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BlackBerry 10 gets mostly high marks in early reviews

January 31, 2013|By Andrea Chang
  • BlackBerry's new Z10 smartphone, and the company's BlackBerry 10 operating system, debuted this week to generally positive reviews.
BlackBerry's new Z10 smartphone, and the company's BlackBerry… (AT&T )

BlackBerry 10 officially debuted a day ago, and already we've got a healthy pool of reviews and other early thoughts on the revamped operating system and the smartphones that will run on it.

At Wednesday's launch event in New York, BlackBerry -- the company formerly known as Research in Motion -- showed off its long-overdue OS and two new phones: the touch-screen-only Z10 and a traditional physical keyboard model called the Q10.

BlackBerry 10's features include separate work and personal profiles, time-saving ways to multitask without closing applications, video chat with live screen-sharing and more than 70,000 available apps.

Here's a roundup of what reviewers and analysts are saying so far:

The Times got the chance to get a one-on-one demo of the Z10 at CES this month, and we liked the dual profiles on the phone that separate work from play. So for instance if you're not allowed to use social media at work, your app grid under the work profile won't show Twitter and Facebook, but those apps will appear under your personal profile.

We were also impressed by the virtual keyboard on the Z10 thanks to an accurate auto-correct and cool predictive text feature that makes it easy to select whole words with an upward flick of the finger. You can also use flicks and swipes to quickly select or delete words, and write your email in multiple languages.

BlackBerry Flow, a time-saving feature that allows for multitasking without closing applications (and no home button) was another smart idea we liked.

Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal said BB10 represented a "clean break" for BlackBerry and said the Z10 worked fine in his weeklong test, but "I found it a work in progress." Although he "liked some things a lot," including the design of its virtual keyboard, camera and the BlackBerry Hub, which centralizes your messages and other interactions with contacts in one place, he noted that BlackBerry still lacked a rich lineup of apps and a cloud-based ecosystem for storing and sharing files.

However, the virtual keyboard on the Z10 received high marks: "The Z10 keyboard is the best and fastest out-of-the-box virtual keyboard I've used."

The New York Times' David Pogue was less measured, starting his review with a bold: "I'm sorry, I was wrong."

He goes on to say: "BlackBerry’s Hail Mary pass, its bet-the-farm phone, is finally here. It’s the BlackBerry Z10, and guess what? It’s lovely, fast and efficient, bristling with fresh, useful ideas. And here’s the shocker — it’s complete."

The big question, Pogue said, is whether customers will get on board. "Honestly? It could go either way. But this much is clear: BlackBerry is no longer an incompetent mess — and its doom is no longer assured," he wrote.

Editors at CNET gave the Z10 a "very good" rating after testing it, saying the "slick-looking" phone had enough features to satisfy both consumers and businesspeople. "Though it's not quite enough to draw committed iPhone or Android owners, the BlackBerry Z10's modern design and features give BlackBerry fans what they've hungered for."

Engadget, too, found much to compliment and said BB10 was "a huge step out of the dark ages." 

"Does it have mainstream appeal? Yes, it does, but we're not sure a great stock keyboard and some trick gestures are enough to unseat the current kings of mobile devices."

BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis, who attended the BlackBerry 10 launch, started off his note to investors Thursday with this: "The new Z10 phone, has some impressive features, but it may not sell." 

Gillis said he liked the OS and the feel of the new phones and expected the reviews to be generally popular, although the delay in rolling out the phones in the U.S. -- March for the Z10 and April at the earliest for the Q10 -- was disappointing. Still, "the third platform and ecosystem for smartphones is still up for grabs and the new phones give BlackBerry a chance to take that role," he said.

Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee said BB10 was a "meaningful improvement" but "the big question remains whether carrier interest and some developer support will translate into strong sales."

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