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BlackBerry Leap Review: Refined Z3 with Bigger Battery and 4G Support
Blackberry, which is still struggling to get its devices to its past glory days has been evolving into a "more-like Android" lane off late. The movement towards the full touchscreen display and the omission of the classical keypad have both been sad and a scene of wonder.
However, trying to catch up with the Android-dominated market the company has yet again released its new full touchscreen featuring handset - BlackBerry Leap.
- Good battery life
- BB10 OS has a great productivity tool
- Screen is surprisingly crispy
- Expandable memory
- Heavy Phone
- Old Hardware
- Weak app market
- Camera struggles in low-light and nighttime
Don't be puzzled as the device closely resembles the company's previously launched mid-ranger BlackBerry Z3. But in terms of technical description it offer quite a lot.
Build and Design
The BlackBerry Leap appears pretty much like other rectangular smartphones with angular edges. The difference is that BlackBerry devices with such design language look and feel quite professional in many ways.
BlackBerry Leap employs a popular 5-inch edge-to-edge display, and in terms of dimension, the figures would be 144x72.8x9.5mm. It is a hefty device at 170 grams, but considering its metal frame, most would overlook its weight.
To precisely describe BlackBerry Leap's design, firstly, upfront at the bottom bezel, the BlackBerry trademark is eloquently visible. Flip the device and the textured pattern laid over the plastic panel on the back will be evident. This not only gives the device a design perspective but also acts offers a firm grip to the user's hand. On the top, above the BlackBerry logo the backpanel features an 8MP camera, and at the bottom-left you will see a tiny rectangular speaker grill too.
The side edges of the device from the back looks a bit rounded, which helps the device become less angular in shape.
The right side of the phone hosts the volume controls and the BlackBerry Assistant button, which calls up BlackBerry's virtual assistant, which is the company's rival software against on Apple's Siri, Android's Google Now and Microsoft's Cortana. You'll find the headphone jack and lock button up top, while the cover on the left hides the SIM card slot and the microSD slot -- it can support up to 128GB cards.
The 3.5mm headphone jack sits at the top-left edge beside the power button and at the bottom-edge there is a micro-USB port alongside a primary mic.
BlackBerry Leap sports a 5-inch HD LCD display (1280x720p) which churns out the pixel density of 293ppi. Although, the display looks much sharper if compared with the Z3 (a qHD-panel equipped phone), it fails to jostle against other competent devices from manufacturers like Samsung and LG. In plain words, the BlackBerry Leap's display is not crispier and sharper that other devices that fall under the same price category. Even more so, the display is not quite efficient during the daylight. The brightness fails to offer readability during broad daylight.
But it's just the sharpness that will hurt you in the display department. When GizBot had its experience with it, the display was impressively responsive and the viewing angles were also appreciable enough.
Another thing that might affect the buyers choice here is that Android smartphones including OnePlus One and Mi 4 come with 1080p display at the same price range, therefore, be precise and clear about why you are buying the BlackBerry Leap in the first place.
The BlackBerry Leap runs the company's latest Build 10.3.1 version of the BB OS. This OS is more suited for touch-interface, gesture control to be specific. Therefore, this being a full touchscreen smartphone, gesture usage becomes quite significant. Swiping up from the bottom bezel to minimize the opened apps and swiping from left to right becomes more of a habit with this handset.
From the home screen, swiping right will take you to the BlackBerry Hub, one of the key features of BB10, which is kind of email client, and a persistent notification provider (Social Media and other mailing services).
Basically, the BlackBerry UI is based on three pages: the hub, active panel and app panel. The hub stores all sorts of messages and notifications; the active panel shows the last accessed apps in collage format, and the app list shows all the apps installed on the phone.
BB10 is also latched with a voice assistant -- BlackBerry Assistant another main feature of the OS. This can be enabled by pressing the small key placed between the volume rockers on the right edge of the device. The voice-controlled feature in this phone makes it easy for users to change settings, launch apps, send messages, and perform contextual searches of content on the device or the web.
Although, Android users will find the phone a bit tricky and laid-back in terms of Apps due to lack of ample apps in the BlackBerry World, you will however, get quite a lot of Android Apps from Amazon's Android Appstore too.
Also, if you feel like you need more apps, you always have a freedom of sideloading Android apps if you know how to do it.
Other important built in features and apps include BlackBerry Meetings, BBM, Amazon Appstore and others.
Power and Processor
BlackBerry Leap is powered by a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor. This processor makes it fall off the competition in a larger way, but on the other hand, a 2GB RAM balances it interestingly.
Despite being a two year old processor, BlackBerry Leap during its stay with us didn't show any glitches and lag. Switching from one app to another was easy too. The Adreno 225 Graphic unit does a pretty decent processing work however, the heavy games don't seem to run with ease on this device.
We played less graphic-centric Android games with ease, however, games like Asphalt 8 didn't run as expected.
Storage and Connectivity
The smartphone comes with 16GB storage out of which 10.1GB will be user accessible. Thankfully, a microSD card slot that supports cards up to 128GB is also involved in the device.
Despite the lack of latest processing unit, BlackBerry has packed single-band rather than a double band WiFi modem. Anyway, WiFi 802.11b/g/n along with WiFi Display and Miracast support can be found here. Also Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS come in handy.
The one which we reviewed was an LTE model, which are available in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific with 2100 (band 1), 1800 (band 3), 2600 (band 7), 900 (band 8), 800 (band 20) MHz. In India, 4G LTE Band 3 is supported, which has not been rolled out as yet by any telecom operators.
BlackBerry Leap is powered by a modest 2800mAh battery, which is quite excellent in terms of lifetime it offers to the phone. The company claims that it offers up to 17 hours talk-time and up to 16.5 days of standby time, which makes it a pretty alluring device.
While we used it, the battery drained soon after one and a half day of intense usage. One of the things that makes the phone a good device is that it has a very effective battery and power saving features. This is surely the most important aspect of the BlackBerry Leap.
BlackBerry Leap is not much of a competitor to the latest flagship devices from tech-majors like Samsung and Sony. However, the 8-megapixel rear camera manages to take a pretty intense pictures. There is a 2-megapixel front-facing camera as well to take care of your selfies.
The low-light imaging is not much of a forte for BlackBerry and only when there is a good light condition and stable hands, pictures come out well. However, the phone's camera is quite simple to use and offers HDR mode. Since the shutter speed is not quite fast enough, the BlackBerry Leap struggles to take a perfect picture. The camera setting includes, flash control, aspect ratio, HDR mode, self-timer, panorama, burst-capture and time-shift shooting modes. Sadly, BlackBerry has not given the control over the ISO, exposure compensation and white balance to the users in this phone.
The pictures taken in the morning hours turned out to be fine but again at night it was embarrassing. Perhaps, this wouldn't be a smartphone if you were looking for taking those memorable pictures of your hiking and trekking.
BlackBerry Leap is not much of a premium device in a lot of ways but it does look professional. The display of the device is surprisingly quite impressive, overlooking the sunlight readability. Also since it packs all the BlackBerry's very own security functionality, the device is worth the attention.
Anyway, with Leap, BlackBerry has devastatingly failed to offer a balance between price and value. The old chipset, incompetent camera and a weak app market will sure affect the device's performance in the market. Also, the once popular and iconic BlackBerry keypad is casted off from this device which makes it even worse.
Frankly speaking, at the price of Rs. 21,490, the BlackBerry Leap will be the most expensive dual-core processor powered phone, leaving iPhones apart.
If you were to weigh BlackBerry Leap with Android devices falling in the same price range or lesser, surely, Alcatel One Touch Idol 3, Lumia 640 XL LTE, and even more influential devices would be the Xiaomi Mi 4 or OnePlus One.