A durable, full-featured device built for BlackBerry's biggest fans.
The BlackBerry Z3 is the latest BlackBerry 10 device and was built exclusively for Indonesia. This is the first product of the Foxconn / BlackBerry partnership worked up by John Chen. The time from inception to production on this device was just a matter of months, so it already looks like the deal is paying off.
At launch, the BlackBerry Z3 smartphone will be available in a limited edition model — the BlackBerry Z3 Jakarta Edition — featuring the inscription "Jakarta" on the back of the phone to commemorate the launch of the first BlackBerry smartphone built specifically for the Indonesian market. BlackBerry is all about the people, so the Z3 invites these users to "Be part of We."
Indonesians are "ultra" BlackBerry users, and as such, BlackBerry is giving a bit back in the form of an exclusive device, just for them. The Z3 Jakarta Edition doesn't have the latest or greatest specs, but it holds down what BlackBerry users do most — communicate. The Z3 makes the latest hardware accessible to the masses of people that just want to stay connected. It won't turn out to be a mainstream device by any means, but it will provide those in Indonesia and similar regions the ability to have an awesome BlackBerry 10 phone at a great price with no big compromises.
BlackBerry Z3 video walk-through
BlackBerry Z3 Specs and features
The BlackBerry Z3 doesn't have the newest hardware inside, but it has what it needs to keep the BlackBerry 10 OS running smoothly. Behind the 5" glass LCD screen lies a 1.2GHz Qualcomm processor, 8GB of flash memory and 1.5GB of RAM. A big 2500mAh battery powers it all — and it does so in grand fashion. I was able to stretch over a full day on the Z3, though I wish I had more time to test it out for the long haul. Also good to note is that there is no LTE in this model. The Z3 is being targeted toward Indonesia and other parts of Asia (hence the Jakarta name) and LTE isn't available in most areas where this particular variation of the device is to be sold.
All the standard fare is here — Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and even Miracast support. The back camera is a mediocre 5MP, while the front-facing lens is just 1.1MP. It's not the worst camera we've seen in a BlackBerry (yes, Bold 9900, that's you) but it still not great. It did however take some decent shots providing the lighting was good.
It's not the worst camera we've seen in a BlackBerry (yes, Bold 9900, that's you) but it's still not great.
To me it feels like the Z3 is a good amount lighter than the BlackBerry Z30 (to which we'll be making plenty of comparisons), though that's not the case. At 164g, the Z3 comes in at just a touch lighter than the Z30's 170g. It's smooth all around and actually feels really good in the hand. It's not slippery at all thanks to the textured back, and it's not too slim to lose hold of. In fact, it may even prove a bit too wide for those with smaller hands. The Z3 slides right in and out of my pockets, but it does have a bad habit of showing off screen smudges in all their glory.
The Z3 also has BlackBerry Natural Sound, just like we saw (or heard) on the Z30 to give a much more realistic listening experience in things like BBM Voice. A built-in FM radio tuner also allows for radio without having to use a network connection.
I also had a bit of trouble at times using the swipe gestures from the top and bottom bezels. It wasn't often, but when it happened it was certainly frustrating. Lots of swiping with no reaction. I assume it's just due to the way the display is designed and all flow together, but I'll see how much it happens and/or annoys me going forward.
Overall the Z3 feels extremely solid. It's essentially one big piece from head to toe, and it doesn't feel at all "cheap" or that it won't last. It's made with durable materials and it in for the long-haul.
BlackBerry Z3 hardware
The Z3 fits right in line with other BlackBerry 10 devices. The big 5" glass screen looks great on the front, and the flying B logo sits in the middle of the textured back. There's no removable battery door on the Z3, so that gives it smoother lines and just feels like it flows better all around. The hardware looks basic (which it is) but it still looks good. It's not too flashy, but it's got a great look to it at the same time — though it's not meant to be a high-end device with a high-end look.
Without a removable back, that leaves the SIM and SD card slots on the right side of the device, under a flimsy little door. I'm not a fan of these type of flaps, but there isn't really much choice on this one. On the left are the power and volume buttons. I'm not a big fan of the power button placement and would have rather it been on the right side or top of the device, but it's just something to get used to.
On the top is the lone 3.5mm headphone jack, on the bottom the microUSB port. I like this placement because it means that we could see a dock of some sort for the Z3, though it's unlikely and we'll probably just be stuck with standard chargers for a while. Also note that there's not microHDMI port as on some other BB10 devices — but again, not a deal breaker.
The BlackBerry Z3 is of a "what you see is what you get" design.
The Z3 really does feature a plain and simple design. The Z30, Z10 and Q10 all have various design elements to make them more appealing, but much like the Q5, the Z3 is more of a "what you see is what you get" design — but one that I happen to like. It's also very durable and will stand up to constant use. It's not "plastic" or cheaply made — it's a solid device that will last for years to come.
Overall the Z3 has a nice display. the LCD screen lights up bright on all 5" and I don't really have any complaints. The only issue I ran into was using the device in direct sunlight, but that's something you'll run into on a lot of devices. Colors are sharp, whites are bright and everything looks good. The pixel based resolution of the Z3 is 540×960 but through the magic of upscaling, the scaled resolution is the exact same of that of the BlackBerry Z30 which is 720×1280. The glass also stretches from edge to edge thanks to the design of the Z3, giving you more screen and less bezel.
I wish I would have had more time to run the Z3 through a good battery test (I only had about 4 days) but overall the 2500mAh battery did a great job. I was able to get through a day with no hiccups, and I'm sure I could stretch to near two should the need arise. The battery is more than enough to keep things going on the Z3, so I don't foresee any issues on that front. Of course, part of that comes from the fact there's no LTE on this model, though a version with LTE is planned for future release.
One place where the Z3 falls short is the camera. It's obviously not built as a photo-taking machine, but it still could stand to be a bit better. The 5MP rear camera does an okay job of getting decent images providing the settings are right, but the 1.1MP front camera really isn't good for too much — especially taking good photos. Both will serve their purpose of snapping quick images or using video chat however, but sadly you won't be getting any masterpieces from the Z3 camera. The camera does have Time Shift mode and some great filters though, so that definitely adds some points — and hey, at least it's got auto-focus.
A quick shot from the Z3 and Z30 for comparison (Z3 of the left, Z30 on the right):
BlackBerry Z3 software
The Z3 is running OS 10.2.1 out of the box, so that means it's on par with the current BB10 devices. All the latest updates are there — BBM stickers, quick settings, Priority Hub and the ability to install Android apps OTA (over the air). The BlackBerry OS 10.3 update will be along soon, which will also bring even more new features to the Z3 as well as other BlackBerry 10 devices.
We won't dive too much into the OS itself, but you can check out every bit and piece of OS 10.2.1 in our recent BlackBerry 10 review - 2014 edition..
The BlackBerry Hub is the centralized location for all of your notifications on the Z3, and it's accessible anywhere, anytime. A simple swipe to the right from the homescreen and you'll see the Hub where you can view your email, text messages, phone calls, social notifications, BBM chats and more. New features like BlackBerry Priority Hub and pinch gestures allow for even deeper use of the Hub as well. The Hub is really one of the big selling points of BlackBerry 10 and proves to be extremely useful and powerful for multitasking.
Sharp Sharing makes it faster and easier for you to share nearly anything on your device. When choosing to share an item, BB10 will offer suggestions on who and how to share pictures, files, links, and documents based on your past activity. It adapts automatically to learn where and what you share most, so as you share more and more, the options you want are right there when you open the share menu.
Being a device for Indonesia, Bahasa Indonesia is ready to roll on the Z3 keyboard. Thankfully the BB10 keyboard is awesome so you can easily add in English (or any other language) and seamlessly switch between them while typing. The Z3 is also equipped with local dialects as part of the language, i.e. Basa Jawa and Basa Sunda, which enable the keyboard to understand the words in those two local dialects. As a result, you will be able to type in multiple languages such as English, Bahasa Indonesia and Basa Jawa or Basa Sunda simultaneously.
The virtual keyboard on BlackBerry 10 is still one of the best on mobile. Here you'll find plenty of options for auto-correct and word prediction, and you can take full advantage of the swipe features that we've loved since we first saw them.
The good thing about the Z3 is that there are already loads of apps available. Any app with a Z30 variant will be fitted to the Z3 and ready to roll. So that means thousands of apps can be used right off the bat. BlackBerry World has all of the latest apps that Z3 users will be looking for. Apps for travel, lifestyle, music, video, games and news are all there.
Thanks to BlackBerry OS 10.2.1 there is now an even greater set of apps available for the Z3. Android apps can be installed OTA (over the air) directly to the device, eliminating the need to hook up to a PC to sideload. That means popular apps like Instagram, Path or other that aren't available in BlackBerry World can be used on the BlackBerry Z3 with no noticeable differences. You'll still have to seek out the APK files for these apps, but there are some great resources available as well as third-party apps stores like Snap that help out in that area.
The Z3 is rocking the latest version of BBM, so that means BBM Channels & stickers are ready to go. Indonesian users love stickers, so having them ready to roll out of the box will be a huge benefit. The users that will be buying the Z3 are doing so for the communication factor (more so than gaming, apps, photos etc) and having so many communication features within BBM will be a huge bonus. Out of the box the Z3 has BBM chat, voice, video with screen sharing, groups, BBM Channels and stickers. An exclusive Indonesia sticker pack will also be available at launch for a limited time from local artist Susiyo Saptoadi representing Punakawan Characters.
The BlackBerry 10 browser is still one of the best there is, and browsing on the Z3 is awesome. The big 5" screen leaves plenty of room to check out your favorite pages. Browsing is fast and smooth and extremely intuitive. Share features are always just a few taps away, and of course you can access the Hub from within the browser for quick reference. The BB10 browser still features Adobe Flash as well.
Instant Previews are new to OS 10.2 and really add a lot to the notification experience. Rather than just having an audible alert and LED, Instant Previews allow for some notifications to show a short dropdown banner across the OS, letting you know just what message has come in. These previews work for email, Twitter, SMS, Facebook and BBM. Messages like even allow for quick replies right from the notification, without having to leave whatever app you're currently using.
BlackBerry Z3: The Bottom Line
- The BlackBerry Z3 has a solid and durable design, great battery life, and a simply great price point.
- Low hardware specs, a crappy camera, and that it's only available in certain regions will hold the BlackBerry Z3 back.
- When it comes down to it, the BlackBerry Z3 is a good — not great — device. The specs are on the lower end, but it still performs extremely well. It's not a powerhouse like the BlackBerry Z30, but it's geared toward those that are looking for pure communication, which is what BlackBerry is all about. It's durable, has amazing battery life, and will certainly find a place amongst BlackBerry fans.
Overall I really do like the BlackBerry Z3. It's not sporting the highest specs, but it doesn't have to be. For the markets in which it will be available, the Z3 will be a great upgrade for many users. OS 10.2.1 runs great with no slowness or lag, and the battery life is more than enough to stay powered through even the longest of days. The biggest drawbacks I found are the low-resolution cameras (both front and back). Some may not like the plain design of the Z3, but the fact that it's so durable and not "cheap" (which could be said about the Q5) should outweigh the design choices.
The target customers are communicators and pride themselves on having the latest tech, and the Z3 covers those bases quite well.
Z10 users should welcome the upgrade, but I can't say that those using a Z30 will want to change things up to a Z3. The Z3 doesn't have the internal specs of the Z30, but it's still got a great look and feel. You'd be trading off a bit of speed (though not really noticeable) and camera quality. Long story short, it's a great upgrade from BBOS and maybe the Z10, but if you're already using a Z30, the Z3 probably won't phase you at all.
I think the Z3 will be a big seller in Indonesia. Those users are big communicators and pride themselves on having the latest tech, and the Z3 will cover those bases well. We're still not sure if we'll see an LTE version land in North America or other areas, but for now I don't think it matters much with other devices already on the roadmap. Many people won't see the Z3 as a good upgrade or even a good move for BlackBerry having those lower specs, but considering the market and the quickness from inception to finished product, the Z3 is a very well-rounded device overall. The Z3 is available starting this week in Indonesia, and should be arriving in other regions of Asia soon as well.