The Canadian manufacturer has moved its design ethic towards the full touchscreen Z10 and the browser displays web pages in all their glory on the device’s 4.2-inch display. Navigating within the browser follows the ‘flow’ format that runs throughout the BlackBerry 10 user interface and menus swipe in from the left and right of the screen to bring up options and access functions.
The BlackBerry 10 browser is laid-out brilliantly, with the positioning of the address bar at the bottom of the display making it particularly adept for one handed use. Whether holding it in either your right or left hand the bar can be tapped with the thumb before the keypad springs up and allows you to enter a URL or search term.
Searches themselves come from Microsoft’s Bing and appear as easily when typed into the address bar as they would if you’d entered them on the Bing homepage. The way in which it works within BlackBerry 10 is seamless and at least as good as Google’s integration with browsers on other platforms.
Tapping the bottom left of the browser display sees a menu slide out that houses bookmarks, browsing history and shortcuts to the tabs currently open. Skipping between tabs is as simple as tapping on them but those that aren’t being used remain active in the background.
This is something we found very handy since when using the BlackBerry 10 we’ve got into the habit of making use of the web based versions of apps that aren’t supported by the platform, such as Soundcloud for example. Audio from the music-streaming website continues to play when you open another tab over the top.
A tap on the bottom right brings up a well-populated menu with some of the more specific browser functions, such as editing bookmarks, searching for text within a webpage and sharing a link to the page you’re on.
It’s from this menu that you can access BlackBerry 10’s two unusual (but not unwelcome) features for displaying web pages. The Reader function takes the text and some images from the site you’re on and displays them in a simple, minimalist format that is far easier to digest than a standard webpage. Reading large amounts of text on a smartphone display can be awkward, especially if it is rendered in a small font, and the Reader function makes this much more comfortable.
Buried further down into the Settings menu is the other display option, which allows you to view webpages in their desktop mode by default. Mobile versions of many websites can be of a poor quality and seem a little unnecessary in an age when smartphone screens have become so big, so this feature is a good one to have.
Finally, BlackBerry 10’s browser has an easy process for saving links to websites to the handset’s desktop. Go into that right-hand menu and a simple tap on the Add to Home Screen option will create a desktop icon that even looks like that particular websites logo. A simple tap on said icon automatically opens the browser and navigates to that page.
Whether this is a deliberate attempt on BlackBerry’s part to make up for a lack of apps by providing simple links to their web-based equivalents we can’t be sure, but we have found ourselves using it as such.
As mentioned, we’ve been using the Soundcloud website as a solution to the lack of a dedicated app for BlackBerry 10. We created a homescreen link that works like an app icon and opens the music-streaming site with one tap; it’s not as good as having a dedicated app on the phone but it isn’t far off.
We’ve also found that since Instagram now allows your stream of photos to be viewed via its home on the web, this method is a handy way of seeing them on your phone, even though you won’t be able to upload any images that you have taken.
As a platform, BlackBerry 10 leaves a lot to be desired in terms of the apps it has on offer but its browser is fantastic, providing an easy to use service which in some way makes up for the lack of apps available.
We have found ourselves using the browser far more on BlackBerry 10 than we do on other platforms, with browsing websites having almost become a thing of the past on iOS and Android following the advent of apps such as Flipboard. Using the homescreen links is a handy workaround for the lack of apps, and the fact that searching and browsing is so fluid and easy means that accessing web content in this way isn’t as alien as it first seems.
We would still love to see Chrome coming to BlackBerry 10 – the way in which it syncs with other devices and your Google account being incomparable. However, for now at least, BlackBerry 10 can boast one of the most usable native browsers of any mobile operating system.