BlackBerry Z10 (T-Mobile) review

The first BlackBerry 10 handset, the Z10 is a thoroughly modern, high-quality smartphone with a strong focus on messaging, but a lack of popular apps and media could hold it back.
Photo of BlackBerry Z10 (T-Mobile)
549.99

T-Mobile’s version of the BlackBerry Z10 ($99.99) is very similar to the AT&T version. Read our full review of the AT&T BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry 10 OS for an in-depth look. There are a few unique considerations for those considering a BlackBerry on T-Mobile, though. Most notably, the Z10 is the first T-Mobile LTE phone that’s comfortable to use in one hand. At press time, the only two handsets confirmed for T-Mobile’s new LTE network are the Z10 and the Samsung Galaxy Note II, which is more of a tablet than a phone.

Here’s the thing, though: That doesn’t matter. Because T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network is so fast, and its LTE network is so unformed, you shouldn’t be making T-Mobile buying decisions based on LTE yet. Using speedtest.net on the BlackBerry Z10, I got 10-13Mbps down and around .8Mbps up. That matches the download speeds I expect to see initially on T-Mobile’s 5×5 LTE network. Upload speeds will be much faster on LTE, but the HSPA+ and LTE experiences will be more similar than on any other carrier.

Since T-Mobile has so little LTE, I’m very happy to see that there’s an LTE toggle under network settings. Even better, you can mix and match whichever networks you want. Want 2G only? Sure. LTE and HSPA+ but not EDGE? I have no idea why you’d do that, but go for it.

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Unfortunately, the Z10 is missing two of T-Mobile’s most compelling network features: Wi-Fi calling and HD Voice. The lack of Wi-Fi calling may hurt for older T-Mobile BlackBerry owners, who’ve become used to the feature protecting their phone calls in rooms with no T-Mobile signal. The lack of HD Voice is just a missed opportunity. Like the AT&T Z10, the T-Mobile version is a very good voice phone. But HD Voice adds a richness to calls that could have helped set this device apart.

As expected, the T-Mobile Z10 benchmarked exactly the same as the AT&T model. I tested battery life on the HSPA+ network and got 7 hours, 33 minutes of talk time, pretty much exactly the same as I saw on the AT&T Z10. The 1800mAh battery just isn’t quite enough for a day of heavy use.

T-Mobile will offer the lowest monthly cost in the U.S. for a BlackBerry Z10, but not always by much. For a Z10 with unlimited talk, text, and 2.5GB data, the carrier will charge $60 per month with no contract, and if you buy the phone for $99.99 with no contract, you’ll have to pay $18 per month for 24 months to cover the subsidy. Unlimited data will cost $70 a month, plus $18 per month for 24 months. Verizon charges $60 per month for unlimited talk, text, and 2GB data, with each additional 2GB adding $10 a month. This all compares favorably to AT&T’s monthly plans, where 450 talk minutes, unlimited text, and 3GB of data costs $89.99.

Everything I said about the AT&T Z10 still applies here, possibly even more so because the Z10 lacks the T-Mobile differentiators of Wi-Fi calling and HD Voice. While the Z10 is a good phone with many positive aspects, the Android, Apple, and Microsoft ecosystems are all more compelling overall. BlackBerry has a better chance with the Q10, with a hardware keyboard that’s relatively rare in the industry and which really plays up BlackBerry’s superior messaging prowess.

Several phones I want to recommend on T-Mobile aren’t quite here yet: the BlackBerry Q10, the Samsung Galaxy S4, and the HTC One are all coming in the next few months. For now, the LG Nexus 4 is the best bet on the carrier, and at an unbelievable $49.99 right now, it’s an absolute steal. While it doesn’t have LTE, the Nexus 4 has excellent HSPA+ performance and the latest version of Android, which is at the moment, a much more well-developed ecosystem than BlackBerry 10.

Specifications
Phone Capability / Network GSM, UMTS, LTE
Screen Resolution 1280 x 768 pixels
NFC Yes
Dimensions 5.12 x 2.58 x 0.35 inches
802.11x/Band(s) 802.11 a/b/g/n
Video Camera Resolution 1080p Rear
720p Front-Facing
Battery Life (As Tested) 7 hours 33 minutes
Processor Speed 1.5 GHz
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
GPS Yes
Service Provider T-Mobile
Total Integrated Storage 16 GB
High-Speed Data EDGE, LTE, HSPA+ 42
Weight 4.78 oz
Screen Type TFT LCD
Operating System as Tested BlackBerry OS
Physical Keyboard No
Camera Resolution 8 MP Rear
2 MP Front-Facing
Screen Pixels Per Inch 365 ppi
Bands 850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100, 1700
microSD Slot Yes
Form Factor Candy Bar
Screen Size 4.2 inches
Bluetooth Version 4

Verdict
The first BlackBerry 10 handset, the Z10 is a thoroughly modern, high-quality smartphone with a strong focus on messaging, but a lack of popular apps and media could hold it back.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc