BlackBerry combined all this with special software to bring what it calls a "natural sound" experience to audio and videoconferences and other communications.
I evaluated my review copy of the Z30 over video chat via BlackBerry Messenger and could definitely detect an improvement compared to the Z10. Stereo sound might not seem important for talking to somebody in video chat or over an audio conference call, but it can make the experience seem more real.
As the other person on the call moves left or right, you can detect the difference. In a crowded room on the other end of the call, you can even tell when a person in a group of callers is on one side of the room or the other.
The stereo speakers also rocked the streaming music I played over Slacker Radio. When the Z30 is placed flat on a desk, the stereo sound is perceptible and impressive.
The speakers and good video resolution also worked excellently for video chat. I never got inadvertently dropped during the chat, as has occasionally happened with other smartphones, although sometimes I did hear words clipped off short, as I've experienced with many audio conferencing devices.
BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) video chat also can be used with Android and iPhone smartphones if those users have BBM downloaded.
Phone calls are better with the Z30 than on other smartphones, too, partly because of BlackBerry's new Paratek Antenna technology, which is designed to keep a call connected in areas where previous performance had been poor. The technology is proprietary to BlackBerry, although the company might eventually license it to others, the BlackBerry spokesperson said.
While I couldn't evaluate precisely how robust the Paratek technology is, I did notice that the phone never dropped a call.
The Z30 is equipped with an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front camera, which is quite competitive with most other smartphones out today. The rear camera also has 5x digital zoom and auto focus with 1080p HD video recording, both really useful elements for a casual point-and-shoot photographer like myself.
All told, the hardware in the Z30 is a great improvement over that in the Z10.
There are various important refinements in the latest version of the BlackBerry OS. However, I was disappointed that it still took more than a minute — 64 seconds, on average — to boot the device. This is a small improvement over the 71 seconds on average that it took to boot the Z10. Most smartphones take only half as long.
One satisfying addition is that notifications of emails and other updates appear right on the lock screen, instead of inside another portion of the phone that's harder to get to. A little bell icon appears and, when touched, will open with a line of information and a timestamp for each entry.
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