The BlackBerry Classic: what the critics think

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For many die-hard BlackBerry fans, no phone will suffice over the BlackBerry. There’s just something about battling with that fiddly QWERTY keyboard that they love.

But having cast many of its traditional features aside – except its keyboard of course – how will the new BlackBerry Classic fare, especially for the BlackBerry fans?

Reiterating the surmise that, well it’s only really those who are fond of the BlackBerry who would give the Classic a run for its money, is Tech Radar’s review of the new phone.

In a 3.5 star review (we’ve seen worse), Tech Radar compliments the Classic’s improved navigation and its fast web browsing – thanks to the BlackBerry 10 web browser, which is, according to BlackBerry, rated amongst the top mobile browsers for web fidelity.

Other plus points Tech Radar highlight is its great messaging and the fact the phone is “perfect for BlackBerry fans.”

On the downside, which unfortunately there often is with BlackBerry, is the fact there are fewer apps on offer, it possesses an erratic battery life, which is disappointingly ironic as BlackBerry excitedly claim the Classic has a “50% longer battery life”.

And Tech Radar’s qualms don’t stop there, as other ‘againsts’ are the Classic’s ‘un-media friendly’ square screen and its chunky and heavy design.

After a fairly disappointing review, were CNET any more impressed with BlackBerry’s latest offering?

CNET also gave the Classic a 3.5 star review but we have to admit was kinder than its rival tech review site.

As well as praising its comfortable, accurate keyboard with an attractive design, CNET was impressed with the fact the BlackBerry Classic has support for Android apps.

“If you’re willing to trade screen size for a superior physical keyboard, the BlackBerry Classic is a fantastic productivity phone for old-school QWERTY junkies,” was CNET’s bottom line.

The Verge disputes Tech Radar’s disgruntles about the Classic’s “erratic battery”, claiming the phone’s battery life “is pretty cool.”

However, when it came to the phone’s camera capabilities, The Verge was less impressed, citing the 8-megapixel camera on the back as “tremendously slow.” Even The Verge writer’s lap cat couldn’t be bothered waiting for the painful slow shutter to do its magic and walked out of shot when being photographed!

Highlighting the Classic’s infuriating mix of “crazy fast and insanely slow”, the Verge pins the problem on the fact the Classic has a last-gen processor that cannot keep up with modern apps and web pages.

The Telegraph was however less condemning of the Classic’s camera, pointing out one clever new feature that allows users who divide their phone between personal and work life to take images on a ‘work camera app’, which are then saved onto the work ‘perimeter’ – could be useful.

With innovative features such as the BlackBerry Blend, enabling users to put messaging and content on their BlackBerry onto computers and tablets, a pre-loaded BlackBerry 10.3.1 operating system, 60% more screen space and a greater variety of apps through BlackBerry World and the Amazon Appstore, BlackBerry have certainly tried hard with the Classic.

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Though we have to admit, it’s for a reason that BlackBerry is down to a miserly 0.5% of the market share of global smartphone shipments.

The BlackBerry Classic is available now for £349.00. Visit Blackberry to find out more.

Blackberry Passport: are looks all that matter?

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It’s big. Its corners are concisely squared. It’s got a large touch screen and a prominent touch-enabled keyboard. It certainly doesn’t sound like the wave of bendy, rounded, dainty and miniscule smartphones that have been released onto the market recently. It’s got to be a Blackberry.

Yup! It’s the Blackberry Passport.

This rather different-looking smartphone was released on September 24, 2014 at launch events in London, Dubai and Toronto. Reaction to the new Passport flagship smartphone have been decidedly mixed with one consistent theme – well quip really – woven amongst the reviews, it’s a tad on the bulky side.

Though despite the jives there are some rather stand-out features of the Passport that are certainly worthy of a mention. So let’s start with its Innovative Blackberry Keyboard. Blackberry proudly assert that its ‘revolutionary’ new keyboard brings “innovation to input with a responsive touch surface like a trackpad that lets you perform many touch functions directly on the keyboard.”

Being able to scroll web pages, slide along keys to move the cursor and flick to type from a keyboard, certainly sounds innovative and impressive. Though as the Huffington Post warns in its Blackberry Passport Diary, it’s unique keyboard design comes at a price, as it’s “not an easy phone to love”, namely because it’s difficult to find a comfortable way of holding it.

But anyway that’s enough of the disgruntled ergonomics of the Passport, let’s get on with evaluating its guts.

Stand-out features

The Passport comes preloaded with the new Blackberry 10.3 operating system. This fresh look system includes an instant action bar that enables you to view your most commonly accessed functions. It also includes several new features such as the Amazon Appstore, Blackberry Blend and Blackberry Assistant.

Blackberry Assistant

Now this feature is definitely worth elaborating on. The Blackberry Assistant is Blackberry’s first digital assistant. It can used with text and voice commands to help users manage their lives ‘intelligently’. It also communicates with you how you communicate with it. For example, if you text a command, the Blackberry Assistant will respond silently. If you talk to it, it will speak back to you.

A long-lasting battery

And then there’s the battery. iPhones have long been synonymous with being drained of life all too quickly and the power shutting off in the most untimely of moments. So how does the Passport’s battery fare in comparison?

What Blackberry dub as being the “best-in-Class battery life”, the Passport has a 3450 mAh battery, the largest – apparently – amongst the top-selling smartphones and phablets. What’s more, Blackberry claim that when the Passport was tested against an extremely active user, its battery lasted for up to 30 hours of mixed use.

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High-quality listening

The Passport is equipped with Blackberry Natural Sound, a quad microphone system and powerful speakers which deliver a high-quality listening experience. This Natural Sound Technology is also built in to adapt Wi-Fi and cellular call sound, which depends on background noise and the position of the phone.

With its rather awkward design, the Blackberry Passport was controversial from the day it was announced. Now that’s it’s been launched the provocative smartphone continues to drive contention. As the Wall Street Journal is quick to point out: “The Passport has some neat tricks and longer battery life than the competition, but it’s living in the past. It’s not 2005 anymore.”

But then again, there’s nothing wrong with looking different!

And it’s price? £529 in the UK.

Blackberry Z10 Review Roundup: Phoenix Rising or Swan Song?

Blackberry-Z10

Very much a fallen angel, it’s rare to hear Research in Motion’s name mentioned these days without “troubled” preceeding it. So much so that they’ve rebranded. But this wasn’t always the case and as the BlackBerry manufacturer’s legions of stubborn fans can attest, they were once at the top of their game. So how does their new flagship phone the Z10 fare in the Samsung and Apple dominiated smartphone landscape? Is the superfast 4G handset another mess like previous touchscreen attempts? Too little too late? Or have the Blackberry Faithful finally been rewarded for their patience?

Here’s what some of the pros had to say

Ars Technica: “It’s not good enough for the Z10 to be the best BlackBerry phone ever”

For a company that has never really made a phone like this before, the actual hardware itself pretty much nails it. At this point, the modern smartphone’s form factor is “a rectangle with a screen on front” in the same way that a laptop is “a screen with a keyboard attached,” but BlackBerry has gone and made themselves a pretty nice rectangle.

Trusted Reviews: “On the hardware front BlackBerry hasn’t done much wrong.”

The BlackBerry Z10 only has am 1800mAh battery so it was never likely to impress when the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S3 have 2100mAh units. But it still put up a pretty good fight, lasting a day without too much bother… Perhaps more importantly, those used to the long battery lives of older more conventional BlackBerrys may be alarmed by the single day life of the Z10, but such is the way of most modern smartphones.

Cnet: “The Hub is fractionally easier than opening different email, text or social apps”

It doesn’t look particularly nice, rendering your stream of social missives as an unattractive wall of text. Tapping on individual messages shows them in a plain white box on a grey background that leaves much to the imagination in aesthetic terms.

T3: “This is one of the best touchscreen keyboards we’ve seen.”

The moment you start adding accounts the Z10 will actively sweep your emails and texts, learning the language you use and creating a catalogue of common phrases. This means that when you start typing it’ll intelligently predict words that only you’re likely to use.

The Verge: “Frankly, it’s a better smartphone than I expected from RIM at this stage in the game.”

The problem with the Z10 is that it doesn’t necessarily do anything better than any of its competition. Sure, there are arguments that could be made about how it handles messages or the particulars of its camera, but no one could argue that there’s a “killer app” here. Something that makes you want or need this phone because it can do what no other phone can do. That’s not the case — in fact if anything is the case, it’s that the Z10 can’t yet do some things that other devices can. Or at least, can’t do them quite as well.

Update, check out our unboxing of the Z10’s sister phone, the new Blackberry Q10:

Blackberry goes multi platform at last with Blackberry Multi Fusion

The ongoing battle between Blackberry, iOS and Android users as to whose platform is best has taken an interesting turn with the recent announcement that RIM (Research in Motion)  the manufacturer of Blackberry is releasing a set of cross platform enterprise mobility tools entitled Multi Fusion.

RIM-HQ

The tools have been designed to simplify the headache facing corporate IT heads trying to effectively manage their employees’ smart phones and tablets running either BlackBerry, Google Android and Apple iOS operating systems or a combination of all three. Much of this is due to the growing trend of companies adopting a ‘bring your own device to use at work’ approach, giving IT bosses a plethora of issues to digest.

Blackberry Multi Fusion, which is currently undergoing beta testing and heading for a late March 2012 release, has certainly gained credibility points over its competitors who have yet to do anything remotely similar.

Alan Panezic, Vice President, Enterprise Product Management and Marketing at Research In Motion is quick to point out “BlackBerry Mobile Fusion brings together our industry-leading BlackBerry Enterprise Server technology for BlackBerry devices with mobile device management capabilities for iOS and Android devices, all managed from one web-based console. It provides the necessary management capabilities to allow IT departments to confidently oversee the use of both company-owned and employee-owned mobile devices within their organisations.”

As far as actual mobile device management capabilities is concerned, Blackberry Multi Fusion will offer:

  • Asset management
  • Configuration  management
  • Security and policy definition and management
  • Secure and protect lost or stolen devices (remote lock, wipe)
  • User- and group-based administration
  • Multiple device per user capable
  • Application and software management
  • Connectivity management (Wi-Fi®, VPN, certificate)
  • Centralised console
  • High scalability

This is great news for under fire IT bosses, but perhaps it’s also a first step towards platform harmony?

Make your iPhone ‘stand out from the crowd’ with a Peelzone vinyl ‘Peel’

I can imagine this latest launch of gadgetry accessories will be a big hit with kids in the playground and perhaps the big kids in life. Peelzone has announced the launch of an array of funky, custom-made and personalised ‘Peels’ – that’s vinyl  accessories that can be adorned on tablets, handheld game consoles, mobile phones and other gadgets, with no other purpose than simply sprucing up its appearance, for those who didn’t know!

Kindle-Peel

It goes without saying that kids – geeky computer know-alls aside – are generally more impressed with the appearance of their gadgets rather than their internal functions. This said, Peelzone may be on to a winner here, as its fun, funky and custom-made Peels go several steps further than kids covering their iPhones and iPods in stickers in an attempt to stave off boredom in a biology class.

With Peelzone’s ‘Peels’ you can upload photos to an easy-to-use website, play around with them by adding graphics and texts, and then plaster them all over your favourite gadget. These glorified stickers are, Peelzone assure us, made from high-quality 3M material that can manage to stay free from bubbles and can be easily removed leaving no lasting residue or marks. Oh and there is a practical function – Peels offer protection for gadgets  against potential scratches.

So if you are intent in making your iPhone, tablet, mobile or games console ‘stand out from the crowd’, check out, http://peelzone.com/, create a Peel, starting from £9.99 for small devices and increasing to £17.99 for bigger ones, and personalise your fave gadget.

Blackberry World 2011 roundup

It’s all go in the BlackBerry ‘world’ – quite literally. The phone company recently hosted their BlackBerry World 2011 conference – and in the process unveiled plans for a whole smorgasbord of new smartphones, apps and software.

Blackberry-World

This summer should see the release of a new batch of BlackBerry smartphones – the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930. They’re purported to be the slimmest BlackBerry phones yet – and the most powerful too. They will feature a 1.2Ghz processor, 8Gb memory and the BlackBerry 7 OS but it seems like they’re be even more snug fit into your pocket. They still keep the classic BlackBerry keyboard layout so you can QWERTY away to your heart’s content.

If buttons isn’t your thing and you’re all about the touch screen, then users of the BlackBerry PlayBook – their attempt at tablets – are in for a bit of an app treat. The brainy boffins at manufacturers Research In Motion have devised a Facebook application ready made for the PlayBook, which is due out this month. It’s said to be optimized for its 7” screen and features the basic Facebook social networking functions.

They’ve also announced the PlayBook Video Chat application, allowing the tablet users to engage in video chats with other PlayBookers over a wi-fi connection. They claim that a ‘Video Chat call is the next best thing to being there’, and who’s to disagree? It remains to be seen if it will match the bravado of Apple’s FaceTime however, but it is surely worth a shot.

Blackberry music apps roundup

The BlackBerry, whilst enjoying some redeeming features, is seemingly lagging behind the likes of the iPhone when it comes to apps by a number of miles, puffing and panting, sweating and shaking. The race is pretty much over – but there’s always hope, and with a number of free music-related apps available to the BlackBerry, maybe things are looking up.

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Experienced music providers 7digital are on the BlackBerry scene with a free app, although we ponder the point in trying to rival digital music behemoth iTunes. Nevertheless, it offers the chance to purchase high-quality MP3s straight to your phone and lets you check out the latest charts.

Shazam is a crown jewel, despite being a relative veteran of the mobile music scene. Listening to a song on the radio but don’t know what it is? Turn Shazam on and within seconds it should be able to tag the song and tell you the artist and song. Its novelty however, like a knock-off pair of jeans, wears over time and obscure artists who haven’t released anything officially tend to leave poor Shazam a little dumbfounded.

For those who know the artist and title of a song but don’t know the lyrics however, then TuneWiki might be a bit more useful. It collates all the songs on your phone and streams the lyrics across the screen whilst it plays – a bit like subtitles for the musically inclined. It’s perfect for some impromptu karaoke sessions after one or four drinks perhaps – just watch out for liquid spillage…

There are also a number of popular paid apps available too, from the aptly named MP3 Ringtone Creator to the Ultimate Music Quiz, which tests your music knowledge using some 1,000 questions. It’s all a bit of damp squib however, and we’re left wondering if the BlackBerry should just stick to its true strengths – instantaneous email and instant messaging.

Premier Inn smartphone app: Booking made easy

For the travellers out there, Premier Inn  offer a new app allowing to book and manage you hotel booking on the go. Premier Inn is the UK’s largest budget hotel chain. Perhaps you are going away for a romantic weekend or a quick business trip. They say there is an app for everything, so why not one to book your hotel?

Premier-Inn-App

The Premier Inn is available not only on iPhone but Nokia, Android and Blackberry phones. It has real-time availability and prices of the all the UK hotels and it can also show where the nearest Premier Inn is, useful if you are on the go. The app has photos of the hotels so you can see what they look like before you get there.

A big plus about the app is it is free. I took the time to download and give it a test drive. The app was quick to load. There are hotel details which show the facilities available like parking, restaurants and disabled access. However, the icons are a bit small so it can be a bit hard to make out what some of them are. You can obtain the booking details and show them to concierge in arrival to make things a bit faster. There is a description of amenities near each hotel so you have an idea of the area which can prove useful if you do not know the area well. The app pinpoints the hotel so you can plan your route. It is a simple app to use with a simple premise which it does well.

The higher-end hotel chains have their own apps, some are elaborate and make booking difficult but Premier Inn is the first budget hotel chain to provide an app. If you stay in Premier Inn, this app is a dream. Available to download now from the iTunes store here. Sweet dreams!