Although BlackBerry promotes the device as perfect for one-handed thumb-centric use, the truth is the screen is too large for most people's hands to reach the top, plus I found that thumb taps were often ignored by the touchscreen. The culprit seems to be angle: The screen is quite good at detecting direct, straight-down taps such as from our index finger when holding the device with one hand and tapping with the other. Directly down thumb taps are also registered, but those that come in at 45-degree or shallower angles often are not.
The hardware specs are comparable to other quality smartphones, though the mono speaker is a bit "breathy" and flat compared to the iPhone 5's excellent ones. The battery is replaceable, which is important given the so-so battery life; you'll get a workday's use, like most Android smartphones, but not the two-day life an iPhone typically gets. You can also add an SD card for increased storage beyond the 11.4GB of available capacity on the device, such as to store media files.
Overall, the BlackBerry Z10 is a solid smartphone in line with its competition. The other new model, the BlackBerry Bold-like Q10, isn't yet available, so I could not test it.
After they've completed their approval process, AT&T and Verizon Wireless plan to sell the Z10 for $200 with a two-year contract. T-Mobile says it will offer the Z10 but hasn't disclosed a price. Expect the smartphones to be available at those carriers in March.
Welcome to the Hub -- and mixed messaging capabilitiesFor some time now, RIM -- I mean BlackBerry -- has been trying to act young and hip, even though its core market has long been 50-year-old execs like me.
In addition to the now de rigeur media store, BlackBerry has followed the messaging centrism that Microsoft debuted in the terrible Kin a few years back and then successfully re-debuted in Windows Phone's People app. The Hub lists all your messages and updates in one big list.
It's great for seeing what's new, but I found the list also gets overwhelming quickly -- and I set up just my two main email accounts, my Twitter feed, and my appointments. But you can narrow down to just one stream by tapping the top of the Hub and selecting the account you want to focus on. Tap there again and select the Hub to go back to the view of everything.
All in all, the Hub concept works quite well, and if you're primarily a messaging or reactive email user, it's perfect.