BlackBerry 10: A Four Month Report Card

On February 19, 2013 I received my BlackBerry Z10. As we await the arrival of Friday’s Q1 earnings release, it’s time to reflect and review the impact it has had on my communications and overall computing experiences. In summary it has changed my computing patterns and activities significantly.

Update: Due to personal commitments I was not able to publish this until the morning of the earnings release but it serves as a reference post for both those who ask me why I like the BlackBerry 10 and, now, also as a reference post for my forthcoming comments on the Q1 results.

As I have stated previously my theme has been “Did I say it was fast?” The most difficult adjustment was the speed at which activities happen. But it has also made significant changes to my work patterns with respect to how I use my various computing and communications platforms and devices in the context of where I am at any moment and what I need access to. More on this in the Report Card Bottom Line at the end.

Here’s what contributed to the speed:

HTML5Test.25Jun131. The web browser. It’s the fastest “draw” on a smartphone according to HTML5Test.com. Click on a URL in Twitter, Facebook or a Skype chat session and the website comes up almost instantly. (It’s even slightly faster than Google Chrome on my Windows 8 PC which scores 463.)

Often it will access the mobile version of a website; to some degree this has negated the need for an independent app, especially for news and sports sites. The  Reader feature lets me easily read sites that are not mobile friendly.

Bottom line: I now do much more browsing on my Z10 and less on my PC. For the most part browsing “just works” –  no hesitations, no delays. I now do a lot more web browsing when away from my home office than with previous smartphones. It has become a “natural” thing to do. No spinning clocks; no egg timers.

2. The keyboard. Did I say this keyboard was smart? I probably type 20% to 30% of the actual number of characters sent in text messages, Twitter tweets, Skype IM and other character-based messaging applications. It continues to amaze me with how smart, and customized, it has become after four months usage.

3. The Hub. It’s the “always on” messaging centre. Receive and send email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, SMS (Text), FourSquare and BlackBerry Messenger messages all at one location. Swipe up and to the right to take a glance at messages while in another application. It’s basically my easily accessed “Go To” action center for all messaging activity.

Share.Combined.All4. The Share card: This is a feature for which I continuously am finding new uses. Want to share a web page URL? A picture or video?  The weather forecast from a weather app? A New York Times news item. A baseball report from At Bat MLB?

The Share card presents multiple options for how to distribute an item of interest, without going into the relevant app, if applicable. Use NFC to share to another BlackBerry 10 that is physically present. Use BBM Channel to start another BBM Channel post. Send email; share to Twitter (or Blaq), Facebook or LinkedIn. Or make “note” of the item using Reminder.

Bottom line for Share: it’s convenient and it’s fast. And has more flexibility than any Share feature I have encountered on a PC.

5. BlackBerry Flow: This is the time saving feature that eats at all the little gotcha’s that can hold up getting at the information you want. Gesture up and the to right – in any application – and you can peak at your Hub’s messages. Go to the Active Frames screen, click on an open app (I mean really open) and it instantly comes back to the foreground – no waiting for an app to “re-open”. Gesture to the right to get to the Hub; gesture to the left to browse through your applications.

One other feature: you can carry on messaging activity associated with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn without the need to open the relevant application. It’s all done using the Hub.

Flow is subtle but it’s significant in contributing to “Did I say it was fast?”.

6. The Display: Only with the use of my BlackBerry Z10 have I watched so many videos on a mobile device. The size is right; little, if any, buffering delays or pixilation. YouTube videos come up quickly and run smoothly. It’s become a “natural” to click on a video link and watch it. Its size also a major reason to prefer the Z10 over the Q10.

As for reading text, I had always been leery of reading on a hand size device. But with a pixel density slightly larger than Retina, I have again just found myself not thinking twice about reading documents, web pages, messages, etc. It’s just there to be read.

The overall display size along with the super smart keyboard is a major reason for favouring the Z10 over the Q10 with its hardware keyboard. Yet I can see why others would favour the Q10, especially if you are doing a lot of typing.

7. LTE: Can’t overlook the fact that it supports LTE. It’s not a BlackBerry exclusive but it makes a difference to the speed perception when away from a WiFi access point.

So much for the contributions to its speed; it also has some other interesting features:

1. Time Shift: capturing 10 shots of a small child’s unpredictable expressions is amazing. Then select what you consider to be the best face shot. I still like to use my Canon SLR camera for its versatility but I find myself taking many more pictures with the Z10. While it comes with a photo editor, a most interesting editing application is Photo X Pro which will superimpose location and weather information onto a photo.

2. Story Maker – make up a 15 second video of multiple still shots. Easy to do provided you have the content.

3. Voice and Video calling: I have two options – Blackberry Messenger and Skype. Each has its advantages and I’ll probably continue to use both in the context of whom I am calling and what platform or end point s/he is using.

I could go on about the “small but important” applications and services that come with the BlackBerry 10. But one final issue:

Applications

I’m not a gamer; I don’t “get” Instagram (yes I have it on my iPhone) and if Netflix’s limited Canadian content does not interest my wife, then it will definitely not interest me. Many of the widely used applications have become available, especially Skype, Amazon Kindle and professional sports apps (baseball, hockey, golf, soccer, etc.). Expect many more to arrive over the summer.

But we are also seeing a pattern of releases of not only applications on other devices but also some that are unique to BlackBerry. Blaq is by far the best Twitter app I have encountered on any device; just hope Twitter does not make more API changes that would hinder Blaq’s evolution. I have also found many applications that perform the same functionality as “competitors” on other devices. GasBuddy provides me with gas prices anywhere I travel in North America; I don’t need Tomorrow’s Gas Price Today. FidMe is great for storing loyalty card information and thinning out my wallet (in lieu of StoCard). Red Rocket takes a unique approach to letting me know when the next Toronto Transit bus or streetcar is coming.

But then, beyond news and sports sites, there are many sites that present a mobile friendly format for the browser. Three examples follow:

UPS.Tracking.Jun13 Wimbledon.2013.News GlenErin.Brunch.Jun13
Tracking a UPS Shipment from Spain Following Wimbledon’s most surprising day ever Checking out a restaurant for a Father’s Day brunch

Bottom line on applications: I focus on features and content that are useful to me. Whatever the underlying technology is really does not matter. If an Android port, such as FidMe works, it works. I now have my loyalty cards accessible on my Z10 and a thinner wallet. If I want to make a video call I can use BlackBerry Messenger with my 35 BBM contacts (about to increase significantly when it goes cross-platform) or I can call my 800 Skype contacts on multiple end point platforms using Skype, another Android port that just delivers.

Applications such as WordPress and Songza, currently Android ports, have recognized the benefits of going native and have announced plans to do so. BlackBerry 10 gives developers new and open tools to work with; hard core developers are always trying new things. Over the next year, as developers and businesses see BlackBerry 10 grow into a multi-million user base, they will not want to be missing out on that market.

Report Card Bottom line: My BlackBerry 10 has, with few exceptions, essentially replaced my need to take a laptop or even a tablet when I leave the home office. It has changed my computing patterns and how I operate, especially when away from the home office. It’s a time saver; it’s a complete communications tool; it’s a productivity tool; it encourages me to keep exploring. I’m always up-to-date.

In 1983 I had my first “luggable” (or portable computer), an 10 kg Hyperion out of Ottawa that served as both an email PC and support for demonstrations of a product for which I had sales responsibility; subsequently I carried around several Compaq and Dell portables or laptops. Today BlackBerry 10, whose core functionality also comes out of Ottawa, gives me most of what I need when leaving my office.

I’ll still take a laptop as a complement to my BlackBerry 10 for traveling as it’s better suited to creating documents but for following messages, keeping up to date on news, sports and social network, searching for buyer information, my BlackBerry 10 is really a rather complete mobile computing platform.

Note to BlackBerry: Build out from the “keep moving” theme and market BlackBerry as a mobile computing platform. After all that’s what you really have been claiming; that’s what is really is. Now make the world aware of it.

And where does it go from here? Check out BlackBerry: A Smartphone Manifesto and BlackBerry 10: If the Tablet is Going Away, Then What? Everything I’ve seen in the mobile space since writing those posts supports going in this direction.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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