It’s been a while that I’ve known I will sooner or later need to give up on BlackBerry 10 and move on to a new platform. Even when I wrote a post about why I used a BlackBerry Passport, I was thinking that this might not be true for much longer. It’s also been a while that I’ve been pretty confident Windows 10 Mobile is my next best option. I finally decided to take the plunge recently and ordered the HP Elite x3, which by most accounts is the best Windows 10 Mobile device, at least for business purposes (it doesn’t touch the older Lumia devices on the camera).
You can read a full review on the HP Elite x3 here from Windows Central; I’m not going to do a full device review here. Instead, I want to break down my own experience comparing what I miss about BlackBerry 10 to what I am very happy to have now on Windows 10 Mobile.
Miss from BlackBerry 10
The Hub: Windows 10 isn’t too bad as a replacement, between the live tiles and the Action Centre. But it still isn’t quite the convenience of the BlackBerry Hub keeping all my stuff in one place.
The Physical Keyboard: The HP Elite x3 obviously doesn’t offer anything to fill this hole, aside from connected a USB or Bluetooth keyboard which I am not counting since that wouldn’t really be using it as a phone. I’m one of those people who loved having a physical keyboard to do things like write blogs for this site while I was on the bus. That is possible on a touch keyboard, sure, but even with the Windows 10 keyboard being pretty good, it isn’t as good as physical keys. I also can’t type while I walk without looking down anymore, which is significant since I am walking a lot to and from work and elsewhere.
Touch Gestures: BlackBerry 10 does a fantastic job of easily flowing around between apps using touch gestures. Windows 10 Mobile does not have that kind of flow. For example, I regularly want to be able to swipe right from the app switcher to get back to the Start screen, and nothing happens. Ditto for trying to bring up the Action Centre by swiping down from that screen. In general, it is clear that Windows 10 Mobile could use a lot more work in terms of these little polish touches.
BBM: BBM is still my favourite mobile messenger. A lot of my family still uses it. They used to support Windows 8.1 and 10, but apparently pulled it from the store a few months before I got my Elite x3. This was the only loss that I did not anticipate.
Love on Windows 10 Mobile
Office apps (officially): Ultimately the reason for the switch is that I spend so much of my life in some apps of Microsoft Office365. Some of these apps work on BlackBerry 10 by installing the Android version, but it has been less and less of them. The Android runtime on BlackBerry 10 is now quite outdated, so it’s gone from supporting about 99% of Android apps – basically anything but Google services – to significantly less… understandably, BlackBerry doesn’t advertise that number anymore. Office apps that don’t work: Skype for Business, Flow, PowerApps, SharePoint, Teams. A few still did: Office365 Admin, OneNote, Office Mobile, Yammer, Outlook Groups. But still, it had finally reached the point where the “app gap” was hurting my productivity.
Start Screen: I have long held that Windows 10 has the best interface of the mobile OSes. Android and iOS are generally pretty bland grids of icons. BlackBerry 10 had some smart improvements like swiping into the Hub easily from anywhere, but it was still mostly the same idea. I love how Live Tiles can help me see important information at a glance. Years ago, Microsoft ran some ads for Windows Phone 7 essentially saying that it is a better system because you don’t have to stare at it for long periods of time – you can look at what you need and get back to real life, e.g. a father at his son’s soccer game. People made fun of that commercial saying the pitch was essentially that you should buy their phone so you don’t have to use their phone, but it stuck with me as somebody who does see a phone primarily as a tool. If I can get away with looking at a phone less while being just as productive, I’ll take it. A couple of other perks of the Start Screen compared to other systems: lots of resizing options, and I can differentiate between the most important tiles on the Start screen and the rest available in an All Apps list.
Continuum: I don’t know how much I will actually use this, but the Elite x3 does come with a Desk Dock (and optionally a Lap Dock, which I did not buy) which turns your phone into a “desktop computer” through Continuum. At least theoretically. It’s a pretty basic desktop, with a couple of big holes compared to using desktop Windows 10: you can’t run more than one app on the screen at the same time and you can’t run x86 apps. The first of those will definitely be fixed on Mobile through Continuum fairly soon. There’s rumours of the latter coming next year as well. Even as it is now, it is definitely nice in a pinch to be able to drop my phone on the dock, connected to a screen, keyboard, and mouse, and then work on several important apps. Long-term, this feature will be the differentiating factor for Windows 10 Mobile and I predict will help build up some market share again for business users.
Cortana: BlackBerry 10 did have a very basic voice assistant that I never used, in part because I had the physical keyboard that made typing it easier, but it also was less powerful. A smart virtual assistant integrated to lots of apps goes a long way. I wish it had a dedicated physical button on the side like BB10 did, though, to call it easier.