BlackBerry Z30 design with senior VP Todd Wood

By Simon Sage on 3 Oct 2013 08:01 am EDT

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.

Check out more on the BlackBerry Z30

Reader comments

BlackBerry Z30 design with senior VP Todd Wood


Looking forward to paying a ridiculous entry price? If you own a Z10/Q10, I would recommend waiting for a price cut to be honest.

via CB10 (BB Z10 : BLK : OS 10.1) [ Channel @ C0012477B for BB News, MMA & Tech Updates ]


I paid the full price of the z10 on the date of its release. Literally 4 weeks later it was being discounted.

I'll wait, thanksss.

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Unfortunately after buying two Z10s at full retail I'll wait. They could maybe incent me with a discount. But rogers isn't carrying it anyways. This is much closer to the phone is wad hoping the new entry level Z10 will be.

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I agree. I will be getting one in sure to replace my PlayBook. Although, I got my Z10 before they dropped the price, so I'm a little gun shy. I'm sure a drop will be coming, and when it does, I will be all over this.

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Wanna try one of these out get it in the hands of the user we need some positive news

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The Microsoft Surface virtual keyboard varies the tone based on the position of the key you are touching on the keyboard... I was amazed at the fact that it actually kinda helps. Our brains are amazing.

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Must be pretty dispiriting to spend your time crafting excellent hardware and then for your company to spend pretty much zero telling people about it - anyone in the UK seen a single advert for the z30? A newspaper ad? Anything? shout out if you have.

This is a really good point. Thanks for sharing... and no I haven't. A demo bid of the hardware and how it's put together would be nice

I agree this is exactly the same thing they did when the Z10 and Q10 came out... Nothing! No marketing, no advertisement, nothing... smh.. Damn shame cause the Z30 looks awesome...

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The latest and the greatest... :D
I want one. Hopefully BlackBerry can have a promo where we can swap the Z10 for Z30 and pay the difference.

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While you were there did you happen to ask about devices in the pipeline that might better appeal to BBOS users? :-)

Looking forward to this but dang I just cant used to that chinstrap color, I like the idea of it being there for a place to grip the device but it just seems like the color sticks out . . obviously that's a subjective thing so maybe I just have poor design sense.

Yes, i too think he should have been more prepared in describing the device in a confident and fluid manner.

You could see the lack of enthusiasm. At least when the Z10 was getting ready to come out they had these videos describing the product and they sounded enthusiastic and full of hope. What a shame BlackBerry. You finally have a great product but you never advertised the shizz out of it like you should have and here you are.... smh...

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His area of expertise is design, not marketing, PR, or communication. Designers work with concepts and pictures and materials not words . . although now that I think about it Jony Ive seems to do pretty well at explaining and presenting . . .

As a BlackBerry fan who thinks the hardware designs and specs have been foundational to BlackBerry's undoing, I now have a name for my pain: "Todd Wood". Was he responsible for the decisions that led to BB10 software and hardware being so unlike BBOS that there is still a lot of resistance to upgrading to BB10 from BBOS? Whoever they are, that's someone that shouldn't be employed at BlackBerry any longer. I assumed Thor was the driving force, but maybe this fellow has to take some of the blame...

Yeah I was going to mention the prerecorded bit but I thought my post was getting to long already.

My goodness! You guys are just nitpicking. Is anyone of you that are criticizing the guy perfect? Yes we all know BlackBerry has issues but lets be real.

Far from perfect. But if you are at a venue that guarantees that you will be asked to describe your device, be prepared. I'm rooting for Blackberry, and want them to succeed. But no more excuses, they need to get behind their BELIEVE.

Look at the video with Michael Clewley, much more fluid, with more purpose, and conviction.

But he is not Michael Clewley. People are different. He was very knowledgeable at what he was saying, wasn't he? It's sometimes good to pay attention to what's relevant rather than trivial stuffs.
He is not BlackBerry's PR goto man nor is he in marketing department. :) He is only their Design Engineer. It's very understandable that he isn't in his comfort zone, therefore we should cut him some slack. It's always easier said than done.

Exactly. 90% of the time at events like this, I'm surrounded by media-trained people. It makes for good videos, but I'd trade in a bit of public speaking polish for product expertise any day. Besides, I've got the same "uh" problem too - it's a hard habit to break.

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some people will say anything to criticize BB...
"not only was he stuttering but he's also kinda homely and looks lke he has some zits. Apple never uses homely people with zits. Why can't BlackBerry do better???"

Well, I have not been too sure the larger form would work for me. I can hardly get my thumb across my Z. But this video really got to me. Any secret plans for me Santa? Oh, wait. I am Verizon. That means sometime in the next life ...

I wasn't initially interested in the Z30 because of the larger size but now I may just get it for myself. The phone is just gorgeous, especially in white. Was never a white-phone person but I admit that the Z30 is beautiful in white.

I'm at the edge of getting 2 phones, trading in my Z10 for a Q10 (for work) and also get the Z30 for fun. It would make for a perfect pair. :) (now all I need is to find the funding for this)

Posted via CB10 on my Z10

I agree the phone looks more appealing and the hardware specs are pretty impressive minus a few.

One for sure is the internal storage of 16GB.

Not really a big deal when you can pay 20 bucks to add twice that though.

--Q10 and Canadian all the way! Posted via CB10 on #IChooseBlackBerry10

Fortunately I'm not eligible for an upgrade until the end of January. Hopefully it will be available and drop a bit by then.

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That battery cover! I hope they sell with the textured feel of the Z10.. I love it.. x_x

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@ amp - that would be a very good idea for an "Accessory"... Love the feel of the battery door on my Z10 - can't find a case for it that I prefer to the 'feel' of the stock battery cover... although with the same back cover as a Q10 - not too shabby either...

Now I want it more than before... interesting the fact that you can change the back cover for an accessory, that seems cool.

What kind of accessory though. I just want a bumper case and a battery cover with the texture of the Z10 xD

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I'm really looking forward to getting this phone. However, I'm confused about the battery situation. How would you replace if it goes bad?

I wonder about the non removable battery myself. Even though I have only had to replace a battery once in a blackberry device and my PB still going strong after 2yrs I like having access to it if fails. If the battery fails after warranty are we out of luck?

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Simon - "Nice interview"... glad to see one of you, finally, took someone into a "quiet room" to do one of these, rather than, the usual youtube video with hundreds of people milling around you and screaming.

One of the "Best New Features" on the Z30 will be the "Natural Sound" - figure out how to do a video to "show this off" on playing music, BBM Video Chat et al...


Is the battery user replaceable if he has the skills. Is a replacement battery available to the end user, or do we have to send it in for servicing. This is what will determine weather or not, I will buy one.

@ Jan.... how come iTards have never worried about a "replaceable battery". If you've got a "bad one" within a year - the carrier will cover it under warranty. It will be nice to have a longer battery life than what I have on my Z10 - which is more than adequate to begin with. Looking forward to hearing "Natural Sound" that will be a great feature on Z30.

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I totally love my new Z30, but the only thing I noticed was that mine fresh out of the box had a small scuff on the left side on the frame itself.

From the factory, I guess no one checks the quality before completion!

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Don't worry about that scuff. The BlackBerry Gnomes were playing with it too much before having to package it and send it away.

Consider it a lucky unit.

Besides better sound quality it looks as though home will do nothing that my z10 doesn't do already plus I still have the playbook which has solid display as well so I think I'll skip this one and wait for the next z10 replacement

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The immortal line from the Lord of the Rings (Aragorn) comes to mind...
I mean...right ??

Blackberry employees always sound bored and underwhelmed when they talk about their new products. Not very inspiring. I've been noticing this a lot since the BB10 announcement/preview event. I don't get it.

I have small hands and the Z10 fits comfortable for me. I find that I use my Z10 more than my other device for this same reason. 5" is a little too big for me. When Verizon gets them hands on will be the final deciding factor

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BB10 awesomeness!! I just might have to give up my Qwerty Q10 for this big boy Z30 ....Nah, actually keeping both!! Ever notice the green-with-envy attitude from the other brand phone users when they see the sleek gestures and peek-a-boo hub?

Ironic as hell that it says "... on the rogers network" in the signature and we find out that Rogers wont be offering the device. El oh el.

I didn't like the way he spoke of the phone. I found Michael Clewley did an amazing job on Mobile Syrup -- I actually wanted that phone after I watched his video, and I haven't had a bb in a couple of years! Todd Wood seems very uncomfortable and actually turned me off. Ah well ...

By the time it lands in an Otterbox case, it'll be the size of a paperback book.

Too big for my pocket, so no sale. Plus the oft-mentioned lack of any technical upgrades, of course.

My Z10 is just fine.

There are some appealing elements to this. I found the Q10 had a great feel; the matte texture of the "glass weave" back along with the chamfer of the back made it feel more comfortable in the hand than the Z10 did. The Z30 seems to duplicate that.

I had mine delivered two days ago and absolutely love it. Looking at the video, I noticed that the version shown has a 2800mA battery, whereas mine is a 2880mA one. Obviously, I'm not complaining. ;)

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Hmm ... I noticed in the video that when the back cover came off, the device was labelled Blackberry Z00. I would have liked that they kept that name. :) I have the "Blackberry Z Double Oh" or I have the "Blackberry zoo". It's like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under...

So, when does the T30 come out? Trackpads work better with gloves, physical keyboards are. A good tradition, but with my Q10 not displaying specialized pages and apps, ...... I miss my slider 98xx!

For large males with bigger hands, these are going to be perfect. From the interview you can see how much thought went into them. How sad that there might not be BB around to make stuff like this for people serious about getting stuff done.

About the color band on the bottom -- this is more functional than I realized. It makes sense that you want to mark the bottom so you know which way you are holding and where the volume buttons, etc. are. This is function over form, which is good. It might not look as clean, but it works better.

As far as the delivery, how good can we expect him to sound if he thinks his company is going out of business and all his work is for naught? He is a designer, not a paid spokesmodel that doesn't know anything.

I think what he basically said was, "Nothing new here. I don't have much more to say than anyone that isn't from BlackBerry so leave me alone". Boy...... that guy should not be the spokesperson for anything!

I'm not impressed when an engineer can't find a way to make the bottom of a device visually obvious without resorting to a big honking cheap looking silver chin.

hi Simon,

you wrote:
"Todd talked a bit about the removable back plate of the Z30".
I understand about the special "book" accessory that does not take up bulk by replacing the standard cover instead of being on top of it (already reviewed by DJ Reyes).

Is there any chance that we could get another cover from BlackBerry that allows for Qi charging? This is the way it works for the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4. You simply add a very thin Qi antenna to the device and it becomes Qi-chargeable.

I have the Z30 and really like it but when people ask me about it I always mention that the battery is non-replaceable. I can't for the life of me figure out why they would have done that, they don't have the market clout of apple to be making decisions like that. It's just a bad design decision period.

In fact I think someone could have come up with some kind of clever advertisement showing how apple is being irresponsible doing things like that. It's bad for the environment and bad for the consumer, planned obsolescence.