• BlackBerry Leap Review

    Engineered to be a mid range smartphone that offers a balance between performance and price, the Leaps hardware specifications are shown on screen now.

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    BlackBerry Leap

    With the standard slab like design that many smartphones of this ilk the square edges, gloss front and gunmetal grey back do not shout out at you. Weighing in at 170g and 9.5mm thick, the Leap is at the heavier end of the scale for a device of this type, but is still more than usable and many will find one handed use OK No Leaps are made into a new dimension with screen technology, but at 5” with a resolution of 1280 x 720 it has a pixel per inch count of 294 which is perfectly adequate for web pages to video. You can also share it with another display using Miracast if you wish. Great for presentations and showing off photos and video. As I spend more and more time with BlackBerry devices, I have come to learn how they work but I stand by previous comments, that the BlackBerry 10 OS is just not as instinctively intuitive as iOS or Android. Give it some time and BlackBerry 10.3 OS is considerably more powerful than many give credit for. Many governments and large corporations around the world have and still rely on BlackBerry for their mobile communications, primarily because of the security and management options they offer. The Leap is no exception to this. What is essentially your ‘home screen’ is a display with all the open or running apps. There are two quick access icons for the camera, assistant and phone. Swipe to the right to reveal BlackBerry Hub, swipe to the left to show your apps. There is quick settings shade. Pull down from the top of the screen, to display. It is mainly a case of turning functionality on or off from here Advanced interactions such as lift to wake up, flip to mute and save power are all nice touches and take this very professional feeling device and make it feel a bit more practical for the everyday. The power button placement is not conducive to one handed use of the device, but a swipe on the screen can act as a wakeup call for the device, which makes things easier. BlackBerry Hub is the location for SMS, email, calls and much more. It is fantastic when you get used to it. It keeps everything in one place. It can look a little overwhelming at first, but you can refine the hub to specific accounts be it your text messages, work email or call log to make it all a little manageable. Acknowledged as best in class the keyboard on the Leap is extremely good. Essentially what makes it so great is like many keyboards, it predicts the next word, but rather than then selecting that from an array of options you simply flick up from the letter you are on and it inputs it for you. A long press on the button on the right side of the device and you are launched into the the listening element of BlackBerry Assistant. Learn the best keywords and phrases and the whole concept works. Actively promoted is the relationship with Amazon and BlackBerry OS now having Amazon app store installed. BlackBerry World remains the main portal for finding the apps, built specifically for Blackberry. Some ‘big’ titles are missing and this is where the Amazon’s App store comes in. It has a database of Android Apps that can run on the Leap, meaning many of the apps that were missing are now not. Out of the box there are many apps to get you up and running, from the calendar and calculator through to BBM, Docs to Go, Maps, a task list, facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Evernote and more! Adding Google accounts, or a Microsoft Exchange email account just takes a matter of minutes and syncs effortlessly over WiFi or 4G. An immensely powerful feature, aimed more at the business user is BlackBerry Blend. After an initial pairing process you can remotely access and use features of the Leap on another device. Be it your PC, Mac, Android or iOS tablet PC using nothing more than WiFi, from anywhere in the world. It offers access to things like email, SMS, BBM, contacts, calendar and file manager. What is important to note here is that all content remains on the Leap. No trace is on the other device other than the Blend application. All things considered, this software partnered with the hardware that it has runs quite well. On only a couple occasions did I feel like I was waiting for things to happen. Connectivity options are fairly standard on the Leap, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC 4G, microUSB and a 3.5mm headphone jack. I did notice the WiFi reception was not quite as strong as other devices. Listening to audio on the most part was really good. At up to about 80% volume it was loud, clear and had a nice tone to it. Lacked a little of the depth that really embraced the senses but very good. Even at full volume it was not bad, but the sound felt more hollow as the device tried to power the sound out. The camera app is quite pleasurable to use, for the ‘normal’ photographer. You have a few options, but not so many that you feel overwhelmed. A pinch on screen allows you to use zoom controls and a press of the volume keys will capture an image if you do not want to use the on-screen button. Video can be recorded at 1080p HD or for more frames per second opt for 720p at 60fps. Mixed results on the Leaps camera were present. On occasions images were really good on others not so. In most cases images have come out darker than was actually the case at the time of shooting. Most results were sharp, but a little bit of image processing seems to have enhanced certain colours, particularly greens. Whites from strong light sources can be blown out against darker backgrounds. A decent sized 2800mAh battery will last up to 25 hours with heavy use according to BlackBerry. When I took this off charge at 7am in the morning, by 10pm at night with moderate use I was down to around 40% each day. You can have the saver mode on or off and you can decide at what battery percentage it is turned on. It will dim and reduce the backlight time, will not illuminate the screen for notifications. You can too decide whether it limits performance of the CPU and turns off some advanced gestures. The Leap has a lot of great features, the best in class keyboard being one, but with so much choice when buying a smartphone today I do not feel that the Leap does enough to grab your attention. As a work phone then there are many desirable aspects. BlackBerry Hub, Blend and the keyboard. If you intend to keep work and personal lives separate, then the Leap can be a contender. As a consumer phone for taking pictures, watching a film and generally being a companion in your everyday life, it lacks that charm and appeal. But, the Leap is very cost effective at around £200. The Leap is not bad, it’s just not great. What is brilliant are the functions that are core to BlackBerry 10 OS so with a few hardware tweaks BlackBerry could be back to their old ways, even if it is always with a bit of a corporate feel.

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