BlackBerry 10 software
The Z30 runs the latest version of the BlackBerry 10 software, found on the Z10, Q10 and Q5 phones. If you've used any of those, it will be instantly familiar as the interface hasn't changed at all.
It's made up of an an iOS style grid of app icons across homescreens. There's no home button, so quitting an app requires you to swipe up, placing the app into a grid of four recently used apps. It's a fairly simple interface to explore and, while there are no live widgets like on Android, this does help keep things from looking cluttered.
Dive in and things become less enjoyable though. The multitasking panel is the default screen to return to every time you close an app. When you click on an app icon to open it, you're taken back to this screen before it loads -- a small animation, sure, but it's an extra delay that should be removed.
The Hub acts as a universal inbox for all your emails, texts and other notifications. It's handy to see everything in one spot and being able to 'peek' at it when in an app -- by basically shifting the app to the right to see beneath it -- is a neat feature. There's still no way of marking all items as read though and if you've dealt with notifications on a different device, they'll still show as new, unread items in the hub.
BlackBerry Messenger is of course baked right in, letting you text, call and video call using an Internet connection, rather than your precious network-allocated minutes. You can also share your screen with other BB10 users so they can see everything you're doing on your phone at the time.
The phone is powered by a dual-core 1.7GHz processor with 2GB of RAM. Those specs aren't going to get hardcore tech fans excited, but it's more than enough to give a very nippy experience.
One of the main issues with BlackBerry 10 is its app store, which remains rather poorly stocked. If you spend some time browsing its shelves you will find the odd decent title you recognise, but they're few and far between. The prices too are generally higher, which is salt in the wound, considering how difficult it is to find good apps in the first place.
You can find your essentials of Twitter, Facebook and Dropbox but there's no YouTube app -- the icon on the homescreen is just a link to the browser -- and Spotify, Netflix and Instagram are all missing. If you're keen to try out the latest new services as soon as your iPhone-toting friends do, BlackBerry really isn't going to suit.
It's important to note as well that the company's future is still very much uncertain as its continually falling profits have meant it's fallen on some seriously hard times. It's difficult to know exactly what this means just yet -- some reports have indicated a potential buyout of the company, while others indicate that the company will leave the consumer market behind, focussing on the business sector.
With so much uncertainty, if you're looking for a guarantee that your phone will be continually updated and that the app store will soon be brimming with titles thanks to support and enthusiasm from developers, I'd steer clear of Blackberry.
On the back of the phone is an 8-megapixel camera. A camera might not be crucial when you're in a meeting, but when it comes to capturing antics at the office christmas party, it'll be vital. I took it for a spin to see what it can do.
In general I found it to be pretty decent. In my indoor test shot, it was able to expose well for the scene, with little image noise in the shadowy areas. Colours are rich too, yet not unnatural and it's fairly sharp. I've seen better images from phones like the S4 and Sony Xperia Z1, but it's not bad at all.
It doesn't have the same amount of camera features as some Android phones, but it'll let you shoot in a continuous burst mode and its HDR function did a good job of rescuing otherwise blown-out highlights. You'll also find a 2-megapixel camera on the front for video calling using BBM or Skype.
BlackBerry has shoved a 2,880mAh battery into the Z30, which is a rather capacious cell, particularly given the undemanding dual-core processor. BlackBerry claims you can get around 18 hours of talk time or 25 hours of "mixed use" from the phone. Impressive figures and ones I'd say are fairly accurate too.
With moderately heavy use -- using YouTube, downloading apps, checking email and sending Tweets -- I found the phone would easily last the working day and have plenty of juice to get through the evening too. If you're very careful, you might not need to charge it overnight to have power left for the next morning.
Keep the screen brightness down and avoid doing anything too demanding and you will get a much better life out of it. If you keep Wi-Fi and GPS turned off too when they're not needed, that will help as well.
With its big, colourful screen, the BlackBerry Z30 should be your phone of choice if you absolutely crave a BlackBerry but want the same big-screen entertainment as your Android-packing mates.
If you're not tied to BlackBerry though, Google's vast selection of apps and services means that almost any other high-end Android phone will be a better choice.