Mobility

The BlackBerry Z10 has the right price, but is it worth it?

Before you pay the reduced price for a BlackBerry Z10, make sure that you're aware of the downsides of this device.

BlackBerry Z10

The BlackBerry Z10 recently saw price cuts in the United Kingdom that were far more generous than the round of price cuts for the phone in the United States. Despite being launched in the UK at the end of January, the phone can now be obtained free on contract at Carphone Warehouse with service on any of the major carriers. In the US, the Z10 is $100 on contract through Verizon and AT&T, or for $50 with service through providers at Best Buy.

With the dismissal of BlackBerry's US sales head Richard Piasentin, BlackBerry failing to meet analyst  expectations for smartphones sales, and the annual shareholders' meeting in which one shareholder characterized the launch of the phone a "disaster," Blackberry is making a concerted effort to push these phones into the hands of hopeful customers. However, is the Z10 the best phone — BlackBerry or otherwise — for you and your company?

The case for the Z10 & BB10

My colleague at TechRepublic, Patrick Gray, has a much more in-depth look at the BlackBerry Z10 and the new BB10 operating system that it runs. The Z10 is something along the lines of a "great leap forward" for BlackBerry (formerly RIM), as they try to reinvent themselves to compete with the new age of smartphones ushered in by the iPhone, as opposed to the older business-class smartphones running Windows Mobile. The Z10 isn't the most powerful phone on the market, but BlackBerry's corporate image lends itself readily to a fine-tuned, optimized phone for the hardware it does have, in contrast to bleeding-edge Android phones with razor-thin profit margins.

The transition to BB10 has been somewhat bumpy. The BlackBerry PlayBook was initially promised to receive an update to replace BlackBerry Tablet OS with BB10. Despite the shared heritage of the QNX platform acquired by BlackBerry, the PlayBook update has been cancelled. Yet BlackBerry is betting the company on the success of BB10; telecommunications is what BlackBerry does, and they aren't in a position to dump their phones below cost and sit on their laurels selling printers.

A closer resemblance to a classic BlackBerry

BlackBerry users tend to be somewhat inseparable from their keyboards, and the sales of the BlackBerry Z10 seem to bear that out. If you're a BlackBerry diehard looking to retain the tactile response of a physical keyboard while moving to the new BB10 operating system, the BlackBerry Q10 is the device tailored to your needs. The Q10 launched in the US on Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile in June, and a version for Sprint is rumored to land later this month. The Q10 is available from Verizon and AT&T for $200, though at the time of this writing, Wirefly offers the Verizon version for $100.

Would you like to super-size that?

Rumors of a potential successor to the Z10 have been flying around for months, and with the price reduction of the Z10, the prevailing wisdom has been that BlackBerry is trying to move unsold stock to make room for a successor to that phone. The rumored successor, known internally as "Aristo" appears to be preparing to hit the streets later this year as the BlackBerry Z30, which is anticipated to have similar specs to the Z10, but with added power to drive the 5", 720p screen. If you're the type of user who fancies the Samsung Galaxy Note II (sans stylus) but are looking outside the Android ecosystem, the BlackBerry Z30 is quite likely worth the wait.

Final thoughts

Although BlackBerry is, by all appearances, committed to BB10, the downside to these devices is the nascent ecosystem, and in particular, BlackBerry's late start to the game. BlackBerry is in a fair position to compete with Microsoft's Windows Phone products, though the license model of that platform means a wider variety of phones on the market. The tepid response to Windows Phone works to the advantage of BlackBerry, but building a healthy platform ecosystem takes a growing user base, time, and money.

The Z10 is a fantastic deal if you're not squeamish about being on the frontier in a new ecosystem; being an early adopter is always a bit risky. If you're comfortable in that position, don't require a physical keyboard, and have neither the desire, hands, nor pockets large enough to accommodate a much larger phone, the Z10 is a solid choice.

What are your thoughts about the BlackBerry Z10 for personal and business use? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below. 

About

James Sanders is a Java programmer specializing in software as a service and thin client design, and virtualizing legacy programs for modern hardware. James is currently a student at Wichita State University in Kansas.

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