Bye Bye Blackberry, Hello Android, I Think I’m Gonna Cry…

It’s been about a month now since I put down my Blackberry Q10 and started using a Motorola Moto E. This was a difficult change for me to make, so let me explain a little about why I chose Blackberry and what made me eventually leave it.

Somewhere around five or six years ago I was rocking a Motorola KRZR flip phone, which I quite adored for its form and feel, but wow was T9 texting really not my cup of tea! I started looking around at what else was available. I considered a feature phone, but they all seemed kind of half assed… And then a coworker showed me how he could watch hockey on his Blackberry, along with whole whack of other things it could do and I was sold on the “computer in my pocket” aspect of it. I had always wanted a Pocket PC!

Initially I wasn’t really concerned about privacy, security, ecosystem, apps and all those other buzz words we’re so familiar with these days. I just wanted something that was easy to text on and that I could write some stuff with, etc. At the time, I considered Android as well, but I said to myself, “meh… this Android thing isn’t going to go anywhere…” writing it off as yet another Linux based project that was destined to only appeal to we few Linux users. Boy was I wrong! lol… Anyhow, it wasn’t until Blackberry released their BB10 OS, based on the QNX Unix-like kernel, that started to think of these thing. By that point my wife had set down her Blackberry and gone Android and Android was wildly popular.

I truly do not subscribe to the surveillance culture, nor do I subscribe to the “ads everywhere” culture and I saw Android as being the ultimate enabler of both. I didn’t realize that one could de-Google their Android device and otherwise unsubscribe from the privacy invading features of Android. So rather than getting an Android myself, I went and got an all touch Blackberry Z10. It was modern and had a really nice end user experience, while also respecting my privacy. I stuck by that notion 9 months later when I went and got a Blackberry Q10, because typing on that infernal damned virtual keyboard was driving me insane!

And then… and then I decided to read a bit more about Android.

Blackberry released an OS update, 10.3, that utterly gutted the UI experience that caused me to like BB10 in the first place. Bugs, slowness, and a call to replace BB10 native apps with Android apps (which run in a runtime environment that makes them slower and more flaky than just running them on an actual Android device), made me feel as though Blackberry was going in a direction I did not wish to follow. I hated the new UI and on BB10 the end user can’t do a damned thing to change it, not even changing the icons, for instance. After reading some good posts on about the realities of Android and its privacy options, I decided to research it in more detail. I spent a lot of time considering Windows 8.1 and Android and I found that I did like where Microsoft was heading with Windows 10 and I was pleased with what Android offered in 4.4 and 5.0. It was a tough choice between the two, but I ultimately went with Android for the ability to root the device and install a custom ROM, such as CyanogenMod, if I wanted.

So after a month of using this lowly little 2014 Moto E, here is what I have to say about the pros and cons of Blackberry 10.2.1 (the last version of BB10 I actually liked using) and Android 4.4.4.

Blackberry Q10
Where it Wins:

  • Size and shape feels the best in the pocket. I like smaller devices!
  • Coherent UI and gesture navigation.
  • Solid typing experience on the physical keyboard
  • HDMI out, for hook up to the TV.
  • Camera with flash. Though not great, it is better than the Moto E’s!

Where it Loses:

  • Double typing issue with the keyboard, pretty much out of the box. Not all the time, but often enough to be disappointing. My Bold 9900 never had this issue, even after two years of daily use.
  • Blackberry 10.3 update turned it into a device I no longer wanted to use. I flashed backed to 10.2, but the writing was on the wall that Blackberry was going where I did not want to follow.
  • I was feeling fatigued when typing on this keyboard, which I don’t feel when typing on the Bold 9900 (I did a test to compare).

Blackberry Z10
Where it Wins:

  • Screen is sharp and a good size for media.
  • HDMI out, for hook up to the TV.
  • Camera with flash. Though not great, it is better than the Moto E’s!
  • Build in flashlight is easy to access
  • BB10 settings menu is the best in the industry – cohesive and sensible!
  • Calculator program, with unit conversion, has an excellent UI.

Where it Loses:

  • Massive waste of bezel on the top and bottom making it needless long and uncomfortable in the pocket.
  • Super annoying auto correction that is… just bad and wrong far too often. Turning it off makes typing on a virtual keyboard slow and annoying.
  • Speaker is not loud and clear and the speakerphone mic was not very good (said my wife many times on the other end)

Motorola Moto E (2014 Model)
Where it Wins:

  • Physical size and rounded, comfortable feel on an all touch device.
  • Runs MANY excellent programs without any lag or crashes, particularly the Microsoft suite of tools. Even though this deivce has half the ram and 1/4 the storage space, I can do more with it than I could with either the Z10 or Q10. No fuss, no muss… it JUST WORKS!
  • Easily customizable, both visually and functionally.
  • Call blocking, Windows shares, and OneDrive work properly.
  • Google virtual keyboard is surprisingly not annoying as hell. I was a QWERTY4Life kind of guy, glued to his physical keyboard, so it’s a big deal for me to not mind using a virtual keyboard. This one, on the whole, feels pretty much the same as typing on the Q10 as far as efficiency goes.
  • Speaker is loud and clear! The speaker phone is also great.

Where it Loses:

  • Camera does not have a flash and is step down from the Q10 / Z10.
  • No HDMI out.
  • No flash, so the flashlight is the LCD screen. It’s still a heck of a lot better than fumbling in the dark though.

All in all, I am really pleased with the Android experience on my low-end Motorola Moto E. We only paid $149 for this carrier unlocked, 2014 model Moto E (at a local retailer, so no shipping charges) and it’s hard to believe that the end user experience is still so much of an upgrade over what I had with the Blackberry Z10. All of the faults with Android could be solved by simply upgrading to a more feature rich piece of hardware, but realistically I don’t need to do so.

I’d like to make it clear that Blackberry 10 is a fine operating system, even the 10.3 version that I personally do not like. It can run many Android apps right from the built in Amazon App Store and there are still quite a few good apps available in the Blackberry World app store. However, there are some hoops to jump through to get some apps to work and even then, some just don’t work properly or at all. So it all depends on what you want from your smartphone experience. I’m not a real big app user, in fact I will list the ones I do use below, but at the end of the day Android, in my experience, delivers a more enjoyable end user experience than what I experienced with my Blackberry Z10 and Blackberry Q10.

Apps I use that didn’t come with my Moto E: BBM, CCleaner, ES File Explorer, Facebook, Ghostery Browser, Icon Changer Free, My Rogers, Netflix, Office Mobile, OneDrive, OneNote, Open Camera, Outlook, RealCalc, ScreenLight, Skype, Steam, VLC, Wikipedia, WordPress, Yaaic.