March 18--The new BlackBerry 10 operating system is a total revamp. It has not one line of code in common with the software that powered previous BlackBerry smartphones, but still manages to feel like an improvement on something familiar. The new touchscreen-only BlackBerry Z10, available at the end of the month from Verizon and AT&T, is therefore a brand-new product -- not an evolved device like the iPhone 5 or upcoming Samsung Galaxy S 4.
The OS is made up of a set of desktop panels accessed by a conventional slider tray, an active frames screen and the "Hub." Swiping up from the bottom takes you to your active frames screen, which contains open applications. An inward swipe from the left takes you to the Hub, which is a chronology of notifications, messages, emails and calls -- convenient for a busy day.
The BlackBerry die-hards might be turned off by the Z10's lack of a physical keyboard. But the virtual keyboard is among the best in the touchscreen world, with a new auto-complete feature that will finish your word with an upward swipe.
Yet the biggest problem with this phone almost feels weird to write about a smartphone: It's no fun.
Yes, fun. We now live in a world of mobile apps, with their funky camera filters, mobile window shopping, GPS navigation and custom radio channels. And what exists of this in the BlackBerry World store is mostly expensive and poorly reviewed. There's no Yelp, Instagram, Google Maps, Netflix, Vine or Amazon, to name some popular apps.
Almost making up for this lack of apps is the incredibly fast LTE speeds from AT&T on the Z10 I tested. And while BlackBerry 10 does have social media integration, it feels half-baked. For instance, if you receive a notification that one of your friends has updated her Facebook status, clicking on it will show you the full status update but lead you to a dead-end.
This is just one of a handful of improvements that the new OS on the Z10 needs to be a game-changer. Yet it should be considered a respectable entrant to the most competitive industry in the world.
(c)2013 the Boston Herald
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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