BlackBerry unveils jumbo Z30 with company fate up in the air

The new device, which rocks a 5-inch display, stereo speakers, and a bigger battery, is introduced amid speculation over the company's sale.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
2 min read
The BlackBerry Z30. BlackBerry

BlackBerry hasn't thrown in the towel yet.

The company on Wednesday introduced the BlackBerry Z30, a new model that features a 5-inch display, stereo speakers, a bigger battery, and the latest version of its BlackBerry 10 operating system.

The Z30, which was previously known as the BlackBerry A10 when it was in development, and which CEO Thorsten Heins has alluded to, is the company's newest flagship smartphone, occupying the tier above the Z10 and Q10.

The Z30 comes as BlackBerry is actively "exploring strategic alternatives," which is business-speak for looking for a buyer. Speculation has ranged from partnerships and joint ventures to the company getting broken up into pieces that would be more palatable for purchase.

Concerns have mounted on BlackBerry's viability after a brutal first quarter, which saw a disappointing number of BlackBerry 10 devices sold. The company reports its fiscal second-quarter results next week. Reports of layoffs have only exacerbated those fears.

Indeed, despite a buzz-filled launch and early positive impressions, BlackBerry got swallowed up by the flood of other high-profile smartphone launches, including the Samsung Galaxy S4. The announcement comes as Apple is prepared to release iOS 7, and will launch the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S on Friday.

As such, it's no surprise that BlackBerry is choosing a more low-key format to introduce the Z30, one that doesn't involve a major press conference spanning multiple global locations, like the Z10 launch, or even at its developer conference, like the Q5.

BlackBerry appears to be taking a cue from the trend to go bigger with screen size, pioneered by Samsung and its Galaxy Note franchise. The Z30 features a 5-inch Super AMOLED display, as well as "top-of-the-line components," including a 1.7-gigahertz processor and quad-core graphics. The phone also features a larger 2,880 mAh battery, which it boasts is the largest put into a BlackBerry, which gets 25 hours of mixed use.

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins.
BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins holding the Z10 and Q10 at an event earlier this year. Sarah Tew/CNET

Other additions include stereo speakers and Paratek Antenna technology that it said would dynamically tune the reception and provide a better connection in low-signal areas.

On the software side, the Z30 will come with BlackBerry 10.2, which features an enhanced Hub that prioritizes certain contacts and messages, a new notification system with BlackBerry Messenger, and the ability to have icons on the lock screen for better messages and notifications. BB 10.2 will be available to existing BlackBerrys starting mid-October.

The Z30 will launch at select carriers and retailers in the U.K. and the Middle East starting next week, with other regions coming ahead of the holiday season. The Canadian carriers will release their availability dates "shortly," and details for a U.S. release would come soon, according to a representative.