Smartphone makers can’t afford to ignore the fact that people like big displays—even Apple, which has touted a form factor one’s thumb can reach across, is rumored to be considering a move to a 5-inch display. So BlackBerry, in its final offering of 2013, is giving the people what they want.

The BlackBerry Z30 features a 5-inch display, up from the 4.2 inches of the Z10. It also features Paratek antenna technology, enabling it to recalibrate itself to the coverage situation; a battery that can last 24 hours of mixed use; and six microphones for capturing hard-to-record sounds, like concerts.

Arguably more importantly, though, the Z30 runs BlackBerry 10.2, the newest version of the company’s OS and a deeply considerate one.

The OS has few major changes—though the ones it has are good ones—but many efficiency-driven tweaks. Where BlackBerry could think of a way to save users a tap or a swipe, it made the change, and the collection of improvements will be welcome by BB10 fans.

The Z30, which has a less-crisp display than the Z10 and a more vague design, may be a different story. Verizon will begin selling the Z30 in November for $199 with a two-year contract.

BlackBerry Z30 Isn’t for All BB Fans, but OS 10.2 Is
By Michelle Maisto

Meet the BlackBerry Z30
The BlackBerry Z30 is the fourth smartphone the company has introduced this year since launching its BlackBerry 10 operating system. BlackBerry now has two QWERTY keyboard-equipped phones, the Q10 and Q5, and two touch screen-focused phones, the Z10 and Z30.

BlackBerry Z30, Z10 Comparison
The Z30, at left, features a 5-inch display with 295 pixels per inch, and measures 5.5 by 2.8 by 0.37 inches and weighs 6 ounces.

The Z10 has a 4.2-inch display with 356 pixels per inch and measures 5.12 by 2.58 by 0.35 inches and weighs 4.8 ounces. To some, the Z30 may feel like a flabbier version of the more compact and muscular Z10.

The BlackBerry Z30’s Design Departure
In appearance, as well as design, the Z30 feels like a departure from the Z10, and so even from BlackBerry.

The straight sides of the Z10 give way to the rounded sides common on phones with large displays. (The two dots on the Z30 are noise-canceling microphone ports.)

A BlackBerry Device or a Verizon Phone?
The weave design on the back of the Z30 is also a departure from the BlackBerry look.

The pattern makes the Z30 look like several other devices from Verizon Wireless, which in the U.S. will exclusively sell the Z30 (at least until another carrier decides it wants it).

How the Z30 Stacks Up
The BlackBerry Z30 is a rare case of a new phone that doesn’t quite stack up to its predecessor. In addition to having a less-crisp display, the Z30’s camera is slow and its focus feature requires patience—sometimes an endless amount.

The Z30’s Camera
The Z30 was used to take this nice shot of a church at dusk. (No filters were used or adjustments made.)

The Z30’s Camera
Want pictures of kids and dogs? Forget about it.

The Z30 isn’t very quick, and it was hard to get crisp shots.

Even this ivy was hard to photograph, as the camera wanted to focus on the background.

The App Situation
BlackBerry continues to add applications to BlackBerry World, though the absence of several key apps remains an issue. (In many instances, however, developers have created workarounds.)

BlackBerry 10.2
That all said, the Z30 runs BlackBerry 10.2, which is a very nice upgrade to the OS.

A key new feature is Priority Hub, an inbox that culls together the correspondence a user (and the software) deems Priority.

Priority Hub
The software is quick to figure out the messages a user really wants to see, though users can set general rules, such as making everyone with the same last name a Priority, as well as specify whether a contact or just a conversation chain including that contact is Priority.

New Alerts Feature
Another useful new feature alerts users to a new message.

If you’re watching Puddles the sad clown cover a Lorde song on YouTube (and you should), a yellow bar can pop up for a quick moment. Tapping on this bar would take you to an email; a BBM could be answered from the yellow bar, without leaving the video.

Locked Screen
Another very welcome addition is the ability to not only see, from the locked screen, that one has new tweets or emails but to read them. (With emails, for privacy reasons, one can only see the sender and the subject line.)

Easier Sharing
Wherever it was possible to eliminate a tap or swipe, BlackBerry did it in 10.2. When sharing a photo, the OS now delivers up an icon for the person the user most often shares photos with, potentially saving the user several steps.

Also helpful: If a Priority Contact is calling, there are several stock answers a user can text back in reply with just a tap.

Every Convenience
While users can swipe from the App screen to arrive at the Hub, BlackBerry says it found that some users prefer tapping an app icon than swiping, so it gave them one. BlackBerry users are likely to embrace the tweaked and highly efficient 10.2.

The Z30 may be another story.

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