Even With 'Awesome' New BlackBerry Z30, Partners Still Skeptical Of Success


Struggling phone maker BlackBerry is going big with its Z30 handset that sports a supersized 5-inch display, faster processor, stereo speakers and an update to version 10.2 of its operating system. The flagship smartphone, announced Wednesday, arrives just as the company says it's exploring "strategic alternatives." BlackBerry partners say because of the company's uncertain future, the Z30 faces an uphill challenge gaining traction with users.

"The best technology doesn't always win," said David Felton, CEO and founder of Canaan Technology in Norwalk, Conn. "BlackBerry has an image problem, not a technology problem," he said. The BlackBerry Z30, Felton said, is superior to competing Android and Apple smartphones -- namely the recently announced 5C and 5S.

The Z30 will launch next week in England and the Middle East, with all other regions to follow, BlackBerry said. U.S. carriers will announce availability, and pricing, "shortly."

[Related: With BlackBerry 10, Partners Pumped For A Comeback]

The Z30's standout specs are its large 720p 5-inch Super AMOLED display and a beefed-up antenna technology that claims reception improvements for the Z30 in low-signal coverage areas.

Features include:

• 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon chip
• 2 GB of internal memory
• Stereo speakers for what BlackBerry calls "Natural Sound"
• 2,880 mAh battery for 25 hours of mixed use
• BlackBerry 10.2 OS (featuring an enhanced "Hub" that prioritizes contacts and messages, a new notification system, among other things ).

Felton said it will be a miracle if the Z30 gives BlackBerry the mojo it desperately needs. "Specs don't lie. This will be the best phone on the market," Felton said. But, he said, customers and the media are too preoccupied with BlackBerry's struggles, such as layoffs, collapsing market share and if the company will be acquired in November.

Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry is expected to face further scrutiny next week when it will release its fiscal second-quarter results. According to IDC, in May Microsoft overtook BlackBerry, claiming third place in the 2013 smartphone shipment race.

During the first quarter of 2013, Windows Phone devices accounted for 3.2 percent of all smartphones shipped around the world, while BlackBerry devices made up 2.9 percent of the market share.

PUBLISHED SEPT. 18, 2013