x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Blackberry Z30 smartphone impresses but does not exactly dazzle

Here is a smartphone that is both reliable and functional yet does little to excite the user.

The Z30 is the fourth smartphone that runs on BlackBerry's new operating system BB10, which was launched this year. Simon Dawson / Bloomberg News
The Z30 is the fourth smartphone that runs on BlackBerry's new operating system BB10, which was launched this year. Simon Dawson / Bloomberg News

It was pretty hard to not blurt out “what’s the point?” when I was handed the Z30. But really, what is the point?

BlackBerry has tried to diversify its range of phones by launching its biggest yet at five inches. It is targeting users who like to watch videos on their smartphones and listen to music on loudspeakers as well as enjoying all the traditional features found on a BlackBerry device.

It is comfortable to hold, but the buttons feel a little loose, like they were a last-minute addition attached by a poorly trained assembler.

The Z30 is the fourth smartphone that runs its new operating system (OS), BB10, which was launched this year as a means to turn the company’s fortunes around. It runs the latest version of the OS, BB10.2, which features a more sophisticated communications hub, where all emails, social media messages and texts are collated.

From your habits it identifies which emails to prioritise, so that messages from certain people always come up on top. There is also a dedicated folder to emails that contain attachments in the hub.

This is what BlackBerry does brilliantly: emails and communication. The BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is one of the greatest instant messaging platforms available. It is a shame that the two telecoms operators in the UAE cannot let go of their fears of VoIP and allow BBM users in the country full access to the embedded video and voice calling options offered with BBM 7.

Regulatory frustrations aside, one of the main reasons why communicating on BlackBerry devices is so great is because of the typing experience. Many fans continue to opt for models with the traditional full qwerty keypad, but the Z30, an all touchscreen device, offers an even better typing experience thanks to the ability to flick words on to the page.

The keypad eventually becomes so sophisticated that it recognises your typing habits and frequent choice of words to improve the predictive text options. As a user of the Z10 model, the keypad has learnt enough about me that it can now complete my sentences without the need for a second glance. It truly is the most gratifying typing experience on an all-touch screen device and the Z30’s bigger size makes it even better.

But that’s it. The Z30 is a fine smartphone with a great screen, camera and battery life. However, as with all BlackBerry devices, the downfall is really with the lack of exciting applications to help it compete with Android and iTunes.

thamid@thenational.ae