After a strange unveiling of its new operating system, two phones, and a company rebranding, BlackBerry lifted the embargo on reviews of one of the new BlackBerry 10 smartphones, the $599 touchscreen Z10. And while the consensus among the tech punditocracy seems to be positive — they like the look of the phone itself, and especially the sensible OS that runs it — BlackBerry may be too far gone for this phone to singlehandedly launch a comeback. Here's the early word:
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Engadget's Tim Stevens comes right out with the cliché everyone has been mulling over: The new BlackBerry phone offers too little, and definitely too late — maybe:
All is not lost: at $199 (which BlackBerry says is the suggested on-contract price in the US), the Z10 and BB10 are a nice piece of kit. The BlackBerry faithful who've been waiting patiently for something more modern will flock to this (and its QWERTY-having cousin) in droves, but there simply isn't enough here to woo those consumers who have already made investments in Android or iOS. Too little? Maybe. Too late? Sadly.
After a glowing review of his own, ABC's Joanna Stern basically says the same thing:
It's 2013 and it's going to be very hard for BlackBerry to build up that BBM list of mine again. BlackBerry might have caught up with the times, but so have we. BlackBerry 10 and the Z10 are the right steps, but it's going to take even more for it to bring those users back.
The Verge's Joshua Topolsky expands on the "too-little" theme, pointing out that a winning BlackBerry phone would have to offer something a lot better than the competition — and the Z10 isn't a game-changer:
The problem with the Z10 is that it doesn't necessarily do anything better than any of its competition. Sure, there are arguments that could be made about how it handles messages or the particulars of its camera, but no one could argue that there's a "killer app" here. Something that makes you want or need this phone because it can do what no other phone can do. That's not the case — in fact if anything is the case, it's that the Z10 can't yet do some things that other devices can. Or at least, can't do them quite as well.
And that's where I end up. The Z10 is a fine device, well made, reasonably priced, backed by a company with a long track record. But it's not the only device of its kind, and it's swimming against a massive wave of entrenched players with really, really good products. Products they figured out how to make years ago. Products that are mature. The smartphone industry doesn't need saving.
And as CNN Money's Adrian Covert notes, this phone is six months too late to save anybody:
This is a phone that feels like it's six months behind the rest of the pack. To get the non-enterprise users it wants and needs, it has to be thinking a year ahead of the industry's innovation leaders -- devices like Apple's iPhone, Samsung's Galaxy S3 and Google's Nexus 4.
That's because fanboys will be fanboys, adds Laptop Mag's Mark Spoonauer:
Is there anything here that will win over iPhone and Android fans? Those focused on being more productive have some reasons to look BlackBerry's way, but we don't see anyone making that jump--at least until the new BlackBerry World is a lot more fleshed out. Assuming BlackBerry speeds up the performance and gets its app act together, the Z10 should find plenty of takers.
The New York Times's David Pogue is a little kinder, saying that the Z10 could at least slow down the BlackBerry death spiral:
So then: Is the delightful BlackBerry Z10 enough to save its company?
Honestly? It could go either way. But this much is clear: BlackBerry is no longer an incompetent mess — and its doom is no longer assured.
AllThingsD's Walt Mossberg, however, boldly states he believes BlackBerry may still have a chance:
The Z10 and BB10 represent a radical reinvention of the BlackBerry. The hardware is decent and the user interface is logical and generally easy to use. I believe it has a chance of getting RIM back into the game, if the company can attract a lot more apps.
If nothing else, the Z10 should buy BlackBerry a little more time to develop something truly lovable — after all, the other model in the new-name company's new lineup on Wednesday, the Q10, features the tactile keyboards that made BlackBerries so popular in the first place.