Wednesday, February 6, 2013

An update on my Z10, day to day use.

Its coming up for a week now since I started using the Z10 as my main day to day handset, and retired my 9900 for good. A true leap of faith by my standards having been a loyal and heavy physical keyboard user for so long now. But that decision was helped along as soon as I laid thumbs on the delightful Z10 touchscreen keyboard. Filling me with confidence that this could really work out well, and maybe the days of physical keyboard were really over.
The first 3 days I used the Z10 I was off work, Friday and the weekend, so use was casual, I was cycling the battery a few times to get a true picture of what it could do on a full charge, and not venturing out too much. Just a simple sit on the side until it flashed level of use.

A few irritations were found, and are on going, which I shall come back to in a moment, but for now lets look at the main situation. Daily usage levels.
For me, without even having to look at it closely, I already know that my use of the new handset is far lower than how much I would have been on the 9900. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is simple. Its a touch screen. Regardless of how good the screen is, its winter here in London, and using the touchscreen, with confidence is just not possible with gloves on. Yes I could wear my gloves that are for using with touchscreens, but I am a creature of habit and prefer wearing the gloves I like, rather than the gloves I NEED to use to be able to use my phone. Walking too and from the station, waiting on the platform etc, I just don't use the phone in the same way. I'm sure as the weather warms up this part of it will change.

Then there are the other reasons, which I can actually tie in with my gripes and irritations. So here goes.
The Hub. As great as it is, with the integration of apps such as Facebook and Twitter into it, it is seriously flawed at this stage. The only Twitter notifications that come in are direct messages or mentions, which kind of makes sense as The Hub is about YOUR messages and communications. However for a big Twitter user, you need to keep the main app open and refresh your feeds. Gone are the days when you will receive notification that there are new tweets to read.
As for Facebook, it seems a little hit and miss right now, you will get a few notifications through about comments and mentions, but then it stops. Quite annoying, as when you go into apps the FB icon is showing the 'splat' on it identifying that there is new activity on the account.
I am generally a bit of a social whore, using the old Social Feeds app to update BBM, Facebook and Twitter at the same time with all sorts of news feeds that I get in from Sky News app (not available) and Twitter, which we know doesn't populate my Hub now. Needless to say I am more a social misfit now, and have hardly used any social sites. Possibly not a bad thing, but has filled me with a little feeling of loneliness lol.

Lets move on before I sound too desperate for attention.

Stripped back to basics, and a single sound per notification type (email, BBM, twitter etc) and a simple red flashing LED. For me as I have said in previous reviews, the whole selling point of a Blackberry to me has always been the ability to know what or who is contacting me without ever needing to pick the phone up. Different sounds for each email account, and social feed. As well as BBM etc. Different colours and combination's of flashes. But alas, its all no more. Instead I am stuck with a vague notification that something on my Blackberry Z10 wants my attention. Might be an email, but no idea which account its from. Hmmm, this really needs sorting out, as I know I am far from the only person missing having BeBuzz on my Blackberry.
Same with the sounds, all the settings for different profiles are a mess, with silent being set up as default still with audible notifications, and all the other settings within being a bit hit and miss in how they will make the phone behave. For something as fundamental as the notifications, something has gone wrong here, and needs sorting out asap. Hell I was almost expecting the Z10 on BB10 to some with some sort of in-built LED colour controlling software. Instead there isn't even a 3rd part app on the market for it yet.
Notifications... Disappointed so far.

Other favourite apps that have made it to the market however have not failed to impress, with things such as BeWeather, you can see a lot of time has gone into making this app silky smooth. A pleasure to check the weather, and all view expandable at a single swipe. Amazingly this is from the same company who make BeBuzz. So much attention to one app, and seemingly nothing on another. Shame, but I hope something is in the pipeline here. The multi pane view on BeWeather is delicious, animations are on par with Android and iOS, and I don't have a bad word to say about the app. In fact its my saviour right now with regards to apps, and gives me hope that the rest that are missing will be as wonderful as this when they come to Blackberry World, soon I hope.
WhatsApp, EyeEm, and Spotify all still missing and no sign of them coming any time soon, if at all at this rate.
Google Chat has taken WhatsApp's place in my 3rd party IM app at the moment, and I am happy to say that its a nice interface on the Z10, much nicer than it was on the OS7 phones. Its notifications DO populate in the Hub which is a relief and a reprieve for the Hub in this respect.
I would really love to see Spotify appear soon, I have seen comments that it can be side loaded and runs OK , so surely the official app cant be that far away. I hope!

Now that I am back to my usual day to day weekday routine, there are no big issues with the battery life. Yes it still eats away a lot quicker than the 9900 did, and a huge amount more than older devices, but plugged in for a bit here and there, it manages a day without an issue. It certainly seems to hang in a lot longer than it did for its first few charging cycles anyway. In the world of touchscreen phones, it fairs OK really. I will survive with it, that much is sure.

As I have already mentioned, in certain situations the keyboard is simply not usable, gloves on is a no no, as is the case with most touchscreen phones, although I must admit the Galaxy S2 does very well here and is pretty usable with gloves on. Even unlocking the Z10 with gloves on is a bit hit and miss to be fair. So my quick out the pocket, glance, and reply interactions are over with. In general though the user experience is very good. The predictive words are good, and the spelling corrections are usually spot on. I am however yet to do an extensive email, blog or Facebook update yet.
For BBM conversations and brief exchanges though it does a great job, and as it gets to know me a little better, the offerings of words on the frets for flicking is getting a lot better too. Even profanity is taken care of there, which is f***in relief !
All that said, I still think I would be more productive, interactive and use the device more with a physical keyboard. I stand by my original statement from years ago that there is simply NO replacement for a physical QWERTY keyboard. So I welcome the Q10 with open arms. Cant wait to give one a spin, and think the happy compromise will be found with one for sure. Simple things like entering silly words like 'whaaaaaaat' and 'eeeeew' and all the other rubbish I pad my conversations out with, are a chore on a device that assumes you have made a typo of some sort.

In the hand
A lot of thought has clearly gone into the design and feel of the Z10 in the hand. Everyone who has had a look at my handset has commented how it feels in the hand, decent weighted, secure and good grip on it. That got me wondering about why handset manufacturers go to so much effort to make ergonomic devices, when so many people go out and put them in cases of all shapes and sizes.
But back on track, as advertised, the Z10 performs well in the hand, and one handed messaging is indeed very simple to do, with the thumb reaching across the screen with ease. For those of us with medium to large hands anyway. The word suggestions on the frets of course make this even easier.
For games and video viewing again its fit for purpose, and does a great job of handling them. In short, gripping the handset in most situations is not an issue, and only with gloves on does the handset feel a little at risk of slipping. Shape and materials are a great match.

So I shall leave it there for now. Camera testing continues and I continue to be pleased with what it throws out. The latest example of which is sleepy Tuvaaq all curled up. This is using the flash in a dark room. And I shall also add on there my little macro shot of my Voodoo Doll Ninja, just because its a fun picture.

So back to summing up. Here are my hopes for the road ahead for my Blackberry experience.
In general the device is fine, but lacking in apps. This isn't Blackberry's fault of course, and we can only hope that they hear our calls and get a move on. Something tells me that things will be a little better by the time the Z10 and BB10 devices reach the USA and UAE markets, and not the smaller markets of the UK and other such places. By the time it launches in the US, if the apps are not up to par with the competition I would predict that BB will once again start to lose its edge. Only the die hards waiting on the Q10 are going to be the ones who can save them if this happens. The qwerty market is a pretty captive one all things considered, so this would explain why Blackberry decided to launch the contender first, and back it up with the dead cert later.
A Q10 will most definitely come into my possession, but which becomes my primary handset is yet to be seem. Overall the Z10 is a superb handset and I love owning it. I know a few people who have had handset failures, and a couple who have sent them back already, mainly because of the lack of apps.

Lets see how the story pans out from here on in, and see if the sideloaders become the unofficial saviour of Blackberry, as jailbreaking iPhones is to Apple.

PS.. My one major gripe.
A glitch I keep getting with the calender. Interested to hear if anyone has the same problem.
Going into calender and NOT selecting a calender at the top from the drop down. Add an appointment title and location, then selecting a time to start the appointment... The calender simply crashes and closes.
The two ways around this are, first select a calender to add the appointment to, which is easy enough, but pointless if I have my default set up already.
Or the other is to save the appointment with no times, then re-open and 'edit' the appointment to add times.

Either way, its something that needs sorting out, as the calender, like the email, is a fundamental part of the whole ethos of the device, so not functioning properly is a pain. Also doesn't seem to sync to Google too well either. Contacts do, calender doesn't.
Some of this may be settings, so I will take a closer look when time allows.

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