RIM BlackBerry executives took the stage today to announce their formal comeback to the smartphone market. There were two big announcements today from the beleaguered manufacturer. First off, they’ve got themselves a new multi-touch operating system that will allow them to compete with the likes of iOS and Android. Given the current state of the market, it’s more likely they’ll be fighting it out with Windows Phone for third. To accompany the release of BB10, short for BlackBerry 10, they announced two new devices. The BlackBerry Z10 is their flagship, available on a few major carriers in the US (AT&T, Verizon) in mid-March, with Sprint expected to pick it up later in the year. Pricing is in line with the iPhone 5 at $199.99. So how does it compare, read on for our BlackBerry Z10 vs iPhone comparison.
BlackBerry Z10 vs iPhone 5

In a somewhat odd move, the announcement was coupled with major tech blogs releasing their reviews. Any buzz gained from the event today seems to have been dampened by those who have spent significant time with the new BlackBerry Z10. Some of which is positive, but the overall consensus is the Z10 is average.

The Keyboard Is Killer
Walt Mossberg describes the Z10 keyboard as, “….the best and fastest out-of-the-box virtual keyboard I’ve used.” I’ve had discussions with Marianne Schultz on the show about how I’ve been disappointed with the iPhone 5 keyboard with iOS 6. This is definitely an area ripe for improvement in iOS 7.

Removable Battery
It was one of the advantages of Android that has been jettisoned in popular models including the Nexus 4, HTC One X and Motorola Droid RAZR HD. iPhone 5 users have options like extended batteries Josh Topolsky of The Verge, “I regret to report that I’ve been deeply disappointed by the battery in the Z10.On several days during my test period, I found that the device could not make it through an entire workday without requiring a recharge or battery swap.” Sounds like a spare battery is a necessity.

Operating the OS
BlackBerry 10 is an entirely new OS, with some major influence from iOS, Android and webOS. Navigating is done primarily through gestures, so there is a learning curve to using BB10. While some would complain that Apple has become stagnant, it’s hard to argue with their decisions to keep iOS consistent and consistently easy to use. Get stuck, press the home button. With BlackBerry 10, there is no home button. Swiping up reveals your recently used apps, up to a maximum of 8 apps. To access notifications on the iPhone, you simply drag your finger down from the top of the screen to bring up the Notification Center. BlackBerry’s twist on this is their BlackBerry Hub. You have to slide your finger up and then right creating a curve (see what I did there). A straight left swipe will reveal an App Drawer, similar to Android and iOS. The use of gestures are great, but aren’t necessarily intuitive. We’ve seen them used before heavily with webOS and while tech enthusiasts find great joy with them, they often end up confusing consumers.

New Time Shift Camera
They are including a new software feature that allows you to take photos in a burst mode. What’s great is that if you are taking a group photo and one person closed their eyes, this software allows for an easy fix. Using a wheel, you rotate through the photos taken until you find one you’d like to insert. This isn’t available in iOS to my knowledge. I’d be surprised if there was a developer or three working on a camera app to recreate this feature. Again, something that would be nice for Apple to sherlock in iOS 7. As for the camera hardware, it shoots 8 megapixels and 1080p video. While the specs are inline with the iPhone 5, not all 8-megapixel cameras are created equal. Engadget’s review of the BlackBerry Z10 says, “…focus was quite often off, resulting in a number of very soft photos.”

Apps
The iPhone offers the most robust selection of apps. Quality and quantity. BlackBerry has a major problem here. Like Windows Phone before them, they are doing everything possible to impress with big launch numbers, 70,000 to be specific. Numbers are great, but what happens to the customer who takes a leap of faith only to find out their favorite apps aren’t available. When you hear a big number like, most would think that Spotify, Instagram among others would be there. Not so much. In their defense, they are heavily courting developers and those numbers should increase with more quality apps. The trouble is that those considering BlackBerry Z10 vs iPhone 5 are not necessarily going to want to take a leap of faith on a new platform that is missing some key applications.

 

It sounds like the new BlackBerry 10 is a major upgrade from the stodgy, old OS, something that I’d imagine was an easy task to accomplish. For BlackBerry die-hards, they’ll need to adapt to the virtual keyboard of the Z10 or wait for the QWERTY based Q10 coming in April. What remains to be seen is if the new release will do anything to sway users away from iPhone or Android. Early reviews say no. While the hardware of the Z10 compares nicely to the iPhone 5, the app ecosystem of BB10 will have to show significant growth if it’s to have a legitimate chance. Either way, it’s good to see BlackBerry back in the game. There are some legitimately good features here, namely the keyboard and I’m personally a sucker for gesture based operation. You can bet that someone in Cupertino will have their research in motion.

Anything here make you want to switch from iPhone to Blackberry? Any features you’d like to see Apple adopt for iOS 7?