BlackBerry Z10 review: The BlackBerry we've wanted is finally here
The old BlackBerry is dead and buried, and the new one is a worthy option in the modern smartphone worldFollow @MobileGalen
Welcome to the Hub -- and mixed messaging capabilities
For some time now, RIM -- I mean BlackBerry -- has been trying to act young and hip, even though its core market has long been 50-year-old execs like me.
In addition to the now de rigeur media store, BlackBerry has followed the messaging centrism that Microsoft debuted in the terrible Kin a few years back, then successfully re-debuted in Windows Phone's People app. The Hub lists all your messages and updates in one big list.
It's great for seeing what's new, but I found the list quickly grows overwhelming -- and I set up just my two main email accounts, my Twitter feed, and my appointments. But you can narrow down to one stream by tapping the top of the Hub and selecting the account you want to focus on. Tap there again and select the Hub to go back to the view of everything. All in all, the Hub concept works quite well, and if you're primarily a messaging or reactive email user, it's perfect.
For email, the Hub works like the traditional BlackBerry email app (in fact, BlackBerry 10 has no separate email app). If you like how the BlackBerry has historically handled email, BlackBerry 10 will be comfortingly familiar. I dislike it: Seeing my replies mixed up in my messages confuses me as to what each message is and clutters what I perceive as my inbox. Fortunately, as in the old BlackBerry, you can turn off that reply display via a preference setting.
The folder navigation for email is very clunky, requiring a trip to the Hub's account list. When you file a message from the mail list into a folder, you're often moved to the folder with the message open, so quickly filing messages for later is not at all quick, as it is in iOS and Android. Sometimes, filing a message worked as expected, keeping me in the email list; go figure. Also, messages filed to folders on other devices or computers -- common for those of us who move among a tablet, computer, and smartphone throughout the day -- don't get marked as such in BlackBerry 10, unlike iOS or Android.
To act on a message, tap and hold it (a long-tap, in Android parlance) to have a contextual menu slide in from the side, then tap the icon for the desired action, such as copy or delete. When in a message, use the More menu (the sideways ellipsis icon) to display those options. It's similar to how Android works.
The Hub's email "app" is adequate, but not as easy to use as iOS's and a little less easy than Android's.
The BlackBerry's text-entry blues
Given the BlackBerry 10 OS's messaging focus, I was frustrated by its sometimes-painful text entry and text editing.
The good news is that the onscreen keyboard is nice and clear, and I appreciate the numerals row at the top -- you even get a standard keyboard's symbols when you tap the Shift key. The ability to swipe the Delete key to delete the word to the left of the cursor is also a nice convenience.
In the initial release of the BlackBerry 10 OS, text selection was very difficult, both to move your cursor and to select a range of text. The text cursor is very faint when trying to position the cursor, and it can be hard to exit that cursor-movement mode. Since then, an OS update has added an iOS-like focal circle (without the magnification) to help you locate the cursor, and selection and cursor movement are now more precise. To select text usually requires double-tapping it, but often you get the cursor instead. Extending the selection range by dragging the selection handles doesn't always work smoothly.
Although you can adjust the size of text in the overall UI, you cannot do so in emails, and the text size is barely legible for many people. Perhaps the reason for the tiny text is BlackBerry's desire to seem young. Tiny text is a hallmark of 20-year-old programmers, who don't understand that much of the world doesn't see as well as they do (and don't care enough to let you change the default size). Keep your reading glasses handy.
I was also frustrated when composing emails. If you have multiple email accounts, you always have to choose one before composing the message, even when you're working in a particular account. Other OSes assume it's the account whose emails you are reading or let you set the default account. As in other mobile OSes, the BlackBerry 10 OS lets you change the From account before sending an email -- as long as you swipe up at the top of the message to reveal the menu for doing so. It's not as intuitive as in iOS or Android.