BlackBerry's senior VP of design, Todd Wood, kicked off his talk about the Z30 by looking at tennis rackets. It obviously seemed like a weird analogy at first, but when he showed how over the course of three generations, the rackets got larger, it meant the sweet spot for hitting the ball had grown. Similarly, Todd saw the Z30's 38% increase in screen real estate as an equivalent growth in sweet spots - that is, larger on-screen targets make it easier to navigate and type - without becoming unwieldy. In fact, my first impression of the Z30 at BlackBerry Jam Asia was that the device was more comfortable in the hand than the Z10.
Todd touched on the new layout which ditches a top frame in favor of a single, unified screen piece and an anchoring frame at the bottom. This is to visually and intuitively identify the bottom of the device, which is important for guiding users to the multitasking view. The side edges of the front screen have been beveled in order to create a waterfall effect and the illusion of a larger screen. The glass weave rear has returned for the Z30, and is particularly noteworthy because they've found a way to make it curved rather than a single flat plane. That glass weave is for more than good looks, too - it manages to keep radio interference down to a minimum compared to other materials.
Not all of the design changes were on the hardware side either. Todd talked about the thinking of the sounds for the virtual keyboard, which were made to sound by simple tapping on glass. The keyboard in 10.2 adds a few new types of audio feedback based on the types of typing you're doing - punctuation, backspace, auto-correct, and the like. The speakers are especially noteworthy from a design perspective. The twin rear speakers were placed as far apart as possible in order to maximize the stereo effect. They also had to be placed on the edge at an angle on the device, which was a little tricky to manufacture, but they pulled it off. This angle allows sound to bounce off a surface when the bottom is placed on a table.
Todd talked a bit about the removable back plate of the Z30. Its sole purpose at first blush is to cover the microSD and SIM card slot, since the battery is non-removeable (which allows them to offer something at a slightly higher capacity). However, it has enabled a very cool unified case accessory which simultaneously replaces the stock door and provides a nice cover for the front of the screen without making the device any bulkier.
I needled Todd about material quality and specifically eco-friendliness of their materials, and though they certainly follow certain baseline standards, Todd emphasized that BlackBerry focuses on build quality, and their goal of making devices that last as long as possible. There's certainly anecdotal evidence that BlackBerry's managed to pull this off in the past.