Many of you have heard of the BlackBerry Z3 which is launching today as a device targeting the Indonesian market with a sub $200 price point. Those that preordered the device should be getting it today and the official launch in stores is tomorrow. I have had the chance to carry around the device since Michael Clewley introduced me to the device last week and I have to say I am impressed. I switched over from my pricey Z30 to the budget priced Z3 and the only thing I really missed was 4G LTE which is not readily available in the markets the Z3 is targeting. BlackBerry has a whole campaign planned for the device in Indonesia with their new “Be Part of We” slogan.
Read on for the full details…
The BlackBerry Z3 is the first product of a new relationship between BlackBerry and Foxconn beginning with this low cost device for the Indonesian market. BlackBerry was laser focused on getting the price down below $200 without subsidies and with the help of Foxconn they have pulled it off with a price of about $195. For comparison sake the BlackBerry Z10 is still above $300 dollar point in the country. The Z3 is specifically built for Indonesia as a low cost upgrade to a legacy BlackBerry device or older smart/feature phone. If you take that into consideration you understand why the device is only sporting a 3G radio and offers amazing battery life on a 2500mAh battery with a huge 5” display.
BlackBerry Z3 Specs
The first thing you notice about the BlackBerry Z3 is that it is sporting a huge and quite clear 5” screen. Its a pretty impressive screen especially for a low cost device and looks sharp for 540×960 resolution. I got good visibility from all angles and the screen did not looked washed out like cheap displays. It was practically the same size as my BlackBerry Z30 but a tad bit thinner.
The funniest thing about this device is that even though BlackBerry shaved a few corners off to cut down costs they left the physical device with some prominent edges. The bottom and top of the phone are flat to the point where you can actually balance them on a table (don’t try this at home) and the edges themselves are rounded to the sides instead of beveled.
Other than that the device ships with OS 10.2.1 so this review will more or less focus on the hardware and not the software.
BlackBerry Z3 Design
Michael Clewley let me know that the BlackBerry Z3 design was influenced by modernist architecture. The exact words they use are “Visually light elements and reflective surfaces supported by structural beam frames bring all the elements together.” I don’t speak “design” but in plain English the device looks very sharp and modern. They even printed the IMEI in tiny letters on the bottom edge to not mar the clean surface of the device. The device actually does an amazing job of screaming “Quality” and feels solid and put together.
The front of the phone is nice and clean with a slightly more prominent speaker grill and a much brighter BlackBerry logo. They even laser cut the speaker and microphone holes to make for a more unified look. The main annoyance I have with the phone is that they moved the power and volume buttons to the left side which is totally the opposite of devices I am used to and reminds me of Android devices.
The rounded sides on the left and right of the device make it feel really nice in your hand though as I said the buttons are on the wrong side. On the left side we have a rubber gasket covering up the SIM card and MicroSD slot of the device. The sides of the device are slightly rubberized to help improve grip.
The back of the BlackBerry Z3 really looks sharp with a “dot textured soft touch finish” that does a nice job of making the phone grip to your hand. The other gripe I have with the BlackBerry Z3 is that it continues BlackBerry’s new trend of a non-removable battery. The back door is made out of a nice material with a very prominent shiny BlackBerry dots logo. There is also a small perforated area on the bottom left for the single speaker. All in all a very clean look.
What is Special for Indonesia?
BlackBerry has a full on advertising campaign coming to Indonesia since it is a key market. The BlackBerry 10 OS is now offering quick switching between English and Bahasa which is now the default language on boot for the device. They are also partnering with communities, personalities, and brands in Indonesia to bring area specific BBM Channels. Last but not least they are bringing some exclusive Indonesia BBM Stickers that even I could not get my hands on… Also if you were lucky and preordered a select few users are getting signature edition devices with the word “Jakarta” emblazoned on them.
So what are the compromises for the sub $200 price?
Coming from the BlackBerry Z30 I was surprised how easy the transition was to the Z3. The main thing I felt was missing was 4G which from what I understand is only now starting to roll out in limited areas. The battery life on 3G was spectacular with me getting almost 2 days of hard use which made the lack of a removable battery a little easier to bear. I did miss the stereo speakers on the BlackBerry Z30 but the Z3’s single speaker is still plenty loud. You just have to flip it over for conference calls.
The screen on the Z3 was pretty good and reminded me of the Z10 in terms of quality and touch recognition was great. I had no trouble with Wi-Fi range and I did not really find myself using NFC in the trial since it is not available on the device. The camera also gave me pictures comparable to the BlackBerry Z10 and the flash did decently.
What is the verdict?
BlackBerry together with Foxconn did a nice job of paring down the BlackBerry 10 hardware while still offering the most out of the BlackBerry 10 experience. The device ran smoothly and battery life was exemplar. The built quality for the device is way better than I was expecting and really pushes into premium territory. It does not look like a “cheaper” BlackBerry and rather looks like a more refined BlackBerry Z10. If you can live with the lower resolution screen and lack of NFC the device is a winner and light on the pocketbook.