Why I Bought a Blackberry Z10

Introduction

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in need of a new phone so I started weighing the different options. We live in pretty incredible time when there is no shortage of smartphone options. You can go with the iPhone, which at this point is a seasoned veteran. You can go with Android, which is arguably the cool younger brother which is constantly on the cutting edge of tech, as its supported by such innovative companies as HTC and Samsung. You can go with a nice, yet misunderstood relative, such as the Windows Phone or in my case you can go with the old Blackberry, which at this point is arguably on life support. 

I have written a lot about Blackberry (formerly known as RIM) in the past and my comments while positive, have been put against the back wall of failure. There is no shortage of news about Blackberry facing the threat of financial failure, massive layoffs, and the simple fact of being irrelevant. In a few weeks, a financial deal is likely to go through in which a financial subsidiary of Blackberry is likely to purchase the company at a massive discount. This all being said why would anyone elect to purchase a Blackberry at this point, whether it be the Q10, Q5, Z10, or Z30? The answer isn’t that complicated.

After having done my research in weighing the options and having the Blackberry Z10 for a little over a week now, I have to tell people that the Blackberry Z10 is a solid phone with a very innovative and professionally driven Blackberry OS 10. The operating system on the Blackberry Z10 is fundamentally different from iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. I make the argument that it is vastly superior and the future of the mobile OS. It is just simply fluid and intuitive. It is an interface that simply stays out of your way and let’s you do what you want to do, both quickly and effectively. It also goes without saying that Blackberry is still the gold standard of business. It is designed with professionalism in my mind and for me it still feels like the phone you take into work.

Phone Design

This isn’t meant to be a phone review, but I’ll talk a little about the phone design. I bought the Blackberry Z10 (Black) and there’s very little you can criticize about the phone’s appearance. It is simple, but elegant. Every feature meshes together to present you with a solid package. While some might argue that the phone is lacking in design, the aesthetic is still enough to draw the attention of anyone. It feels great in the hand and it is a phone you will always be happy to pick up.

Blackberry OS 10 (QNX OS)

The principal reason I bought and like the Blackberry Z10 is because of BB OS 10. In my opinion, the QNX based OS is vastly superior the the other smartphone platforms out there. As always, I’ll name my five favorite features in BB OS 10.

BlackBerry  Z10

1. Blackberry Hub

Blackberry Hub is a feature that lives to the left of your OS. You simply have to swipe from the left at any screen to bring it up and see your calendar, as well as all of your messages, notifications and e-mails. All of your communications live in one location on your device. This is so incredibly useful and intuitive. You can view everything in one big pile or you can view them by type or account. Blackberry Hub makes it simple to use your phone as a phone and it’s arguably my most favorite feature of BB OS 10.

2. A Truly Gesture Based OS

Essentially everything on the Blackberry z10 can be completed with a simple motion. It allows you to control your applications, currently running applications, and your phone in general, with simple gestures that truly make you feel like you are in control of your phone. Once you have gotten used to the gestures on BB OS 10, iOS and even Android will feel slightly archaic or even in some aspects overly complicated.

3. Android OS Included

It is true Android comes preinstalled with every BB OS 10. The architecture of BB OS 10 allows you to essentially run both operating systems in a non-obtrusive way. You’ll rarely ever notice that you are running an Android application. It just works and with new releases of the OS in the form of updates you will always be up-to-date with the latest Android OS. You can find Android apps on Blackberry World, but you can also sideload them onto the Blackberry Z10 with a little ingenuity. Google search the topic for instructions.

4. Evernote and Dropbox Integration Included by Default

It is features like this that reminds you that this is a phone targeted at the professional community. Blackberry OS 10 comes preinstalled with support for Evernote and Dropbox. Evernote syncs in with the Remember application and your Dropbox folder syncs in with the file manager. In this way, neither Evernote or Dropbox feel like separate apps living in their own space. They feel like integral parts of the operating system that once again contributes to the fluidity of the OS.

5. Minimalist OS

One of the key reasons why I gravitated to the Blackberry Z10 is because of its (in my opinion) minimalist design. Unlike iOS and Android, it is not trying to be a phone for everyone. It is clearly a device targeted at the professional community and acts as such. This is not to say that the phone does not have mainstream appeal, but rather that it fulfills its principal purpose first, before giving attention to other uses. I can use the Blackberry Z10 without getting caught up or distracted by a million different applications or a very flashy operating system.

The Negatives and Personal Phone Choice

The truth is that while I am making a positive argument for the Blackberry, I am not denying that the Blackberry has its negatives. I’ll even name a few. The battery life leaves much to be desired. I rarely make it through a whole day without having to charge the phone. The Blackberry app store is lacking in a major way. If one of your primary necessities in a phone is a rich app store, then you are not going to find that in the Blackberry right now. While the phone does have all of the basics, you’ll find yourself browsing through an app graveyard when you click on the Blackberry World icon. To name just one more the Blackberry Z10 screen often appears dim and while you might want to maximize the brightness, this is often undesirable given the battery life hit you will inevitably take. For me the positives outweigh the negatives.

I value a simplistic, minimalist and professional phone. The Blackberry z10 and BB10 provide this for me. For anyone interested in getting a Blackberry, I would say do your research and know what you are getting into. If you decide to go through with the purchase, then you will not be disappointed. With so many smartphone options out in the market right now, the right phone for you really comes down to what your needs are and what you would like in your phone. iOS and Android might be the two goliaths out there right now, but oftentimes you will find a great deal of value in one of Davids. BB10 for me is a vastly superior mobile operating system and I hope that Blackberry lives on to continue to innovate on it. 

P.S: It is my hope that Blackberry reconsiders releasing BB10 for the Blackberry Playbook because it is still one of the devices I use the most and I believe that with a refocusing and better management at Blackberry, the Playbook along with the new BB10 Blackberry Phones do have the potential to resurrect the company. 


The Top Five Problems of Microsoft’s Windows Phone

In recent days, Microsoft has been in the news quite a bit. One might almost believe that a new found energy and innovative spirit are soon to make their way into the Windows landscape. Long-time CEO Steve Balmer has announced is impending resignation and Microsoft has announced it’s acquisition of Nokia’s Phone Division. This news comes trailing stories of the failure that the Windows Phone series has been. I’d like to take a moment to discuss what I see has the top five problems with the Windows Phone series that the new Microsoft CEO, in conjunction with Nokia’s talent, will have to tackle.

1. A Light App Store

Microsoft’s app store just simply doesn’t compete with that of iOS and Android. Microsoft has the same problem that Blackberry is facing. Developers just aren’t porting their applications over to the Windows Phone. We know that in the smartphone market applications are everything. A phone can live or die based on the apps library it has. Developers go where the demand is; therefore, they just don’t see a sufficient return from the Windows app store. Until the demand rises, Microsoft will have to create incentives for developers to want to port their apps over to the Windows phone.

2. A Lack of Variety in Handsets

There just simply isn’t that great of a variety of handsets in the Windows Phone ecosystem. In fact, Microsoft has acquired the largest manufacturer of Windows Phones, Nokia. We know that one of the things consumers like about Android is the variety of phones available. There are so many great choices out there, from the HTC to the Samsung Galaxy series. There is one hope for Microsoft though. We know that while there might only be one phone in the iOS ecosystem, the iPhone, that fact has not dimished from Apple’s success. Consumers value the connection between the hardware and software that Apple offers. If Microsoft can mimick and build on this, then it might be able to breathe life into the Windows Phone series.

3. The Cool Factor and the Luxury Factor

Apple’s iPhone has always exemplified the luxury factor. It’s meant to be a high-class, elegant device and it succeeds. The design of the iPhone 5 is simply captivating. It’s sleek, industrial, and modern. The Samsung Galaxy series has taken on the cool factor. Samsung has effectively managed to position their phones as the phones of the younger generation. They’re the phones on the cutting edge. Windows Phone does not come with a strong aesthetic too it. it is a sort of undefined product. Who buys the Windows Phone? Microsoft has to answer this question if they want to garner success.

4. Marketing

Microsoft simply hasn’t marked their phones all that well. The result is that I and many see it as a budget-conscious, smartphone. It’s the prepaid smartphone of choice for T-Mobile. This lowers the value of the brand and pushes consumers away. Microsoft has to market these devices better and bring consumers into the store.

5. Late to the Party

As always, Microsoft has been late too to tackle the smartphone market. Their response to the iPhone and Android wasn’t that quick and their choice of utilizing the formerly called “metronome” interface may have been ill-advised. sure it is innovative, but it simply gives off too much of foreign vibe. Further given the lack of a fondness for Windows RT, it would be unlikely that consumers would grow a desire for it on their phone. It’s always a wonder because Microsoft was in the smartphone business long before Apple or Google. Microsoft’s best chance is to be as innovative as possible in order to offer consumers featurez not found in iOS or Android.


Who Should Buy Blackberry? Amazon

It was surprising news for everyone to find out that Amazon had bought The Washington Post. I was thrown off a little at first, but I have to admit that if there is a single company out there that has the ability to reinvent print media, it’s Amazon. Jeff Bezos has proven that he has a knack for making media consumption innovative. In writing up my post-mortem on Blackberry, I began thinking about who should buy the company and it came to me that Amazon might be the best buyer. This might be Amazon’s opportunity to take a valued brand, operating system, and technologies, and mesh it in with the Kindle ecosystem to make the Kindle Phone. Imagine if Amazon were to enter its hat into the smartphone market. While it is a competitive market, Amazon might be in a great position to corner a segment of the market whose focus is on media consumption and not necessarily apps. My recommendation is for Amazon to buy Blackberry.


A Post-Mortem for Blackberry

The Blackberry Q10, us.blackberry.com

The Past

A few years ago if you heard the word Blackberry you automatically associated it with professionalism and highly-polished smartphones. As far as messaging and e-mail were concerned, Blackberry did both best. The Blackberry was the corporate device that had a great deal of appeal to the general consumer base. It’s messaging capability made it very popular amongst the younger crowd. This was surely something that Blackberry (RIM at the time) did not foresee happening, but the truth is that the Blackberry was very popular with teenagers and young adults. Even to the present day, the Blackberry (the brand) is highly valued and respected, but has clearly fallen by the way side when compared to brands, such as Apple and Samsung.

The Present

It’s not news that Blackberry has been on the decline for a number of years now. Blackberry has already announced that it is up for sale, following abysmal sales of it’s new flagship phones, the Blackberry Z10 and the Blackberry Q10. The key phrase is that Blackberry has done too little much too late.  Blackberry is hemorrhaging money and one has to wonder whether or not the property will be bought before it’s strictly in the red. The most valued asset has to be the Blackberry name, which is still a valued brand. Aside from that, one has to wonder if Blackberry’s patents, phones, tablet, and team are desired enough to attract the attention of potential buyers. Blackberry’s story is really a tragic tale of how inactivity and sluggishness can lead to failure.

The Post-Mortem

Slow Response to iPhone

When we take a look at what’s lead to the downfall of Blackberry there are several problems we can focus our attention on. One of the biggest problems was RIM’s response to the debut and release of the original iPhone back in 2008. What was their response? It was nothing. While companies, such as Samsung, immediately started working on new phones that sought to mimic the functionality that Apple was offering and other companies, such as Microsoft, sought to innovate in new directions, Blackberry (then RIM) did absolutely nothing. One can even say that they had done absolutely nothing up until their two handsets release now in 2013. Blackberry did nothing to compete with revolution in smart phones following the release of the iPhone. There have really only been two attempts by Blackberry to compete with the iPhone, prior to 2013. The first was the Blackberry Torch and the second was the Blackberry Storm, which were both failures because all that Blackberry did was to put a touchscreen on their phones. That’s it. They saw the iPhone and decided that in order to compete all they needed was a touch screen. This isn’t the kind of response  you would expect from a well-established and reputable company.

Resting on Corporate Business

Blackberry has essentially coasted on its corporate business for the last few years. The Blackberry was not going to be easily displaced in the work place so perhaps RIM thought that Apple, Samsung, Google, Microsoft and several other companies weren’t a threat to it’s business, but clearly management was over-confident. What we’ve come to realize is that as phones, such as the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy, become popular to general consumers, demand arises in the corporate setting. Corporations and government agencies were secure with the Blackberry, but as other smartphone’s quickly far advanced the phones offered by Blackberry they became more open to change. RIM was short sighted to think that focusing on their corporate business would be enough to stifle the advance of vastly superior smartphones.

The Blackberry App Marketplace

Blackberry’s app marketplace to this very day is abysmal. When I turn on my Blackberry Playbook and visit the Blackberry World Marketplace, I find myself journeying through a desert of destitute apps. There is dearth of apps that is so blatant it would lead a consumer to believe that the enterprise had been abandoned. Developers have simply not adopted the Blackberry platform. Blackberry was smart to have allowed Android apps to run on both the Blackberry Playbook, Q10, and Z10, but even that was simply not enough. It’s the theme of this post-mortem. It’s simply been too little and much too late.

A Non-Mainstream Tablet

I do have to admit that I am a Blackberry Playbook user and while I’ve had problems with Blackberry support in the past, I still enjoy my Playbook. It does everything that I need it to do and it does it well. The Blackberry Playbook has had a lot of problems. It was again another device that was late to the market. With the iPad and a large proliferation of Android tablets, the argument for a Blackberry tablet was weak. Aside from this the Blackberry Playbook, from the viewpoint of a user, is not much a mainstream tablet. There just simply isn’t that much you can do with it and with a destitute app store there isn’t much functionality that can be added to it. It’s not like an iPad or an Android tablet, where the app store can extends appeal to just about anyone. We’ve come to realize that a device lives or dies with its app store and if platform lacks it, it will surely struggle to gain in popularity.

Blackberry Messenger, BBM

A few days ago Blackberry debuted its Blackberry Messenger app, which brings the BBM functionality of the Blackberry to both iOS and Android. This is a great move by Blackberry, but once again, it’s much too little, much too late. Knowing that Blackberry is looking for a buyer, this is almost an attempt to gasp for air. This might have been a great move on Blackberry’s part had it happened a few years ago, but simply comes across as forced now. Aside from this, I just don’t see anyone adopting the application. Why would anyone? There are so many other solutions out their now that I don’t see anyone sincerely having interest in BBM, which might be associated with the earlier part of the past decade.

Closing 

These have just been a few of Blackberry’s many problems which I decided would make up a great look into the post-mortem of Blackberry. I believe the company to be dead, but, of course, you could argue it’s simply on life-support. Whatever the case, if a buyer does not present itself soon, then surely Blackberry will be on its last knees. I’m sure that this will be a business case that will be studied for many years by business students as a prime example of how a company can shut down and simply fade away through inactivity.


The Value of Digitizing the Remaining Paper in Your Life

Paper and Digitization

Over the last few months, I’ve discussed the value of paper solutions in the modern day (for example, in regards to the Hipster PDA) and I’ve extolled the value of digital solutions such as Evernote. The truth is I’ve noticed the a balance in productivity exists somewhere between the two. There are still a lot situations in which I prefer paper and pen, but I try to eliminate paper as much as possible in my daily life. It just makes it easier to deal with paper documents when you can search through them digitally rather than by hand. OCR (optical character recognition) technology has come a really long way and now it’s easier than ever to convert documents into a digital format that can be easily indexed and searched. It might take time, effort, and resources to digitize the remaining paper in your life, but it’s worth it in the long-run.

Your Scanner and Evernote

The fact is that you’ve probably seen a lot of infomercials marketing scanner specially designed for the task of scanning every type of paper document you might have lying around, from receipts to tax forms. I’ve never used any of these devices, but I’m sure that they serve their purpose. There are also a lot of professional services offered by business out there that will scan your documents for you and then send them to you digitally. This is really meant more for business though and I wouldn’t recommend them. There is also the concern of your document privacy. If you had a lot of financial documents to digitize, you likely wouldn’t feel all to comfortable with having a third-party handling those documents. My preferred method is to just simply use your own scanner and a program/service, such as my preferred program, Evernote. Evernote is just one of those programs that I can never talk enough about because it offers solutions for everyone. You can scan your documents into the PDF and drag and drop it into Evernote. Evernote will sync the document for you and if you’re an Evernote premium user you can even encrypt your documents. The one caveat is that in order for Evernote to OCR your documents they do have to be synced to the Evernote service so you can’t simply keep them in an offline notebook. Nonetheless, I think this is the best and most inexpensive way to digitize the remaining paper in your life and it might be a worthwhile endeavor for your next weekend. 

Capture anything.


Human Resources, The Hiring Process, and Bold Ideas

A piece from Financial Intersections regarding the state of the job market and typical company hiring processes. It’s about innovative and bold ideas that bring about positive change, further efficiency.

Financial Intersections

The State of the Job Market

Having been in the job market one and off, formally and informally, I’ve come to realize that the prospects are still very bleak, even despite quoted improvements. The recession really did a lot to damage the job market and to make it difficult for highly qualified candidates to obtain employment in a reasonable amount of time. There are several other observations I can make. One of the major ones is that it’s really become a recruiter’s market. Recruiters have the benefit of a larger applicant pool whereas applicants themselves find themselves in a larger pool with fewer opportunities. It’s really kind of mind-blowing to really think about how anyone actually gets hired because what it comes down to is company culture and compatibility. This is something that is really difficult to ascertain and I don’t see how most company’s application processes manage to discern…

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The Willingness to Create Your Own Opportunity

Hidden Opportunities

Back to Work is one of my favorite podcasts at the moment. It’s a talk show hosted by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin that focuses on productivity, communication, work and life in a way. It’s a great show. It’s very funny and I highly recommend that everyone check it out. In the latest episode, episode 124, Merlin talk’s about his latest trials and tribulations with his jury duty. For the sake of brevity, he talks about how important it can be to set your mindset up in such a way as to prepare yourself for the low points that everyone invariably find themselves at throughout life. The point he makes is that there’s essentially a difference between getting punched off guard and knowing your going to get punched. On some level, his point boils down to the value of maintain an optimistic outlook on life, but it’s really more than that. It’s about focusing on opportunities rather than losses or negatives. Rather than focusing on the negatives associated with carrying out one’s civic duty, why not focus on the positives allowed, such as having the time to catch up on one’s reading (during the course of one’s commute), the ability to improve one’s diet, and lastly and generally, (but not last) the opportunity to approach daily life in a new way. 

The Boldness to Create Opportunities and My Occupation as a Thinker

I truly believe this is a powerful and meaningful notion, but I think that it can be taken a bit further with the idea of initiative. Sometimes it really only takes the ability to see an opportunity coupled with the initiative to see it, in order to embark on a course that can yield great success. I’ve talked fairly often about what inspired me to begin writing, blogging, and essentially becoming a content creator. One of the major inspirations was the sort of negative cycle I found myself in during my active job search a few months back. My life circled around the job application process which is something that isn’t meant to give a life meaning. It is invariably a means to an end even though you can learn a great deal about yourself, people, work environments, and human psychology in general. I found myself with a gaping hole in my life because people get fulfillment from being creative and doing great work. I found myself with an opportunity to do what I love to do which is to think. If someone were to ask me what my one title is to summarize the others, I would say I’m a “Thinker.” It took that opportunity, put it together with who I am and what I love to do, added in a platform (WordPress), and as soon as I built the initiative that set me on the course to getting where I am now. In my mind, I essentially created my dream job and it’s one of those things in which the pay isn’t great. The benefits aren’t there and you can roll down that list of things that you usually expect from a job, a career. The bottom line is that I didn’t keep standing around and focused on the negatives of the situation I was in; I looked at the positives and took initiative. It set me on the course of being independent and always being able to do the best work that I can do, doing what I love to do, which is to think. It just goes to show that having the ability to identify opportunities can sometimes be the deciding factor between whether you stay focused on the negatives or embrace your personal initiative, which is key. When all else fails, sometimes you have to have the boldness to be able to create your job or to just simply do what you love to do, whatever that may be. 


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