you happen to run into the same problem, ask Telstra (repeatedly) if BIS is enabled on your account, and if the codes are correct (it’s a BlackBerry thing). I was still getting nowhere, and after speaking to at least 10 different people at Telstra, I was put through to the ‘Service Recovery Team’, which has greater access to systems than seemingly everyone else at Telstra. If you’re hitting brick walls, try and get put through to those guys. Make sure you have your BlackBerry PIN handy when you call, as they will ask you for it.
I asked the Telstra rep what he finally did to fix the problem, and he said that he checked the IMEI relay, re-activated the consumer service (BIS) and manually added codes to provision the service. It’s all back up and running now, and hopefully this information will save you some time and sanity if you also experience this. BlackBerry will need to clear up what sort of data plan subscribers will need to be on in time for the Australian product release.
I’m still learning a lot about the BlackBerry Z10, and there is much more I could write, although I’ll have to put it in further posts. I will end on a humorous note. When I was on board a plane back home, I plugged my Z10 into the USB power point at my seat, and it promptly attempted to install BlackBerry Link (the new ‘BlackBerry Desktop Manager) onto a Boeing 747.
Warren Hudson attended the BlackBerry 10 launch in New York as a guest of BlackBerry.