I Like My Leap!

leapWe all know that Shawn loves his mobile phones. It’s constant quest to find the optimal UX to suit my needs, sense of aesthetics and visual challenges. Last week, through the generosity of conference organisers I picked up a BlackBerry Leap running BB10.3. It’s oddly (perhaps) the second BB I have personally used (I was tempted by the Passport – hey, I do really like different – but it was too pricey for a discretionary purchase).
Back in 1998 we (my business partners and I) acquired little inter@ctive 950‘s – in front of the market and the cherished gadget of choice amongst techie geeks. It wedded me to being connected at the hip to my co-workers and being able to share an immediate experience across distances via a ‘smart’ communication device. I was asked to return my 900 when I parted company with Ardesic in 2001 and strangely despite being quite enamoured of my BB experience fought the urge to be so connected. I hear snickers at that line from those that know me.

Fast forward to 2015. I have enjoyed a bevy of iOS devices, Android devices, even my treasured Jolla as well as number of Windows Phones (running WP7 – 10). Battery life has become a crucial determinator for me and when combined with ease of use and immediate access to the information that mattered to me, my Lumia’s actually served me extremely well. My last Lumia, a 930, is a lovely piece of kit. Fast, responsive, excellent screen, gorgeous camera, wireless charging and an OS that worked for me. But it was simply too powerful for the meagre battery provided. Clearly that is the Achilles heal for any  heavy user. I carried a backup wireless battery with me for a few months, but not being able to make it through the day was a deal breaker.

Enter the BlackBerry Leap. I am attracted by efficient user experiences that ‘just work’ (and I grew up in Waterloo, Ontario so there is a wee bit of hometown pride there as well). BB10.3 is cool. It’s very gesture based (like my Jolla), has nice ‘live tiles’ that give immediate feedback without user intervention (like my Lumia’s), it’s a solid build, fits nicely in the hand and feels quality (again to me Lumia like – probably more 920 than 930). What’s more there is a generous battery (2800 mA) and it’s paired with a slightly less powerful cpu than my 920 and OnePlus One. That’s not counter-intuitive – less power draw, yet as responsive and a big battery = all day satisfaction. What’s more, the screen is surprisingly great in the daylight. I can see it plainly. Part of this is a nod towards white on black versus black on white display – but it’s a very good screen … actually more readable than the OPO even cranked to maximum brightness (which doesn’t work inside). I have found that the auto adjustment sensor on the OPO does not seem to make much effect – despite it being a fine phone in itself. As a side note, I got the OPO to make up for the battery deficiency of the 930 (and Nexus 5) and it has largely accomplished this although started to just make it as of late.

The BlackBerry Leap makes it through the day with room to spare thus alleviating me from a worry. What’s the point of a smartphone if the battery is dead when you need it? Moreover, the access to the BlackBerry Hub is superb. All my points of contact a simple swipe away. The lock screen display of all those points without having to interact again is a treat. The sounds are soothing, the speaker great and the camera solid (it’s tough after being spoiled by the Lumia’s). I ran into an immediate problem with the device after setup when I connected it to all my accounts and the battery was draining in three hours. It took a couple of days to diagnose and solve this, but it pointed out two more strengths of the BB device. I was able to get particularly valuable and timely support through the user forums and John Clark worked with me for two days to solve the problem. The other strength was that the inner workings of the OS are very accessible. I was able to determine that it was my Input Services that were running wildly consuming both CPU cycles and consequently battery. Although it was tough to pin down why this was, a logical process of eliminating variables determined that my 7.5K+ google contacts were both gargantuan and possibly damaged. As a result BB attempting to be kind to me was attempting to wrestle with this blob and serve up suggestions when I interacted and running itself down in the process. As a fix I finally (this was almost a decade in the making) untangled my web of duplicates and messiness and prioritised my contacts – shifting them to Outlook.com in the process. As a result I was able to maintain my other Google connections and have all the contacts I needed and was able to experience it in new and efficient way.

So we are a week in and the BlackBerry Leap is earning its way. I most if not all the customisation I need. I love the little touches in the OS whether handy gestures, transparent but not overwhelming awareness of how the phone is operating – and an amazingly intuitive experience. Let’s hope the company can carry on evolving what is a pleasingly effective OS for me – as a straight individual (as opposed to enterprise) user. The handset was £199 unlocked and I also got a hugely discounted ultra-fast 128Gb SDHC that slid right into the slot on the side to give me scads of storage space. Stay tuned …

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