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Hands on: BlackBerry Z10

updated 04:22 pm EST, Fri February 1, 2013

Final design unveiled

After much anticipation, BlackBerry has finally unveiled its new Z10 and Q10 smartphones. Electronista stopped by the company's Toronto launch event to take a closer look at both devices, the first to take advantage of the new BlackBerry 10 OS and of critical importance to the company's survival in the smartphone arena.

Touchscreen-only devices are not new to Research In Motion (now known as BlackBerry after an official name change), however the company's Storm handsets failed to compete against the iPhone and Android competitors. With its combination of mediocre hardware and awkward OS, the Storm displeased BlackBerry veterans and newcomers alike.

The Z10 represents BlackBerry's best answer to Android and the iPhone, marketed as a feature-rich device that enables faster typing than any other touchscreen phone. On paper, the handset compares well against the iPhone 5 and many high-end Android phones, pairing a 4.2-inch 1280x768 display with a dual-core 1.5GHz processor.

We enjoyed the typing experience, which promises to improve accuracy over time. If a user occasionally hits off the edge of a particular letter, leading to a mistype and necessary correction, the system eventually adjusts its strike zones to accomodate. For BlackBerry purists, however, the Z10 is unlikely to beat the hardware keyboard of the Q10 for ultimate speed.

The BlackBerry 10 OS is certainly smooth and responsive, and it does bring a fresh approach, though some of the features are not obvious without consulting the company's online or printed guides. There is no home button; the phone doesn't really need one, since it still wakes with a simple swipe across the screen. Swipe gestures also bring up the app grid or the Hub, a unified notifications and communication center.

BlackBerry succeeded in finally building a refined touchscreen smartphone comparable to competing platforms. Unfortunately for the company, the Z10 may prove too little, too late in a market that is already dominated by Android and the iPhone. It still has a place in certain business environments, and serves as a significant upgrade for any existing BlackBerry owners, but it does not offer much to draw users away from other platforms or woo first-time smartphone buyers.

By Justin King

by MacNN Staff



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