BlackBerry Z3 Review

BlackBerrys’ latest launch, a sub $200 Device for the emerging markets, turns out to be a winner. What makes this phone special? Let’s find out.

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Heads up: I’m not a techie guy and hence wont focus on the specs, and other technical terms too much. This review is more of a layman’s review of tech product.

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Hardware
For the price, the hardware on this phone is impeccable. I’ve seen many Android phones in this price range and they all feel plasticky and delicate. The Z3, surprisingly, has a great, sturdy and elegant looking design. BlackBerry nailed it.

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Charging Doc
This is the first BlackBerry 10 device with charging doc at the bottom. I really liked this as it opens up room for lot of accessories. Music doc, charging docs, and other battery cases all look good on the Z3.
Square edges
When first images of this phone started surfacing, I was worried about the squared edges. I was hoping it won’t feel like the Sony Z1. Luckily, BlackBerry Z3 isn’t that heavy neither is it that long with useless bezels. The weight and length of the phone make it easy and comfortable in the hand despite of the squared edges.

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Build quality
Like I said above, this doesn’t feel like a budget phone in any angle. The back of the phone is similar to the BlackBerry Z10. The volume keys, power button, over all build feels very premium. At the same time the phone is very slim.

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Screen
I do not understand the language of PPIs and pixels on a screen. Even if it’s the “Retina Display” I don’t really care for what the pixels on that screen are. I go by the feel. Is the screen crisp and vibrant with all the colours showing properly to my eye? Is the screen too bright and makes me blind in the night? Is it strong enough to survive a fall?
And you know what, the Z3 checks all of the above. 10/10 here.

Radios
If you’ve used the BlackBerry Z30, I’m sure you are spoiled by the amazing antenna tech they’ve used in that phone. I know it’s not fair to compare a flag ship phone with a budget entry model, but this phone doesn’t disappoint. I couldn’t test it in extreme conditions but seems to be handling the network quite good. WIFI reception seems to be exceptional as well.

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Camera
Again, I don’t go by what pixels and other technical mumbo jumbo when buying a phone. Judging by what I see on my naked eye, the camera on the Z3 seems to do a decent job. I couldn’t find anything to complain here. Time shift, Burst mode, HDR all work.

Call Quality
One of the strengths of BlackBerry has always been how they get the basics right. Basic things like call quality, “native” functionality over “an app for everything” mindset, battery performance, etc.. The Z3 doesn’t disappoint here. The call quality is exceptional like on all BlackBerry devices. No surprises here.

OS
The Z3 ships with OS version 10.2.1.2947. The OS has been tweaked a bit to optimise for performance on a lower spec device. Only 4 active frames can be used at a time (Plus the HUB and headless apps). Opening the 5th will automatically close the first opened active frame (FIFO). The performance seems to be quite good. However, there is a minor lag when the animations happen. Like when the active frame is being minimised or some other UI graphics take place. This is a very minor lag. But the actual app performance is quite good. Didn’t notice any lag over there. Also the multitasking works flawlessly. Please see the video where YouTube is playing in the background while opening twitter and other apps doesn’t stop video from playing in the back ground nor does it impact the performance of other apps.

Battery performance
I knew BlackBerry had packed quite a large battery for this phone. To be frank, I wasn’t expecting the battery performance to be this good with a Z10 like screen. I didn’t use this phone as my primary device so couldn’t really stretch the phone. But, from what I’ve seen over the course of the last week, this phone will not let you dry middle of the day. You should be able to get at least 15 hrs out of it on mixed-heavy use, which puts it on par with the Z30. This is without dark themes in apps. My 30 gives me 14-16 hrs on extreme heavy use.

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Apps
First, we need to understand the fact that this phone is not meant for worldwide markets. It’s targeted for emerging markets. Currently Indonesia and Probably Malaysia and India soon. In this context, the eco-system is quite satisfying with most of the local apps available via BlackBerry world. Banks, airlines, IMs, photo editing apps that people in Indonesia use, are all there.
But the best part is, this phone is being sold as Android Ready (See pic of marketing material in one of the Jakarta malls). Sales people have 1 mobile market installed on their phones and they are marketing it actively to customers. Sales guys are even helping the customers by installing 1 mobile market if the customer doesn’t know how to do it. Android runtime is much bigger than what the western media wants you to believe.
As far as the app performance is concerned, it’s beautiful. No lag. Like I said the only minor lag I’ve noticed is when the UI animation happens. Once inside an app, the performance is stellar.
Android apps also seem to be running quite good. See video for Instagram loading up on Z3.

Conclusion
BlackBerry just pushed the standards up for a budget phone with Z3. Other Android OEMs and Nokia will have to up their game to compete with this phone. The pricing is just the icing on the cake.
Pros
Excellent build quality, nice feel in the hands, great battery performance.
Cons
Minor lag of UI animations.

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