Hands on: BlackBerry announces new Z30 smartphone

Announced last night, the BlackBerry Z30 will feature a 5-inch screen and up to 25 hours battery life

Announced last night, the BlackBerry Z30 is the latest smartphone from the once market-leading company, formerly known as Research In Motion (RIM). We had a brief hands-on with a preproduction version of the device in Auckland this morning.

The Z30 features a 5-inch 1280x720-pixel screen, at a sharpness of 295 PPI. The Super AMOLED panel appeared bright and sharp, and a notable improvement over the company’s existing flagship the BlackBerry Z10.

The bezel on the Z30 is narrow, meaning the phone isn’t overly wide or tall for its screen size, though it did feel thicker and perhaps a bit heavier than other phones we’ve seen of a similar screen size. As we were looking at a pre-production model, thickness and weight may be reduced in the final version.

Inside is a dual-core 1.7GHz CPU, and quad-core GPU. We didn’t have time to test a variety of apps but menu navigation, starting apps and switching tasks all seemed very smooth.

The Z30 has the ‘largest battery ever built into a BlackBerry smartphone’, at 2880mAh. The company advertises up to 25 hours of ‘mixed use’, which a BlackBerry representative clarified includes calls, app and data use.

This will be the first smartphone to ship with the new BlackBerry 10.2 operating system, an upgrade to the BlackBerry 10 OS that shipped on the Z10 earlier this year. The upgrade includes a ‘Priority Hub’ addition to the BlackBerry Hub, which can be configured to display high-priority communications and notifications. It also makes notifications and messages visible straight from the lock screen, whilst the phone is locked. It’s certainly a convenience, though we did worry about the privacy or security implications. BlackBerry tells us the feature can be disabled if you have such concerns.

The Z30 hits shelves in the UK and Middle East next week, and elsewhere ‘going into the holiday season’. There is no official launch date for Australia or New Zealand, but we wouldn’t expect to see the Z30 before mid-October.

The 10.2 update to BlackBerry 10 OS will also be available for the existing BlackBerry Z10, Q10 and Q5 from mid-October.

Today’s launch announcement is daringly timed, with Apple’s iPhone 5C and 5S going on sale tomorrow in Australia, the US and other ‘tier one’ countries. In New Zealand, where the new iPhone’s launch date remains unknown, BlackBerry’s announcement may not be quite so overshadowed by the latest from Cupertino.

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