Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Business

BlackBerry Z10 has ingenious features but some drawbacks, too

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.

It boasts a well-stocked app store, a music and movie store, Mac and Windows software for loading files, speech recognition, turn-by-turn navigation, parental controls, copy and paste, Find My Phone (with remote-control lock and erase) and on and on.

The hardware is all here, too. The BlackBerry's 4.2-inch screen is even sharper than the iPhone's vaunted Retina display. Both front and back cameras can film in high definition.

The thin, sleek, black BlackBerry has 16 gigabytes of storage, plus a memory card slot for expansion. Its textured back panel pops off easily so that you can swap batteries. It will be available from all four major carriers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.

Some of the BlackBerry 10 operating system's ideas are truly ingenious. A subtle light blinks above the screen to indicate that something — a text, an email message, voice mail, a Facebook post — is waiting for you.

All communication channels (including Facebook, Twitter and phone calls) are listed in the Hub — a master in-box list that appears at the left edge when you swipe inward. Each reveals how many new messages await and offers a one-tap jump into the corresponding app. It's a one-stop command center that makes eminent sense.

The BlackBerry's big selling point has always been its physical keyboard. The company says it will, in fact, sell a model with physical keys (and a smaller screen) called the Q10.

But you might not need it. On the all-touch-screen model, BlackBerry has come up with a mind-bogglingly clever typing system. Stay with me here:

As you type a word, tiny, complete words appear over certain on-screen keys — guesses as to the word you're most likely to want. If you've typed "made of sil," for example, the word "silicone" appears over the letter I key, "silver" over the V, and "silk" over the K. You can fling one of these words into your text by flicking upward from the key — or ignore it and keep typing.

How well does it work? In this passage, the only letters I actually had to type are shown in bold. The BlackBerry proposed the rest: "I'm going to have to cancel for tonight. There is a really good episode of Dancing With the Stars on."

I typed 20 characters; it typed 61 for me.

The more you use the BlackBerry, the more it learns your way of writing. Freaky, brilliant and very, very fast.

There's Siri-like speech recognition, too, but it's slower, less accurate and far narrower in scope. You can also speak to type, but the accuracy is so bad, you won't use it.

The camera software is terrific. One feature, Time Shift, is mind-blowing. You take a photo of people — then, with your finger on a face, you can dial forward or backward up to two seconds in time, seeking that perfect expression. You repeat with the next face, and the next, until you've dialed up the perfect fraction of a second, independently, for each person in the shot.

The BlackBerry 10 neatly solves a huge problem for corporate techies: how to keep employees' work phones secure in a world where people also use their phones for personal things. If a company has BlackBerry's corporate software suite, they can create separate worlds on each phone: personal and work, with distinct calendars, address books, wallpaper and even app collections. They appear together — but without the work password, only the personal stuff is visible. When the worker leaves the company, one stroke deletes the entire corporate or personal half.

The popular BlackBerry Message, or BBM, service now lets you make free phone calls and video calls over the Internet. You can even screencast — share what you're doing on your screen with your conversation partner, such as a map, an app or a photographic snap.

Thanks to NFC (near-field communication), you can shoot a photo, a map, a Web page, an app, a file or a song to another BlackBerry 10 owner, wirelessly, on the spot. Other phones do NFC sharing, but rarely as simply.

There are some missteps. There's no physical silencer switch (only a software function). In the Mail app, you can't move from one message to the next without returning to the in-box in between. When you've used the faux Siri to dictate a message or an email, you can't edit it, even manually. And the battery barely makes it through a day.

But the usual Achilles' heel for a new type of smartphone is the apps. Incredibly, BlackBerry says there will be 70,000 apps available on Day 1. The company shrewdly wrote a program that can convert Android apps, making it simple for programmers to adapt their wares.

On the other hand, if you choose BlackBerry over iPhone or Android, you give up some very attractive ecosystems.

Comments

Comcast challenges Murdoch with rival bid for U.K.-based Sky

LONDON — U.S. media giant Comcast on Wednesday offered $30.7 billion for Sky PLC, topping a bid from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox and setting up a bidding war for Britain’s biggest satellite TV company.Comcast said it would pay approximately $17...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Pasco County

Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Pasco County

TRINITY — Pasco County will be getting its first Sprouts Farmers Market, the organic grocery chain announced Wednesday. The new store will open at the Village at Mitchell Ranch on State Road 54 and Little Road. Officials with the speciality store did...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Duke Energy announces new Florida leadership

Duke Energy announces new Florida leadership

The head of Duke Energy Florida is leaving the post to take a new role with the parent company of the electric utility.Harry Sideris was appointed this week to serve as vice president and chief distribution officer overseeing Duke Energy’s six-state ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Circle K launching own gas at eight Hillsborough locations

Circle K launching own gas at eight Hillsborough locations

TAMPA — Circle K is converting the gas station portion of eight of its Hillsborough locations to Circle K fuel. Previously, the fuel was provided by other brands, such as Shell. The new Circle K branding also brings with it the Canadian-owned conveni...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Yelp search results reflect racist stereotype that Asian restaurants serve cat and dog

Yelp search results reflect racist stereotype that Asian restaurants serve cat and dog

A strange thing happened when typing "dog menu" into the restaurant ratings website and app Yelp. It automatically generated suggested searches. There were dog massage, hot dogs, pet groomers. Also: "dog meat." But it got more disturbing. Take Yelp...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida has the strongest residential building codes among 18 coastal states, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Florida’s rating is 95, almost three times higher than lowest-ranked Texas. Other states wit...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Times staffRedlining’ — banks’ refusal to make mortgage loans in certain areas — still has a huge effect on housing values even though the practice was banned 50 years ago. According to Zillow, a Tampa Bay house in a once-redlined area is worth less ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

NOW OPEN: TEX-MEX CHAIN CHUY’SThe Austin, Texas-based Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opened its first Tampa restaurant on Tuesday, giving away free Chuy’s for two for a year to the first 50 customers. I know, we missed it, it’s a bummer, but we can still visit...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Madeira Beach rethinks commitment to ferry

Madeira Beach rethinks commitment to ferry

MADEIRA BEACH — When most members of the current City Commission ran for office they pledged to impose tighter fiscal controls on spending taxpayer dollars.It was obvious Tuesday they haven’t changed their minds. The commission’s latest target is a f...
Published: 04/25/18