BlackBerry Z3 – A phone of the masses*

(courtesy of
(courtesy of

BlackBerry was hammered from all fronts for their perceived failure in the consumer space. There was a concerted media chorus on its demise till lies, by repeated assertions, were bandied to become truth. This definitely hit the perception of the brand but it doesn’t mean that the company is dying.

The truth is that BlackBerry is diversified over several verticals and totally entrenched in its niche. Its real time OS QNX is the world leader in automotive industry and anything that relies on mission critical infrastructure. Its Enterprise Server has seen a massive surge of interest and signing up new customers at a furious pace. Its handset division is cranking up new devices and challenging the limits of innovation. BlackBerry, by far, remains one of the most secure mobile operating system in the world exceeding the most stringent certification standards. Under John Chen, it stares at one of the most remarkable turn around in the technology history and its stock has been outperforming the rivals in recent months.

What is the secret sauce? The fact that BlackBerry listens to its customers, its core group and the BlackBerry Elite, that guide the product development. Its amply clear that the developers love the way they have designed and implemented the beautiful cascades and user interface offering a native fluid experience that’s hard to replicate on any other competing platform. Its secure underpinnings and the finely tuned granular control, make it a delight to own and operate. Addressing the concerns of the markets it operates, BlackBerry designed, implemented and marketed Z3.

This was the first device that resulted from collaboration between Foxconn and BlackBerry. Initially, I was circumspect that the legendary build quality of BlackBerry shouldn’t be compromised for a cheap plastic version but my fears were laid to rest once I actually handled the test device. Sporting a solid build with excellent aesthetics, this was a sheer delight to own. Offering a bevy of the connectivity options, this device had surpassed my own expectations for an entry-level price. The partnership also alleviated the financial risks with inventory management and ramping up the production to fine tune the demand and supply scenario.

For the same reason, those who appreciate quality and performance for the price bracket immediately snapped it up, the moment it was released in the market and the device was a complete sell out within two weeks of its launch in India. The same story was replicated in the markets that it was launched earlier, namely Indonesia. Several other emerging markets are presently under the radar where the economies of scale are more relevant offering a far more value for money than the commodity “plasticky” devices.

What it means for BlackBerry? The success of Z3 in the emerging markets is a worthwhile strategy that has played off very well. They are able to focus on the enterprise markets and offer a complete range of devices at different price points. You have the all touch Z3 and the Q5 at the lower end of the price spectrum and Z30 with Q10 at the higher end with more plush feel of the materials and better hardware specifications. This means that the enterprise offerings are complete. With the roll out of 10.2.1 for the devices, these devices can run in the Android applications, making it the ideal consumer choice for those who wish to avoid the Android malware clogging their smartphones. However, I still reiterate that the native cascades UI far exceeds the existing Android counterparts with deep integration in the OS and the hub.

With BlackBerry Balance, these handsets essentially function as two different devices, making the roll out easier. BlackBerry has worked hard to partner with the existing companies to roll out the compete solution for deployment. Despite the lower price, Z3 is perfectly mated to the lower hardware specs and brilliant OS. This also underscores the fact that hardware specifications are practically useless; because the OS should be able to take advantage of the native architecture of the chipsets and motherboard. To me, the rationale of having octa-core chips with gigabytes of RAM defies any explanation because if the underlying operating system stutters due to bloatware, it ruins the whole definitive experience of the smartphones. Telecom operators in emerging markets are loath to subsidize the cost of the devices making it a different experience than more developed markets.

BlackBerry is re-defining its existing role in the consumer segment. Although the enterprises remain central to its core activities, it’s amply clear that the consumer side is getting equal attention. Z3 is a tailor made product; something that has been hatched from the refinements of consumer feedback. This company understands its core customers and unlike the other competing products in the smartphones, Z3 remains stellar in hardware delivery, consistent UI and operating system and future proof as it has benefited from the major OS update at the end of the year with the release of Passport.

I personally prefer to use Z30 (that has remained my own de-facto device since the launch and a worthy upgrade over the Z10) but Z3 serves as a back up device mated to the MS Exchange. This keeps the devices in sync for email, calendar and reminders. These workhorses have defined the paradigm of my own busy schedule and in the rare event my battery conks out towards the fag end of the day due to very heavy usage, its just a matter of switching the devices. This scenario has played out only once because Z30 is indeed a very capable device indeed.

There are a number of advantages of owning a Z3- from the sound output, Miracast, the definitive screen, BBM with Natural Sound, making it incredibly easier to interact with other users. BBM is opening up for other platforms and there is an exciting development on the possible desktop application as well. The exact details are unknown but it would offer a seamless connectivity from mobiles to desktop. Z3 (and other variants) offer a tantalizing possibility of serving as video conferencing tools (that would explain the recent hires from Avaya) and the Passport release that has generated tremendous interest and a surge of positive media stories from outlets that had been earlier chiming about the demise.

Z3 remains central to the communication needs for hyper connected individuals, backed by a stellar hardware at bargain basement prices.

*blog submitted by Stereotactic


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  • veeru789

    Totally agree. The unsung hero. And to all Z3 owners, 10.3.1 is just going to make this device more awesome. 8 active frames, speed and better android app performance. And it’s just round the corner.

    This is indeed a value for money proposition without compromising your personal data.

    • razrrob

      Once again proof that BlackBerry listens to the ‘Voice of the Customer’

  • Anthony

    It looks like the Z3 will come to North America as a 4G LTE device. This 4G “phone of the masses” would look stellar with a $200 price tag. locco_smiley_10

    The Q5 was too thick! Half as thick would’ve been much better.

    • razrrob

      Couldn’t agree more on the pricepoint Anthony!

  • Blackjack

    Imagine a company that listens to its customers instead of looking down their nose at them and “knowing better”. Good article Rob.

    • razrrob

      BlackBerry does listen as evidenced by it’s former I Can Make it Better (ICMIT) program.

      Sorry but I cannot take credit for the post- that belongs to ‘Stereotactic’

  • bartron

    BlackBerry definitely listens to users. They’ve implemented several of the ideas that were submitted on their icanmakeitbetter site and more are on the way.

  • razrrob

    When a company loses sight of the end user they are doomed to a slow and costly death