BlackBerry 10.2 is the best smartphone operating system you’ve never used. Most likely it’s also one you never considered.
The company’s market share is in free fall and its future is in doubt, mainly because of missteps in the years immediately following Apple’s entry into the smartphone market.
Yet despite BlackBerry’s woes, the company has produced a fine, modern phone operating system. It looks good and positively shines on the BlackBerry Z30 handset.
BlackBerry on message
BlackBerry has put messaging at the centre of the BB 10.2 operating system. It does multitasking better than any other phone OS and stays out-of-the-way to the point of being almost invisible. This makes it especially responsive, in all the time I spent with the phone I never had to wait for anything to happen.
Everything BlackBerry revolves around something called the Hub. This is a grand central station for all your messages. It pulls texts, emails and BBM messages together in a single stream along with your incoming social media notifications.
There’s a Priority Hub to keep the most important stuff in the forefront, so you’re not distracted when someone tweets a photo of their breakfast. You get to decide what’s important, but the phone will also do some of this for you. It learns your behaviour and decides which messages to prioritise.
Gesturing at BlackBerry 10.2
Unlike iOS and Android, BlackBerry 10.2 is controlled mainly by gestures — to a degree, this is similar to Windows Phone 8 although BB 10.2 takes this further. Much further. You swipe this way or that to open screens, move between apps and so on.
This gesture driven approach is a culture shock when coming from another smartphone OS As I said in my earlier review of the Z30 phone there’s a steep learning curve. BlackBerry helps, there are tutorials to guide you. Once you’ve learnt the techniques, it’s a smooth and natural way of working.
And that’s the thing about BlackBerry 10.2, it’s designed for productivity. Stick with the OS, learn how it works and you will power through day-to-day smartphone tasks at maximum performance. All the tools are here to get things done.
BlackBerry 10.2 big picture
Last year I spent a week each working exclusively in the Apple, Microsoft and Google technology stacks. Three weeks and thousands of words later I had a better idea of how each technology stack worked as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
It isn’t possible or practical to do the same thing with BlackBerry. There are only phones, no tablets or PCs. That’s not entirely true, you probably could spend your working life using nothing but the Z30 so long as you don’t need to do much content creation. That’s not me.
BlackBerry’s fiercest critics point at the lack of native apps for the phone. Few of the top apps are there at all. Sometimes the BB 10 replacements for the functionality found in popular apps are disappointing. BlackBerry fans counter that you can run most Android apps. For me, that’s a good argument for choosing an Android phone, which will run more Android apps.
And there’s the rub. BlackBerry has produced a fine work tool that will suit some people. If you want to impress your boss, or stay focused on productivity above all else, get one. Sadly it probably won’t suit enough people. Few of us buy smartphones just to handle voice calls and messages no matter how efficiently.