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BlackBerry Z30 deep-dive review: Upgraded software in a great 5-in. smartphone

Matt Hamblen | Nov. 12, 2013
The Z30 is new and improved for both enterprise and individual use -- but can BlackBerry stick around long enough to make it matter?

At a Glance
BlackBerry Z30

Price: $200 at Verizon Wireless with two-year service plan
Pros: Vivid 5-in. display; quick reactive touch; 25 hours of battery life; productivity gains with new BlackBerry 10.2, including new Priority Hub
Cons: Conservative styling; slow boot time; battery is not removable; future of BlackBerry as a company is still uncertain

BlackBerry 10.2 also still offers a universal search to pore through messages, contacts, apps and Internet searches on its fast BlackBerry browser, which allows use of Bing, Google or Yahoo as the search engine.

The BlackBerry touchscreen keyboard on a 5-in. display may make a convert out of any prior physical keyboard user. I was able to use two thumbs for typing, compared to only using one finger to touch keys on the Z10. It helps that the keyboard learns words commonly used over time, then offers them up as you type. When they appear, you can flick them up into the keyboard text area, or you can turn off that function.

I'd rank this BlackBerry keyboard as better than any virtual keyboard on the market, even those on the larger Android smartphones launched recently.

All told, the software innovations in BlackBerry 10.0 made it a great operating system, and 10.2 has added some true polish.

The Z30 is a great smartphone, offering a brilliant, responsive 5-in. touchscreen with valuable sound improvements.

The BlackBerry 10.2 software will please users of all types, but especially workers and older BlackBerry physical keyboard users who may be converting to a touchscreen for the first time.

I was put off by the lack of a removable battery and the truly long boot time. Some users might not find the device stylish enough, but if the black and silver body isn't flashy enough, you can buy a custom case that's more like a pocket protector in white (or black) leather.

On the other hand, the Z30 still suffers from a limited number of apps. It also may need to be protected from BlackBerry itself, as the company tries to re-invent itself under leaders that seem headed toward putting more emphasis on BlackBerry management software and less on devices and device software.

Time will tell what happens to BlackBerry as a company, but the Z30 is a striking device that should get full support from Verizon and BlackBerry over the next two years at least. Current BlackBerry users should definitely try it out, and even Android and iPhone users might want to play with a Z30 at the nearest Verizon store to see what they're missing.


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