The old BlackBerry is dead and buried, and the new one is a worthy option in the modern smartphone world
At the first release, the contacts lookup when addressing emails was often very slow, and after you type part of a person's name to initiate a lookup in your contacts list, the BlackBerry 10 OS often left the partial entry you typed for you to delete. The current OS version fixes those issues.
But I experienced more text-entry blues. As you type, suggested words pop up on the onscreen keyboard in tiny, virtually impossible-to-read small text, by default above the letter it thinks you may have meant to tap in the current word. (You can turn off this suggested text or have it appear above the spacebar instead.) The ability to swipe these suggestions into your text is no less work than tapping the suggestion; the much-ballyhooed swipe-up suggestions seems like a gimmick created merely for demos.
The main suggestion appears in a large blue box that is easy to read -- but it's smack on top of the spacebar, hiding that character and preventing you from ending the current word if you don't want to accept the suggestion. I had to tap a punctuation character, then backspace to delete it, then type the spacebar.
The onscreen keyboard is not smart enough to provide special symbols such as @ and _ when entering URLs and email addresses. (Sometimes, @ was available.) There is no .com button.
Finally, the method to apply formatting to text in emails is unintuitive. Every time I tapped the Format button at the bottom of the screen, I got the onscreen keyboard instead. What you have to do is hide the keyboard (by tapping and holding the spacebar), tap the More button, tap Format in the contextual menu that appears, then tap the Format icon at the bottom of the screen to display the formatting bar. Crazy! After that, the Format button is active at the bottom of the screen, when the keyboard is hidden, so you don't have to reenable it in the contextual menu. This seems to be a Hub flaw; in Documents to Go, I could use the contextual menu for selected text to enable formatting.
But the dictation feature -- accessed by tapping and holding the period on the onscreen keyboard -- is exemplary, with voice recognition quality a bit better than both Apple's and Google's. Well, exemplary if I'm not the one speaking: BlackBerry mangles my speech as badly as Apple and Google do, though it did great with other testers' speech. As with those two competitors, you need a live Internet connection so that the BlackBerry can send your speech to the company's servers for transcription, then send back to you.
Go with the Peek and Flow
I like the Peek UI's ability to slide in from the right when reading a message to see the full Hub list, then either open the Hub or close it and return to my message. It's fast and easy. The Peek interface is also useful in apps, where you can peek at the available documents or images.
The simple Flow interface for shuffling among apps is also nice. You quickly learn you can move from the Hub to your running apps' tiles to your app icons and back with simple swipes, and the gesture becomes second nature fast. Despite what the folks at BlackBerry claim, it's not really easier than iOS's multitasking dock or Android's running-apps windowlet. Closing an app (the app still runs in the background) and getting to the running apps' tiles by swiping up from the bottom of the screen is also no easier than tapping a home button.
In some cases, it is slower. That's because when you close an app, you are presented with a screen of tiles of running apps; you have to then swipe to the right to see the various app screens if the app you want is not running. iOS's home button speeds up the process, though it's not as fast as Android's quick access to airplane mode via the notification tray.
BlackBerry did find a different app-switching approach in the WebOS-like Flow compared to what iOS and Android do. It is generally well-executed, but it provides no competitive advantage. Still the BlackBerry 10 OS user interface is easy to learn and overall is both efficient and straightforward.
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