x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The five-inch touch display model, the largest phone from the Canadian manufacturer, is being launched in the next few days initially in the Middle East and the United Kingdom, traditionally strong markets for the struggling firm.

The Z30 is the fourth device that runs BB10, BlackBerry's new operating system, which was launched earlier this year as a means to turn the Canadian company’s fortunes around. Christopher Pike / The National
The Z30 is the fourth device that runs BB10, BlackBerry's new operating system, which was launched earlier this year as a means to turn the Canadian company’s fortunes around. Christopher Pike / The National

BlackBerry’s new flagship device, the Z30, will be available in stores in the next few days.

The five-inch touch display model, the largest phone from the Canadian manufacturer, is being launched initially in the Middle East and the United Kingdom, traditionally strong markets for the struggling firm.

BlackBerry is positioning the Z30 to compete with Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and the new iPhone 5S, which is expected to land in the UAE in a couple of weeks.

“This is the biggest and fastest flagship BB10. We have identified that there is a certain percentage of consumers interested in bigger screens and big keys,” said Mike Al Mefleh, the senior director of product management and platform, software and services at BlackBerry.

The Z30 is the fourth device that runs its new operating system (OS), BB10, which was launched earlier this year as a means to turn the company’s fortunes around. While it received positive reviews from analysts, sales have not been as impressive as hoped, with BlackBerry failing to gain the coveted top three spot in global smartphone sales.

The Z30 runs on BlackBerry’s latest version of the OS, BB10.2, which features a more sophisticated communications hub. From your habits it identifies which emails to prioritise, so that emails from certain people always come up on top. There is also a dedicated folder to emails that contain attachments in the hub.

“The Middle East is a very important market for growth,” said Mr Al Mefleh. “It has been a great contributor of growth for the company and we have a big base of BlackBerry Messenger [BBM] users. The BBM penetration rate in the UAE is about 98-99 per cent, it is the same in Saudi Arabia.”

But despite the faster processor and improved battery life, BlackBerry is facing stiffer competition in the Middle East with new launches from Apple, Samsung, LG, Sony, Nokia and HTC all expected over the next few weeks just before Gitex Technology Week. The prized BBM will also be available on Android and Apple’s iOS next week, which may also dent sales.

“BlackBerry’s strength until now has been on keyboard devices. Previous releases of all touch devices from BlackBerry haven’t faired as well, most notably the Z10 which was released earlier this year,” said Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer at Jacky’s Electronics. “The app ecosystem is ultimately what it boils down to and the main factor that kept most users loyal to BlackBerry was BBM ... it is a question of how it stacks up against those [new] devices as most of them will run BBM [except the Nokia] and have a much wider app ecosystem overall.”

thamid@thenational.ae