This review is hot on the heels of a failed rescue deal and another CEO replacement. No way obviously to look at the Z30 and ignore the dire condition the company is in. Yet, this didn't happen overnight. Things were already going downhill when the Z10 arrived. And it seemed to bring the right kind of hope. Quite unfortunate for the Z30, which is clearly better than its predecessor but has even darker clouds looming over it.
Let's not look at the bigger picture for a while though, and focus on the Blackberry Z30 for what it is. Some things could've been better obviously but there's good stuff too. To begin with, the handset somewhat fails to deliver the unapologetically premium look and feel one has every right to expect from a Blackberry. But it's a solidly built and well-handling phone. A bit too heavy perhaps.
The updated BB 10 OS more than makes up for that. Going by sheer numbers, the 10.2 upgrade doesn't sound particularly promising but it actually overdelivers. And we can afford to say that because the original OS was already exciting and novel in its approach. Of course the flipside is that what we're getting now in 10.2 should've been there already with the Z10.
But yes, the lockscreen notifications, instant preview and reply, the priority hub, USB host do make a difference. Heck, it's even things like the reject-call-with-text feature that took Apple a few iOS versions to enable - and they made a big deal out of it.
It's the complete experience though that counts and the BB 10 is an easy OS to like for being both creative and efficient. The swipe gestures let you interact with the phone in a unique way, and the experience is almost addictive. The Blackberry Z30 is a seriously good multitasker too, and has solid social and communication skills, cloud sync and storage, an office package and a file manager.
Although the ability to run Android apps isn't actually new, v 10.2 does well to bring compatibility with Jelly Bean and enable hardware acceleration. Of course, ported titles aside, side-loading apps could be too geeky for some, but the option is there for those who will.
It's highly uncertain of course whether the Jelly Bean runtime will be enough of a reason for enough people. It may've simply been the quickest way to make the App World numbers look less embarrassing - clearly not an attempt to beat droids at their own game.
And we don't mean any sorts of droids - it's the top dogs the Z30 is standing against, considering the price Blackberry's charging. True, the Z30 is probably the most reasonably priced BlackBerry flagship in a while - currently only a little more expensive than some of its most recent Android counterparts.
Still, if the Z30 is not on your budget, you can always opt for the BlackBerry Z10 at half the price. It comes with a smaller 4.2" display with similar HD resolution and even higher ppi ratio, the chipset is slower but BB OS lacks heavy games that could push it to the limit anyway. The BlackBerry 10.2 OS update is seeding to the Z10 devices already.
Blackberry's phones used to be made to measure - they found it out the hard way that it's a strategy that doesn't work anymore against such diverse and potent rivals. iPhones and droids are in the hands of all sorts of users - from corporate through geeks, to the average Joe.
Apple did change the smartphone market in a way Blackberry failed to see coming. Windows Phone adapted faster and better, and managed to push the Canadians off the third place in market share. Of course, WP leveraged the expertise and tradition of Nokia and Microsoft, and the bottomless pockets of the latter.
With the likes of Google and Samsung leading the line, Android is capable of serving every niche and budget. Blackberry may be doing fine even without the latest in processing power but not being able to match the droids' HD screens is clearly doing it no favor.
Anyway, Blackberry may after all manage to stay afloat, one way or another. Its software and services are still worth a lot, so betting everything on that and giving up on actually making hardware may as well count as a happy ending of sorts - Nokia's the one to ask about that. The Z30 though stands little chance against the kind of rivals we just looked at.
As much as most people love a happy ending though, it's not what necessarily makes a good story. You know what does? A strong character. Like the one about the flagship that got caught in a storm.