You will likely have heard and possibly seen how Canadian smartphone manufacturer BlackBerry are going through somewhat of a change. Producing fewer, but more focused devices that suit particular users needs.
The Z3 is a lower end, full touchscreen device. Originally released in Asia, the Z3 has made its way to the UK just under a year later. Perfectly suitable for business but less feature rich, the Z3 is appeals to those looking for a more cost effective mobile device. Hardware features which include: 1.2GHz dual core processor 1.5GB RAM MicroSD memory card slot 8GB of internal storage 5” qHD touchscreen display 3G 5 megapixel camera 2500mAh battery Weighing in at 164g and measuring 9.3mm thick, the Z3 is not on the small side. The 5” touchscreen of course has some bearing on this, but considering the rest of the specification and construction this feels a little heavy. The left edge positioning of the volume and power keys is not for me, I prefer the right side, it feels more natural. The qHD display has a resolution of 540 x 960 and a Pixel Per Inch (PPI) count of 220. With a lower resolution it is quite evident when you compare it to many other smartphones today that the screen on the Z3 lacks the punch many of us would like to see. It is however very functional. For reading text messages, browsing the web and replying to emails it is perfectly acceptable, just not particularly inspiring. The benefit is however the lesser power draw and improved battery life. The Z3 runs BlackBerry OS 10.2 rather than 10.3 found on the Classic and Passport, but an update is on its way soon. The current OS is still a marked improvement on times past with full touchscreen controls and many gestures you would never have previously associated with a BlackBerry. 10.2 does allow for the installation of Android applications should you choose. The 10.3 update will bring BlackBerry Blend, Assistant, Amazon appstore along with camera and multimedia enhancements. I personally find the OS a little dated in places and overly complicated in comparison to the other graphically rich and intuitive platforms. It is tried and tested though and retains many of the qualities that BlackBerry pride themselves on. Security and integration for corporate entities being amongst this. What is essentially your ‘home screen’ is a display with up to 4 open or running apps and a swipe right or left will take you through to the app draw or BlackBerry Hub. You can reorganise the app layout, add folders and change the wallpaper too. Pull down from the top of the screen and get quick access to key settings with less clicks. BlackBerry Hub is superb. It keeps all your messages in one place and I think with a bit of learning can be very powerful. BlackBerry World remains the main portal for finding the apps you want to use. The 10.3 update will bring with it the Amazon Appstore. This has a database of Android Apps that can run on the Z3, meaning many of the popular apps that may be considered missing from BlackBerry World can likely be found here. Overall performance was ok, although it was apparent on quite a few occasions that the RAM and processor were struggling a little. None were major issues or slow downs, but at times transitions and reactions within the OS seemed to stall for half a second or so. As more of an entry level device there is no video out, no USB hosting, no NFC, no wireless charging nor 4G. For many, these are not make or break features, but 4G would be the most desirable. You do have Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, a microSD memory card slot and of course USB connectivity. I was a little surprised at the audio experience on the Z3, it was better than I expected. It is not the best with quite a directional feeling to the sound and it is all too easy to cover the speaker with the hand. However it was pretty loud and clear, if not as rich as we would like. The results from the Z3’s 5 megapixel camera are pretty reasonable in my opinion. In some situations there is an orange or blue hue to the results which is all based on the lighting at the time of capture, but it was apparent that the camera struggled a little more than some others I have been testing. Artificial light seemed to create some struggles at times. This was most noticeable in the office environment with strip lighting. Darker colours are a little more saturated than the lighter colours and I did not suffer with the blowout of whites that can all to often be the case. I was happy with the vast majority of photos I took though. The camera app offers some control over elements like flash and scene mode, but there is not a lot of scope to control various settings. With a 2500mAh battery built in and a relatively low resolution screen the performance on the Z3 is fairly good. I was able to achieve upwards of a day and a half before needing a top up. I do believe for many who work a long day this will last from morning till night with some exceptions! The Z3 has many good qualities that make it a solid smartphone but it has little wow appeal unless you are particularly looking for a BlackBerry 10 handset that comes in at a cost effective price point. The Z3 shows BlackBerrys commitment to the market in bringing new devices that appeal to more than just the hardcore business user. Improvements in the software from BlackBerry 10.3 will go a little further to give that added value for money and increase appeal.