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The BlackBerry Z10 vs. my Mac and Nokia Smartphone

A review by Lyndon Hood for Scoop Techlab

A few words about my cellphone history. It will probably help to know where I am coming from, as I am coming from somwhere odd.

My first – up until now my only – proper smartphone has been a Nokia n900. This is not a normal phone. A solid little black block with a pop-out keyboard and a single-touch screen with basically useless pressure-sensitivity, it was a phone for geeks to hack about with. It runs not Symbian, which was Nokia's main operating system at the time, but Maemo, based on Debian Linux in a way that wore its computerness close to the surface.

I once had a conversation with someone in which I discovered they had heard of Maemo. I expect I looked quite impressed.

This hacker-friendly setup attracted a small but enthusiastic community of users who set about making the phone do what they wanted, and typically doing a more useful job than the commercial operators in the official store.

A significant example: when Nokia released the n900 they said its USB port couldn't allow hosting – you wouldn't be able to, say, plug a keyboard into it or download photos off a UBS card reader. Some of the users looked at this claim, decided it wasn't true, and, after a certain amount of dedicated effort, shared a solution. Technically it's "USB On The Go"

Nokia has now cut Maemo loose and its development seems to be in the hands an independent foundation. The system that was supposed to succeed, MeeGo, it was released on the Lumia-ish Nokia N9 in Europe just as Nokia was launching its Windows phones worldwide and I've not heard of it since.

Anyway, I partly I got the n900 because it would for me to be geekier. One consequence of a phone that can be made to do anything is that sometimes you have to type code into the command line to make it behave normally. Then again, the whole time I've used it there was usually at least one not insignificant thing going unfixed. The setup for PXTing hasn't been right for ages.

But all this has set some odd expectations.

Another thing: my geekeries include the technological but I am not an early adopter. I've kept running that phone for years. I'm still using a 2004 eMac for my desktop computer because it basically does what I need it to and the browsers it can run still – just – connect to most websites.

Z10 Picture hdr2

[emac, n900, taken using Z10 in HDR mode (editors note - resized)]

 So before taking the BlackBerry Z10 out of the box one thing I can say is that, sitting there with its 1.5 GHz dual-core CPUs, it will be easily the most powerful computer in the house.

What's more, its display, bigger and higher-resolution than the n900, actually has the same width in pixels as the eMac's CRT screen on the highest setting (at which the eMac flickers something chronic).

The Z10 is also the lightest of the three.

At 16GB internal storage it's less than the n900's 32GB – and I have almost filled the n900 up, partly with music but mostly with cellphone photos pointlessly stored in raw image format. But if you put the biggest possible MicroSD card in it (forums assure me it will actually take up to 64GB) it trounces the n900 maximum and is comparable to the eMac's hard disk.

So this should be quite some piece of kit. It's got one of those NFC chip things. It can do 4G. It has HDMI output, though I discover it doesn't come with a cable but that's fine because I don't own any devices with HDMI input anyway.

It has a USB port. The USB port, apparently, can't allow hosting. The BlackBerry people say the next major update on their new BB10 operating system will include USB hosting, but there is doubt around the traps whether this will include the Z10. You'll understand how disappointed I will be if it does not. This will come with the added frustration that – because BlackBerry don't let people tinker under the hood of their operating system (or anyone who can get in isn't telling) – if they don't do it, nobody will.

Possibly the business with Nokia has left me with some abandonment issues regarding parent companies. This isn't helped by BlackBerry announcing plans to leave the consumer market and sell itself off to a consortium lead by the ominously-named (but as far as I can tell no relation) Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited.

That said, once you get above the operating system BlackBerry will let me install any app I like. Even in the BlackBerry store you can find one that gives you a linux-syle command line. This made me feel a bit more reassured.

Command Line Screencap Lyndon Hood

[command line screencap]

And the camera works.


Obligatory Cat Pic Lyndon Hood

Content Note: This post has been enabled by Telecom NZ , but the thoughts are the blogger's own. Find out more about Telecom Moblile Phone Picks here. Scoop TechLab is a project of Scoop Independent Media www.scoop.co.nz. It is edited by Scoop Editor Alastair Thompson.



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