BlackBerry Z3 – Back from the dead?

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BB Z3 Frontimage0054BlackBerry’s last few smartphones have not met with a massive amount of success, so much so that the company has opted for limited geographical releases of subsequent smartphones. The Z3 is one of the only new handsets that we’ve heard about and was initially known as the Z3 Jakarta, named for where it first launched. Other countries were on the roster and, judging by the Z3 we’re holding right now, South Africa is one of them. Makes sense, South Africa has always been a bit of a BlackBerry stronghold.

Hi There

Like we said, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a BlackBerry making the rounds at the Stuff offices so having the Z3 pop in for a visit was almost a novelty, a bit like an old friend stopping by unannounced. Things are awkward for a time, you comment about how they’ve changed and they say that you still look the same as you ever did. But the BlackBerry Z3 has changed somewhat compared to its relatives, there’s a solid feel to the phone that we can’t remember in the last crop, the all-glass front is a bit Xperia-esque and there’s a textured back panel that feels a bit strange. It’s definitely been a while since BlackBerry was invited to the party.

But, if you can get over the stiffness and what-do-I-do-now feeling, re-acquainting yourself with BlackBerry through the Z3 is just a short jump away. The initial boot-up takes a while but the set-up is simple enough and, following a brief tutorial on how to close apps and navigate the menu, you’re left to explore the phone at your leisure.

Still In Shape?

BB Z3 AngleBut before we get to the pleasantries, it’s time to see how BlackBerry has fared with the Z3’s hardware. On paper, not so great. The 5-inch display has a disappointing 540 x 960 resolution, there’s a dual-core Snapdragon 400 pumping away in there at 1.2GHz and just 1.5GB of system memory. Hardly a benchmark for the company.

There’s 8GB of native storage but space for more with a microSD but you’re going to be limited to an additional 32GB on that front. No high-end camera either, just 5MP so it’s good for rapid food snaps but you’re not going to be submitting anything to a photography contest with the Z3’s shooter.

In practise, it fares a little better. The sparse specs come together with the design that makes the Z3 look like an Sony Xperia’s chunky older brother to create a phone that achieves what it sets out to do. And what it wants to do is work, no more, no less and there’s no denying that the Z3’s hardware is enough to get the job done. It’s not going to impress while doing so, mind.

Keeping Busy

It’ll do most of the work that users years back used to use BlackBerry handsets (and only those) for, with some social networking and cloud storage built in for good measure. BBM and email, with notifications for those and most other apps tucked away in the far left under the Hub section, are perhaps the main draws but you’ve got access to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and media apps as well as Evernote, Dropbox and just plain Box out of the er… box. Users will be able to install some Android apps on the BlackBerry 10 OS but this is a hit-and-miss feature that could turn your phone into a pile of pieces. Yes, constant Android crashes can be frustrating.

The overall feeling is a utilitarian one though, a bit like an employee that never complains. It’ll do the work, just don’t ask too much extra when it’s under strain. Oddly, for the collection of hardware here, it doesn’t strain that hard while multitasking but there’s always a breaking point. Eventually it’ll start to lag if you keep piling more on top of it but not as soon as you’d expect. The Z3’s battery is also a bit of a workhorse, it’s got 2.500mAh on hand for some relatively lightweight hardware. When you consider that the LG G3 will last a day on a 3,00mAh power pack, we’re looking at some lengthy times between charges here.

Nice Seeing You

But, as is the case with some old friends, having history may not be enough to get you two hanging out again. A lot has changed, new friends (and phones) have come and gone and you might not have that much in common any more. The Z3 will be welcomed with open arms by some but others will have gone on to bigger and better things. And there are better things out there, even at the R3000 price range that the Z3 sits at – mostly in Android’s stable. It’ll all come down to the individual but, while we’ve definitely moved on, the Z3 isn’t a bad phone. It’s just a little bit too late.

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