BlackBerry Z10 (Verizon Wireless) 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 (Verizon Wireless)
599.99

BlackBerry has done a great job making its new Z10 phone available on multiple carriers, although Verizon has an exclusive twist: You can’t get the white model from anyone else. That said, Verizon’s Z10 has the same pluses and minuses as the AT&T device we originally reviewed. Read our AT&T BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry 10 OS reviews for full details. We’ll focus on the differences here.

First, there’s the body. While the Verizon Z10 is the same size as the AT&T and T-Mobile models, it comes in both black and white. I like the white unit more than the black ones: in a world of mostly dark-colored phones, it stands out without being overly flashy. The device is made of matte white polycarbonate with a grippy, textured white back, and the 4.2-inch black glass screen fits tightly into the frame. There’s a small Verizon logo over the screen. Like other BlackBerrys, this model is well-built and feels very professional.

Network and Apps
The Verizon Z10 has a wide, configurable range of network modes. It’ll connect to Verizon’s 3G and LTE networks here in the U.S., as well as to GSM/EDGE networks on the 850/900/1800/1900MHz bands and HSPA+ networks abroad on 900/2100MHz. In the settings, you can configure it to see GSM, UMTS, GSM/UMTS, LTE/CDMA, or everything, although you can’t choose a CDMA-only mode.

Notice the trick there, though: while this Z10 will roam on networks worldwide, it won’t work on Sprint’s LTE, or AT&T and T-Mobile’s 3G and LTE networks. Verizon has specced out a phone which excludes its rivals’ key radio bands.

On Verizon’s network, though, it’s clear sailing. I found the Z10 to have excellent radio reception. As with other Z10 units, both the earpiece and speakerphone have very good, clear, and well-balanced voice tones. Transmissions sounded fine, with a bit of wind noise coming through but none of the loud construction noise outside our offices. I got longer talk time on the Verizon Z10 than on its cousins, with 8 hours, 13 minutes of talk time, and better LTE streaming time at 3 hours, 48 minutes of streaming a YouTube video on full brightness. That’s nearly an hour more than the other models. Those battery life results still aren’t great, though, and the 1800mAh battery is smaller than some competitors’.

LTE speeds measured by speedtest.net were competitive with the Samsung Galaxy Note II, although the Z10 took a little longer than the Note II to find a 4G signal after being in a dead zone.

Verizon took a light touch with the Z10, adding much less than the usual bloatware. The only four apps preloaded by Verizon are My Verizon Mobile, Backup Plus Contacts, Bing, and Slacker, and they’re easily uninstalled.

Popular app availability lags behind other ecosystems, but BlackBerry is catching up. Still, though, there’s no Netflix, Yelp, Shazam, or Words With Friends, just to name some. And I’m concerned that some of the new, big-name apps may not be optimized for the hardware (or may be Android ports.) I was thrilled to see Jetpack Joyride and our Editors’ Choice Asphalt 7: Heat in BlackBerry World. But performance wasn’t perfect, with occasional strange hiccups in Jetpack Joyride and frame rate slowdowns towards the end of a Heat lap. The phone also gets pretty warm after playing an intense game, or during a large download. And unlike on AT&T and T-Mobile, carrier billing isn’t available here. You need to pay with a credit card or PayPal.

I’ve heard from BlackBerry loyalists that they don’t care much about third-party apps, though, and the phone comes with all the basic messaging, social-networking, and office software you need to be productive.

Conclusions
I’m keeping the Z10 at a 3.5 star rating because I’m still cautious watching this ecosystem develop. While the Verizon BlackBerry Z10 is a fine phone, it doesn’t offer enough to draw people away from the leading models in the more popular Android and Apple realms. Right now, our Editors’ Choice devices on Verizon Wireless are the larger HTC Droid DNA, Samsung Galaxy S III, and the smaller Apple iPhone 5, although I’d suggest high-end smartphone buyers wait a little while for the Samsung Galaxy S4 to appear. If you’re looking for an Android device that isn’t huge, the Motorola Droid RAZR M is your best bet right now.

I’m still waiting for the upcoming BlackBerry Q10 in April or May, which will feature a hardware QWERTY keyboard in the beloved portrait BlackBerry form factor. While Verizon has a couple of hardware QWERTY phones in the Samsung Stratosphere II and the Motorola Droid 4, there’s nothing quite like the Q10 on the market today. It’s coming later this spring.

Specifications
Phone Capability / Network GSM, CDMA, 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) 8 hours 13 minutes
Processor Speed 1.5 GHz
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
GPS Yes
Service Provider Verizon Wireless
Total Integrated Storage 16 GB
High-Speed Data EDGE, EVDO Rev A, LTE, HSPA+ 42, CDMA 1X
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, 700
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