So you thought your swanky BlackBerry Z10 was nice piece of kit did you? Put it to one side, because the new Z30 is the incoming flagship designed to win back the business users of the world that have lost faith in the ailing company.
To say that BlackBerry has been through a rough patch would be a massive understatement. Since 2008 the value of the company as a whole has plummeted by over 95%, and is now at less than half of what Microsoft is paying for Nokia.
We don’t know whether or not the Z30 will save BlackBerry. But we do know whether or not it’s any good.
The Z30 is a rather hulking piece of kit. Gone is the lightweight feel and soft touch plastic materials of its brother, the Z10, replaced instead with carbon fibre, aluminium and glass. It’s magnificent in our opinion and a much more premium feeling smartphone overall. The added heft, while definitely noticeable in hand and pocket, actually gives off an air of confidence in the Z30 that was lacking in the Z10.
The front of the Z30 is dominated by an onyx void with black bezels surrounding a large 5 inch display. The bottom still shows a large silver logo and the company name above a strip of aluminium that extends around the edges of the phone to create the radio antennae. The carbon fibre removable back-plate comes off to allow SIM card and microSD cards to be inserted but nothing else and leaves us wondering why it was necessary to make it removable in the first place.
While the Z30 is an upgrade, the hardware is not all that different from the Z10 that came before it to be honest. It still features a dual core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor which is, to be honest, getting a bit long in the tooth as well as the same 2GB of RAM as its forbearer. The graphics cores have been given a massive upgrade but are still lagging behind the seriously impressive ones found in the Snapdragon 800 and its ilk.
While the specs aren’t much to write home about it’s not all doom and gloom for the Z30. The BlackBerry 10 OS is light on resources and so the entire system operates quickly enough to get everything done.
The BlackBerry 10 OS has come a long way since it was first released and the 30 is proof of that. It runs the latest version of the OS, 10.2, which has some interesting additions. The best of which has to be the ability to see the notifications on the lock screen of the device. Each type of message can display an unread count on the lock screen with a tap on the icon bringing up a preview of the messages. Thankfully you can choose which accounts get shown as well.
Another little feature update we enjoyed was the ‘Reply Now’ feature which let messaging apps like BBM, WhatsApp and even text messages show up as a banner at the top of the screen over other apps and then gave you the option to reply immediately from the banner.
BlackBerry 10’s swipes will still take a bit of getting used to for most users but once they have the hang of it, navigating around the OS is fast and fluid. The BlackBerry Hub which contains all of the email, IM and social media accounts and their associated messages is securely located one swipe away at all times which will more than satisfy those who have a pathological need to answer every message as it arrives.
There is still a dearth of great apps for BlackBerry 10 with far too many of the most popular apps available on iOS, Android and now even Windows Phone 8 no making an appearance in the app store.
The display is unremarkable from its specs alone. A 720 X 1280 resolution and with a pixel density of only 294ppi it’s a far cry from the full HD monsters we’ve seen in the likes of the HTC One and LG 2. That being said the Super AMOLED display is fantastic, offering bright colours and clearly legible text.
Of course we would have preferred a higher resolution display for the Z30 to have kept up with its contemporaries especially since the phone has to last most people two years on a contract by which time 720p may not be an acceptable display resolution anymore.
The camera on the BlackBerry Z30 is completely unremarkable. It doesn’t offer the ability to set focus with every touch on the display taken as an instruction to shoot the picture. While the camera does launch quickly and take reasonably good pictures for an 8Mp camera, BlackBerry has some serious work to do in the imaging department to even start to be considered in the same sentence as the iPhone 5s, Sony Xperia Z1 or the LG G2.
Battery life is the BlackBerry Z30’s truly remarkable feature. A typical day of usage wouldn’t even dent the battery with it often lasting 18 hours or more of constant use. Similar usage has seen its contemporaries like the Lumia 925 or the Galaxy S4 stopping after eight or so hours while the Z30 just carried on all through the night.
The 3000mAh battery is big by today’s standards and perhaps the lack of apps on the BlackBerry 10 platform means that there isn’t as much of a latent power draw on the system as with Android and iOS devices that are laden with apps constantly refreshing. Whatever the reasons for the prolonged battery life are it is certainly appreciated in a world where carrying around a charger has almost become the norm.
The BlackBerry Z30 is definitely a step in the right direction for the Canadian company. It’s the phone they should have released instead of the Z10 all those months ago.
Is it the perfect smartphone? No in fact it’s far from it. Is it the saviour of the BlackBerry brand? Probably not. What the Z30 offers is a communications device like no other, every account in the BlackBerry Hub, instantly available at the swipe of a finger with epic battery life. If you’re a business exec who couldn’t care about Angry Birds or Instagram then the Z30 is the smartphone for you.
Battery life: 5/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Price: R8 799
Display: 5 inch Super AMOLED, 720 x 1280 resolution, 294 ppi
Processor: Dual core 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
Memory: 2GB RAM
Storage: 16 expandable up to 64GB with a microSD card
Camera: 8-megapixel rear, 2-megapixel 720p front
Networking: LTE, 3G, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, Dual-band 802.11n wireless