BlackBerry Z30 review - can the fruity firm's phablet win us over?

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Z30 front.jpeg

You have to give it to BlackBerry. Despite the company's continuing and well publicised struggles, from failing sales through to fleeing CEOs, it has continued to bring new products to the market with a bullishness that one has to admire. Whatever the papers say, this is a firm that still has faith in its hardware.

The newest addition to its line-up based on the BlackBerry 10 operating system is the Z30. It is the latest in a raft of 'phablet' handsets to attempt to capture the imagination of users wanting a device small enough for their pocket but a screen big enough to get some serious work done.

Very few have found success with the format, with Samsung's Galaxy Note series arguably the leader, but there is clearly space for the larger screen if the manufacturer gets all the insides make the device as appealing.

On first glance, the Z30 is superior to Samsung as it has continued in the vein of its other 2013 launches with a sleek design, rather than the cheaper plastic casing of its rival. A barely noticeable bezel makes for a smooth front, showcasing the 5inch screen and the 720 x 1280 pixels perfectly.

The back of the casing has a somewhat unnecessary pattern design, cheapening the appearance a little, but is again smooth to the touch and doesn't suffer the stickiness of some of its cheaper competitors when using the handset for too long. The silver covering on the sides again dampens the quality appeal a little, but the front facing view wins you back over and gets others looking over your shoulder at what handset you are using. 

Z30 back.jpeg

As with any device worth its salt, there are two cameras on the Z30, the front facing 2MP shooter which works perfectly for video calls and conferencing, and an 8MP main camera. Although not the best quality camera available, it definitely does the job, with an easy to use application for editing and viewing your pictures

As with previous BlackBerry devices from its latest range, it is the operating system that is what needs to be shouted about. I have made no secret on CW of my love for BlackBerry 10, from its slick appearance, its intuitive gestures, its communications hub for all of your correspondence and its enviable multi-tasking.

Alas though, even with its first birthday looming, applications are still an issue. All the essentials are there, with all the social network apps, Skype and of course the solid integration with office applications. But with more and more solutions entering the market all sticking to the iOS and Android platforms, it is a struggle to watch others around you using the next big thing whilst you are showing off that you finally have WhatsApp.

The Z30 is definitely at the higher end of the spectrum when it comes to cost - around £30pm for contract and closer to £500 SIM free - and unfortunately, we just can't quite justify the price.

The fact is, in the right hardware, BlackBerry 10 is an operating system to be applauded, even with the lack of apps. However, it seems the firm has gone past its peak after the Z10 and is now trying to address areas of the market it should perhaps ignore and instead focus on marketing its high end Z10 touchscreen and familiar QWERTY keyboard devices with the Q10 and Q5.

If a phablet is what you are looking for, do not discount the BlackBerry Z30, but the form factor has yet to win me over from the smaller, smarter devices on offer. 

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Blackberry 10 has an Android Runtime layer, thus allowing android apps to be run on bb10. The upcoming Blackberry 10 update BB 10.2.1, which is currently in beta testing, will update the Runtime layer to Jelly Bean 4.2.2 and have support for direct installation of Android apps.

With a high percentage of Android apps compatible and working flawlessly on BlackBerry 10.2.1, this update basically means the perceived "app gap" in the BlackBerry ecosystem has been closed, with only a little crack remaining. Looking at the top 50 Android apps in the Google Play store, nearly all of them will work perfectly on BB10, as will tens and literally hundreds of thousands.

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This page contains a single entry by Jennifer Scott published on November 25, 2013 3:45 PM.

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