Look and feel
The attractive glass screen is let down by the plastic look and feel of the other components. The back pattern also won’t be to everyone’s tastes.
Ease of Use
The Z30 ships with BB10.2 OS installed as standard and this is extremely easy to navigate after a shallow learning curve. Shame the on button wasn’t relocated to the side of the device.
HDMI out as standard will delight media fans, Jelly Bean app support could tempt users away from Android, while access to USB devices could be a career saver one day.
The dual-core processor might seem outdated compared to the powerhouses some smartphones pack in these days, but the BlackBerry OS never stumbles.
The bigger 2880mAH battery easily beats the poor life-span of the Z10, which is just as well since BlackBerry has decided to make it non-removable so you can’t carry a spare.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,10/28/2013 11:06:41 AM
Ease of use
Great battery life;
Android Jelly Bean app support;
Basic camera functions;
After a year of absence and secrecy, BlackBerry came out all guns blazing early in 2013, ditching its RIM title and finally delivering the much-delayed (and much-anticipated) BB10 OS. It was a chance for the company to step back into the fight, having been squeezed between the dual attack of Android and Apple iOS devices – and the Z10 handset was its weapon of choice.
Unfortunately, the battle was short and brutal. While we liked BB10’s slick interface, the Z10’s crisp 4.2-inch screen and its capable eight-megapixel camera, the device’s uninspired design and lack of apps or killer features made it a hard sell. With updates to BB10 and the phone’s capabilities, as well as a new form factor, can the Z30 help BlackBerry to blossom again?
Design: Premium rate
At first glance the Z30 shares a clean, unfussy look with the HTC One, which you’d think would be no bad thing given that HTC’s beauty scooped Design of the Year in the Mobile Choice Awards 2013. Yet when you put both phones side by side, the BlackBerry Z30’s cuteness factor drops significantly. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not a terrible looking phone. It’s just that with a £500 price tag it is tangling with the high-end of the market and the difference when matched against those handsets is noticeable. Both the premium look and the well-machined metallic finish of the HTC One show what Blackberry is up against and the Z30 falls short on both counts, by once again trying to mix business with consumer.
In its favour, the edge-to-edge glass that makes up the Z30’s screen puts it ahead of budget phones. However, the choice of plastic rather than metal to construct the device pushes it back towards that category. Even worse, the single-tone backing of the Z10 – with the usual silver BlackBerry logo sat at its centre – has been replaced with a mottled grey pattern that we’re not huge fans off.
Specs: Bigger on the outside
The Z30 may be very similar to the Z10 in overall looks, but there are some important differences between the two. At 141 x 72 x 9.4mm and 170g it’s both bigger and heavier than the Z10 (130 x 66 x 9mm, 130g). As you’d expect, no phone manufacturer increases the heft of its device without good reason and the payoff here is a boost in screen size from 4.2-inches to a more satisfying 5-inches. While the pixel count has dropped from the Z10’s 356ppi to 295ppi, the result is nowhere near as drastic as that figure suggests and images are still bright and clear. And you can always output high-def video to your TV using the Z30’s Micro HDMI connection.
There’s been some tinkering under the hood as well, with a dual-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm MSM8960T Pro chip powering the Z30. Combined with the BB10 OS, that makes for a smooth user experience, with programmes opening without any lag and multi-tasking just a finger-swipe away (even if placing the power/on button at the top of the device once again makes it hard to get started when you’ve only got one hand free).
The Z30 also features BlackBerry’s biggest battery yet. This is non-removable but with a promise of 25 hours of mixed use we can live without the ability to swap it out – especially as charging was incredibly quick. We managed around ten hours of video streaming on a single charge, a fantastic effort that far exceeds the average. Hidden away behind that battery is new Paratek antenna technology and this really impressed us. Suddenly we were treated to five full bars in an environment where multiple other handsets from major manufacturers struggled to get three.
On the face of it, the camera module hasn’t had an upgrade and while results are fine in strong daylight it is still slightly lacking as the sun starts to set. The choice of settings does feel very basic compared to some snappers at this level, although the autofocus has been beefed up to cut down on blurred images. In practice, this worked well for still images, producing clear shots even at macro-type levels. Shame the video function didn’t fare so well, with footage hampered by an auto-focus function that dips in and out as it tracks its onscreen targets.
Blackberry OS 10: New and improved
Aside from the physical changes, it’s the improved OS which holds the key to the salvation BlackBerry so desperately seeks. Now upgraded to BB10.2, it includes a number of features that boost its usability. Many of these were no doubt tailored towards a business crowd – harking back to BlackBerry’s corporate roots – but offer real benefits to consumers.
For example, as you might expect the calendar app will buzz you to remind you about a meeting before it starts. The difference here is that if you’re running late you have the option to message everyone linked to that meeting – which is a great way to warn all your mates you’ll be late to the pub, without messaging them separately.
The priority hub, which brings together important messages from various sources, has also had a few tweaks. It now rates the messages based on your usage but also lets you edit their status and learns from that, so the good stuff really does rise to the top. A dedicated ‘Attachments’ view also lets you see every file you’ve been sent, so you can dig out that electronic gig ticket without opening your email.
Meanwhile, ‘instant previews’ displays little banners at the top of the screen so you never miss an important message. These can be tailored for individual apps, such as email, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, with only priority messages being shown so you don’t get interrupted every time you get a newsletter, job advert or pizza offer. Notifications sent by SMS and BBM even have the option to reply without opening the respective app first. If BlackBerry can add that same functionality for more programmes, this feature would be indispensible.
Extra features: Host with the most
Without a doubt, one of BBBB10.2’s most useful new features is its USB host capability – albeit a feature already available on handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Being able to plug a flash drive into your BlackBerry using a micro USB to USB adapter means you may never carry your laptop again. A big selling point for the Z30 is that this feature won’t be rolled out to previous BlackBerry devices even if they upgrade to BB10.2, if product manager Michael Clewley is to be believed.
BlackBerry’s other big win in BB10.2 is the ability to side-load Android Jelly Bean apps. The previous version could handle older Gingerbread software, so this is a welcome step up that deals with the problem of BlackBerry’s own under-stocked app store. You will need some knowhow to make this feature work and be confident finding the raw app files and converting them, but it’s well worth the effort to teach yourself. We did have a problem getting certain games to work, though.
The Blackberry Z30 answers many of the criticisms levelled at the Z10, helped by some useful upgrades in the operating system. Adding access to USB peripherals is incredibly useful for both business and media-obsessed users, while the ability to run Android Jelly Bean software may pull in those who would otherwise fear the tumbleweeds in BlackBerry’s app store. The main problem is the Z30’s price. If it was listed at £150 lower it would be an instant recommendation, but the same kind of money will buy either a HTC One or an iPhone 5s. And that’s a tough call.