Should you flick the wrong word and quickly find yourself typing out what reads like the LSD-fuelled ramblings of a beat poet, the Z10 makes it pretty easy to start over. Swiping from right to left across the keyboard deletes entire words at a time. Swiping from bottom to top (assuming you don’t hit some random key by accident) brings up the number and symbol keypads. What’s more, the predictive text function can handle three languages at once. That last feature is something RIM added for the hypothetical BlackBerry Power User they always talk about – you know, the borderless business pro who’s constantly rushing to and from airport terminals and juggling a dozen meetings at once and feeling a vague sense of guilt about missing an offspring’s bassoon recital. Still, if you type in multiple languages, this is a handy feature to have.
If you ignore all the swiping stuff and just hammer away at the keys, you will spew out gibberish. That’s because the keys themselves are just a little too difficult to hit properly with your (or at least my) fat thumbs. When hit, the keys will light up, although I’m not sure how much that helps, given that your finger is, more often than not, covering the key when it lights up.
Fortunately, the Z10 will nonetheless turn your gibberish into real words – and usually the correct words you were trying to type. The autocorrect feature on this thing is better than any I’ve seen elsewhere, and can even split words apart when you forget to hit the spacebar. Over time, the phone also learns your most common mistakes. So if you’re constantly hitting R when you meant to hit T, the T will eventually do a little virtual shimmy to the left.
In general, typing on any touchscreen sucks. But if you put in the effort of learning the Z10’s particular brand of Swipe-Fu, it ends up offering the best typing experience you’ll get on almost any flat glass pane.
If you’re a physical keyboard addict, though, just wait a few more months and pick up the Q10, which is the real-keyboard kin of the Z10. I only played around with the Q10 for a few minutes, but the extra-wide keyboard on that phone is just excellent.
In addition to the headline features, there are a few small and not-so-small things the Z10 gets surprisingly right (and, in some cases, wrong). The camera comes with a “timeline” feature that lets you take a photo over a short burst of time and then scroll along the timeline to find the one moment when your subject wasn’t blinking or looking stupid.
Having failed (so far) to convince Instagram or Google Maps to come to the BlackBerry, RIM has also built what turned out to be very functional photo filters and a weirdly good maps app (certainly better than that mess Apple built).
Then there are the little bugs and annoyances. How do you mark everything read in the Hub? Is this a very easy command that I couldn’t figure out, or does it not exist? Why did the picture app refuse to open and instead give me a thoroughly unhelpful error message? Why does the multitasking seem to come to a stop at eight apps, at which point older opened apps kind of disappear into the ether? On that note, important thing to keep in mind: If you hit the little X at the bottom of a program icon to close it, it will immediately go away – like, for good. If you have a word document open, for example, and you close it, you won’t get a prompt to save your work, or anything like that, it’s just gone. So beware.