A company cannot come in dead last for its smartphone reviews, battery life and displays and expect to do well overall, as BlackBerry can attest. The company previously known as RIM has had a tough year, in which a lot was expected to happen. BlackBerry 10 hasn’t proved to be the panacea the Canadian-based smartphone maker had hoped. All that combined with a lackluster showing in the camera and design categories relegated BlackBerry to second-to-last in our smartphone brand showdown.
BlackBerry has focused its efforts on two handsets, thus far, for its BlackBerry 10 rebirth. The BlackBerry Q10 has the best physical keyboard of any smartphone that came out in the last year, but the screen is tiny. Meanwhile, the BlackBerry Z10 has one of the best virtual keyboards among smartphones. Unfortunately, Blackberry’s supporting app ecosystem is years behind its competitors. And while we applaud BlackBerry’s revamped BB10 OS, it has a learning curve.
User Interface (10/15)
BlackBerry 10’s Flow interface has some advantages. The BlackBerry Hub serves as a one-stop shop for all of your messaging needs, while the Flow UI gives users the ability to multitask with ease. Just keep in mind that there’s a learning curve for the gestures, whether you’re coming from an older BlackBerry or another platform. Like iOS, however, BB10 lacks significant customization options. That said, BlackBerry offers both the best touch-screen keyboard and best physical keyboard on the market.
Battery Life (5/10)
A company that was formerly known for long battery life, BlackBerry has abandoned its roots with its new BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 phones. On our tests, the BlackBerry Z10 lasted between a sub-par 5 hours and 17 minutes on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network and a downright awful 3:40 on Verizon 4G LTE. The keyboarded Q10 was no better, lasting just 4:56.
Special Features (10/15)
The BlackBerry 10 platform offers one of the best touch keyboards ever. With a flick up from the keyboard you can insert suggested words on the fly, and the keyboard learns from you. Another great feature is BBM Video, which lets you make video calls with other BBM users and even share what’s on your screen in real-time. BlackBerry Balance enables users to switch between work and personal profiles to keep personal and work data separate.
BlackBerry is certainly trying to make a comeback with its touch screen Z10 and QWERTY keyboard-equipped Q10, but neither display is above average. The Z10 features a 4.2-inch, 1280 x 768-pixel display, but colors didn’t have much luster, and fine details were lost. And while the Q10’s 3.1-inch 720 x 720 Super AMOLED display is sharp for the size, it’s simply too small for modern smartphone use.
Overall, BlackBerry finished sixth out of nine brands in our Camera Shootout. In terms of image quality, the Z10 snapped photos with more color accuracy than competitors such as the Nexus 4 and the Nokia Lumia 920, but didn’t perform well when capturing outdoor images. The Q10 and Z10 come with beneficial extras such as Time Shift, which eliminates photos with unwanted blinking, but don’t include as many features as its Samsung and HTC rivals.
No matter how hard they try, BlackBerry shows up to the party way too late and wearing last year’s fashions. The BlackBerry Z10’s black soft-touch chassis feels good in the hand, but the overall presentation screams bigger, chunkier iPhone. The white model feels chintzier. The Q10 looks more like a traditional BlackBerry, complete with a textured glass-weave composite material on the rear panel.
MORE: Best Smartphones 2013
BlackBerry landed solidly in the middle of the audio pack. Listening to Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” on the BlackBerry Z10 produced quite a bit of distortion and fuzz at the top end, particularly when audio was pumped all the way up. This cleared up considerably when we plugged in headphones, however. The T-Mobile version of this flagship is one of only a few to access HD Voice for high-quality, nearly noise-free calls. Verizon calls were loud and clear as well, but calls on the company’s Q10 smartphone produced a bit of noise.
BlackBerry only has two current-generation phones, the touch screen-only Z10 and the keyboarded Q10. However, you can use both phones on three of the four major carriers: AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon and on regional player Cincinnati Bell, with Sprint getting the Q10 later this summer.
Best and Worst Smartphone Brands 2013
Stay in the know with Laptop Mag
Get our in-depth reviews, helpful tips, great deals, and the biggest news stories delivered to your inbox.