It was 2008 and my BlackBerry Curve's BBM was overflowing with contacts. I'd plug away on the physical keyboard, quickly firing off messages and emails to my friends and colleagues. Back then, most of them had the same phone or another one of RIM's popular handsets, like the BlackBerry Pearl.
By 2010 that list of contacts was empty. All my friends had abandoned BlackBerrys for iPhones or Android phones. I did the same. What choice did we have? While Apple and other phone makers started making phones that did amazing things with rich applications and fast Web browsers, BlackBerry clung to its outdated phone software.
That is, until today. After delays and years of dragging its feet, BlackBerry is finally ready with its new BlackBerry 10 operating system, a complete overhaul of the BlackBerry you've known. Even the company name has been overhauled; no longer RIM, or Research in Motion, it's just calling itself BlackBerry.
Its first phone to run the software -- the BlackBerry Z10 -- starts at $199 on contract at AT&T and other carriers this March, and finally has the hardware to compete with all those other high-speed smartphones you see in people's hands. Can it be? Is BlackBerry actually back?
A Phone Designed for Software
"That's a BlackBerry?" "Where's the keyboard?" That's the main reaction I've gotten to the Z10. The phone looks nothing like the typical BlackBerry with a physical keyboard and almost everything like an Android phone or iPhone. It has a large 4.2-inch 1280 x 768-resolution display and a thin all-black body with a soft-to-the-touch back. It's not a beautiful or elegant phone, but it's well-made and comfortable to hold.
Powered by a dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM and AT&T LTE, the phone is something that some of the BlackBerrys of past have never been described as being: fast. Not only is it the fastest BlackBerry ever made, it gives even the best Android phones and the iPhone 5 a run for their money in terms of speed, especially when it comes to Web browsing. Unfortunately, that power shortens battery life, but it is fast.
In heavy use, the phone doesn't last more than a full work day. I was actually lucky to see it last past 5 p.m. on a regular day of heavy emailing, tweeting and surfing the Web. On the plus side, the back cover of the phone comes off, allowing you to replace the battery. The company will also sell a portable charging accessory, which contains a second battery for the phone.
Software with a Learning Curve
The basic, simple design of the phone is starkly contrasted with the uniquely designed BlackBerry 10 software. Forget everything you knew about navigating a BlackBerry with a trackball or touchpad -- this version of BlackBerry's software is all about swiping and tapping your fingers on the big screen.