Some things never change. The Indian consumer might have the latest iPhone, Samsung, Microsoft or Xiaomi smartphone to flaunt around, but the fact remains that whenever a person walks into a meeting room with a BlackBerry in hand, it is a validation that he is essential to his workplace. For the simple reason that this amazing device empowers the working professionals, especially at the middle and senior management level, with a magical ability to access their e-mail on the run, in the palm of their hands, that too without being plugged into the Internet.
Of course, other devices too offer this facility, but when it comes to handling e-mail, BlackBerry is simply the best. In other words, BlackBerry was, and still is, a much sought-after workplace device.
The last two BlackBerry handsets, the Classic and the Passport, both had physical QWERTY keyboards because there are still die-hard fans—myself included—who can’t bear to use anything other than real actual buttons when typing on a smartphone. Of late, the Canadian firm has realised that it is the affordable, mid-range segment of the market that is seeing fierce competition among the handsets makers. Hence, it makes business sense to be present in this super-hot market segment with its product offerings. To appeal to younger executives, BlackBerry has debuted a new touchscreen smartphone, called the BlackBerry Leap. It retails for R21,499 and is a judicious mix of decent hardware and software. Will this business handset appeal to the growing junior and middle staff? Will they leap with joy on finally having a BlackBerry in their hand? Let us find out.
A test unit of the new BlackBerry Leap was sent to us for a product evaluation. The first impression is the feeling you get when you hold it in your hand—it is a stylish device, though somewhat chunky, compared to the Q10 device that I presently use. Like all current BlackBerry devices, the Leap comes across as a serious business phone. The device is square-edged, minimalist in design and comes enclosed in a dark grey body. The company name and logo are on the bottom bezel. SIM and SD card slots are found of the left-hand side, while the volume and mute controls are on the right. Of course, the not-to-be-missed the red LED which alerts a user about the mail in Inbox is located on the top right side of the handset.
The Leap has an on-board keyboard, which works pretty fine. A user can type fast and accurately on the touchscreen keyboard that learns how you write. The Leap’s virtual keyboard provides an effortless typing experience with personalised next-word suggestions, which you can simply flick into your messages. In other words, simply refuse to be bound by the mistakes and missteps that can hold you back.
The Leap uses the same 1.5 GHz Qualcomm MSM 8960 processor as the two-year-old Z10 and the Classic. The phone has 8-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. Face detection is available on both, while the rear camera also has a handy auto suggest feature that recommends the best settings. The 5-inch screen has a resolution of 720 by 1,280 pixels (294 pixels per inch, or ppi) and it performs pretty well. Sure, it lacks a little of the crispness that you’ll find in more expensive BlackBerry handsets, but it provides a decent video-watching experience with good viewing angles.
Probing the innards, you can master your messages in the BlackBerry Hub. Messages from across your personal and professional roles, like BBM, text, email, and social media, all appear in one easy-to-manage view. BlackBerry Assistant allows you to manage your email, contacts, calendar and other BlackBerry 10 features through voice and text commands. It helps you to execute important tasks quickly in any situation, whether at your desk, in your car or in a meeting.
The Leap runs the latest BlackBerry 10 operating system, which supports the full complement of BlackBerry services.
The next generation OS is packed with powerful new features and innovative pre-installed apps. Once switched on, I personally believe that the device delivers a very smooth and fast smartphone experience. The phone’s built-in Wi-Fi can provide smooth and fast Internet browsing.
Company officials say that BlackBerry Leap was designed with the highest standards of security in mind to protect a user’s privacy. It is equipped with support for encryption, plus built-in malware protection and back-up, wipe and restore. All to give a user control and power to avoid falling victim to the next embarrassing and potentially costly cyber-attack.
In terms of actual usage, the Leap’s 5-inch high-resolution screen looks pretty good and the device impresses in terms of its performance and specs. It is good for office-related work, Web browsing, gaming, and above all, checking out e-mails. Most important, the device’s non-removable battery will give you 25 hours of mixed usage, which is probably about right. In fact, with a limited set of apps, I was able to do better than that.
Overall, the Leap is a mid-range device with a zippy performance. Given its affordable price tag, working professionals will love to flaunt it around.
** Dimensions: 144 x 72.8 x 9.5 mm (H x W x D)
** Display: 5-inch (1280 x 720) HD touch display
** Processor: Qualcomm MSM 8960 1.5 GHz
** Operating system: BlackBerry 10 OS
** Memory: 2 GB RAM, 16 GB Flash
** Camera: 8 MP (rear); 2 MP front fixed-focus camera
** Battery: 2800 mAH non-removable Lithium Ion battery
** Estimated street price: Rs 21,499