BlackBerry 10 smartphones are out in the market ready to exchange themselves for your hard earned dollars. The new OS is unlike its predecessor at all, if only in spirit. Even though I’ll be the first one in line to put the final nail in the BlackBerry 7 coffin, I do find that there were a few areas where BlackBerry 10 smartphones still can’t beat the (not-so-good ol’) BlackBerry 7, either in features or functionality. While it would take an encyclopedia-sized article to cover all the things BlackBerry 10 smartphones do better, I figure I’d write up the short list of BlackBerry 7 victories, despite how obsolete the BlackBerry 7 platform is these days. Here’s to the hope that BlackBerry adds in just some of that magic we loved on BlackBerry 7.
Of all the things BlackBerry 7 did, notifications were its bread and butter. Who could deny the awesomeness that was the notification bar? With BlackBerry 10, notifications are handled with polish, but not much beyond that. Gone are the apps running the background that could display a spectrum of LED colours, perfectly tailored to your whim. For now, I have to keep apps like HUB++ or BeBuzz open just for them to work. This should be fixed when the OS update to 10.2 comes, thankfully.
Gone also is the ability to distinguish between BBM Group and standard BBM notifications. This bugs me quite a lot since I would like silent BBM group notifications with a separate icon. At the moment, silencing BBM Groups, silences pings, and all BBM messages. Third-party applications help, they have limitations that simply can’t match BlackBerry 7’s notification customization options.
2) Battery Life
I’ve had the Z for about 6 months already and I can say that the battery life on heavy use of the Z10 doesn’t match that of BlackBerry 7 phones. Be it the Activesync, LTE radio, or hungry processor, I can run through a Z10 battery in a few hours with ease. While the reasons can be justified, it is nice to have a phone that will last most of the day with heavy messaging. The Q10 is the exception. With a larger battery and other battery savings measures, the Q10 is the BlackBerry to own if battery life is a primary concern. For the rest of us, bring on the upcoming BlackBerry Aristo (A10).
3) Text Selection
On BlackBerry 7 smartphones, the trackpad allowed for quick text selection, copying and pasting with high accuracy and speed. On BlackBerry 10, there still isn’t an equivalent function that can match BlackBerry 7. With improvements that came with OS 10.1, text selection is less of a hassle but it isn’t quite there. You still need to hold down on your selection for a second to copy, and hold down again to paste.
The process isn’t the best and can be annoying at times. I’m hoping that future updates create smart and fast gestures to select, copy, and paste text to match/exceed the hardware solution BlackBerry 7 had.
BlackBerry marked the end of that famous BIS email service that provided efficient, quick, and reliable email on BlackBerry 7 devices. New BlackBerry smartphones run Microsoft’s ActiveSync protocol which typically uses more power to synchronize with the server. There may be other disadvantages to ActiveSync in comparison to BIS which I am not aware of as well.
In addition, many useful options such as the the “Delete on Handheld” feature is missing on BlackBerry 10. While there are huge improvements in the email management on BlackBerry 10, BlackBerry 7 certainly had no shortage of features in this department.
5) Convenience Keys
While this is a hardware issue, the fact is that no BlackBerry 10 device has a convenience key. This is design and user experience decision, but nevertheless, it was nice to have on BlackBerry 7 smartphones. I know many BlackBerry users relied on this button to quickly bring up the camera, BBM, or any other application very quickly. I, for one, surely miss this feature.
6) Hardware Buttons
The four semi-iconic navigation buttons on older BlackBerry smartphones were central to the experience on BlackBerry 7. These buttons, including the trackpad, allowed quick navigation, call management, and mutitasking that we would like to beleive BlackBerry 10 excels as well. The fact is that these buttons allowed for incredibly quick navigation about the OS, even if they took up precious screen real estate. Gestures on BlackBerry 10 remain slightly slower and still require some fine tuning or customization options to match that of BlackBerry 7.
When prior BlackBerry devices were out, there were tons of docks, cases, sleeves, mounts and such that complemented popular smartphones such as the Bold 9900/9930. The dock and car mounts for the Z10 are still hard to find for various reasons. The selection for cases for the BlackBerry Bold is still much better than for the Z10 or Q10. This may change in time, but this is an advantage that typically comes with device model popularity. BlackBerry will need a hit of a device to re-create a decent market for BlackBerry accessories.
8) Data Consumption
One of the undisputed advantages to BlackBerry is their efficiency in data consumption. Back in the day, I could get under 300 megs a month on my BlackBerry 9860. Now I struggle to stay under 1GB. This could be that watching HD videos of cats, browsing over LTE, and BBM Video eat up tons of data that Blackberry 7 could only dream of doing. And it likely is. But I miss the ability to go to a foreign country and pay to only use only a little data to stay fully connected. If I were to use the Z10 in the same way, I would be going broke faster than Nokia during a quarterly report.
9) Form Factors
Fragmented or not, BlackBerry 7 gave you choice. You could go all-touch, QWERTY keyboard, slider, low-end, or even low-end touch screen. Going back to BlackBerry 6, you could even choose the Style and even get a clickable touchscreen. Despite the fact that the experience of these devices were questionable at best, you did have lots of choice to what kind of BlackBerry experience you wanted. With BlackBerry 10, you’ve only got three devices so far. While more are on the way, it’s hard to predict how much choice BlackBerry will provide in order to keep fragmentation low.
10) BlackBerry Protect/Desktop Manager
If you actually know that BlackBerry Protect exists on BlackBerry 10 devices, you also know that it doesn’t do as much as it used to. All you can do is remotely wipe your device and locate your lost device. With BlackBerry 7, you could backup your device as well. The new BlackBerry Link software is designed to be like Desktop Manager, but updated for this millenium. It still doesn’t have the functionality of the older Desktop Manager and also doesn’t work very well for media syncing and managing. Anyone who has tried to backup their phone using Link has most definitely gone for coffee, dinner, a movie , and sabbatical just waiting for it to finish. BlackBerry needs to step up their game in the desktop support department.
Overall, I’m thrilled with BlackBerry 10. Using a BlackBerry 7 phone felt like going to the dentist everyday. Painful. It struggled with anything resembling some sort of technical challenge. Black Clock? He’s my best friend. Streaming HD videos? Sorry. Long HTML emails? Not a good idea. Installing tons of apps? Have fun with that.
It was as touch-friendly as your neighbour’s pit bull. But it some things not only well, but exceptionally well. As times changed however, sending that quick email attachment to your boss using quick shortcuts took a backseat to Vine Videos about tiny dogs wearing ridiculous outfits. And I don’t blame people. Everyone loves cute dogs. That is, perhaps, except for BlackBerry 7. While I’m content with having a modern BlackBerry which suits my lifestyle and also enables mass consumption of cheap internet thrills, BlackBerry 7 still holds it down when it comes down to the basics.
Of course, this isn’t the full story. Some of the benefits of BlackBerry 7 that do not carry over to BlackBerry 10 must remain omited for other, more complicated reasons. Multiple form factors can cause fragmentation issues, and BIS is a whole other discussion in itself.
I’m hoping that in the future BlackBerry sticks to its strengths and focuses on the still-relevant values that made BlackBerry great. Some of the features that millions have come to love with BlackBerry are missing on BlackBerry 10, and he’s to hoping they find their way back to us.