July 8 2014: That great American humorist, Mark Twain, was in England to cover Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1897, when he learned that a New York newspaper had carried his obituary. He sent a wry message to his own paper: "The report of my death is an exaggeration!"
For many months now the media has been predicting the imminent demise of Blackberry, whose phone-cum-messenger became one of iconic communication products of this century. But Blackberry won't die -- it just reinvents itself smartly, with every changing scenario. Last year it moved beyond the classic Blackberry keyboard to launch a touch phone -- the Z 10 -- in recognition of evolving user preferences. It followed this with the Z30 -- another touch phone but costing over twice as much.
Now it has come back with a bang with the Z3 which at Rs 15,999 is priced at exactly what the Z 10 cost but with much better specs. It was launched in Indonesia and Africa before coming to India and is clearly Blackberry's shot across the bows of competing value smartphones. So what does it have going for it?
Blackberry's agni astra or secret weapon ofcourse, is BBM or Blackberry Messenger, still the most secure form of communication. But for the touch phones, they created a Hub where you can get almost every important function of the phone in a single view. The phone works with intuitive gestures -- swiping down brings up your personal shortcuts, swiping up exits an app; swiping up and to the right takes you to the Hub. I must admit to a few false starts -- the gestures take some getting used to. Hardcore classic Blackberry users who swear by those tiny keys, may rebel at having to use a soft keyboard, but that's the way the garam hawa is blowing folks!
At 5 inches, the phone is phone and clearly not a phablet. The two cameras 5 megapixel and 1.1 megapixel are fairly standard. I enjoyed the Time Shift feature which allowed me to chose the best still photo from a quick burst of shots. 1.5 GB of RAM is fine but just 8 GB of storage is theek hai rather than wah wah! Ditto for the 540 by 960 pixel screen which is just shy of a 720p HD.
One cool feature for India is the Hinglish capability: the keyboard is a fast learner and will soon second- guess you. Working on the latest BB10.2.1 OS, the browser seemed really fast .
We Indians are price conscious -- but I think the combo of the Blackberry name and the newest gesture-and-touch controls will seem like good value for many smart phone purchasers. And to Blackberry's obituary writers, I say, a la Mark Twain: BB mey abhi thak dum hai! ( there's life in BB -- yet!)