BlackBerry Z30 review: Against the odds

Hristo Zlatanov, 6 November 2013.

Office documents

The BlackBerry Z30 comes with a full-blown Office document editor - you wouldn't expect any less, would you? It's called DocsToGo and can both view and create Word and Excel documents. It can edit PowerPoint presentations too, but not create new ones.

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The Word editor has all the text formatting features you'll need - everything from the standard bold, italic, underline through text justification, text and background color, font and text size, super and sub scripts, to list and paragraph styling.

The Excel editor works with multiple sheets, cell formatting and formulas, though we would have appreciated a formula editor of some sort. We're no Excel experts so typing out the formulas by hand out of memory was a real challenge.

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Word document editor Excel document editor

PowerPoint presentations can be edited too, but only for small tweaks - you can't create new presentations from scratch or even add new slides. The Present option is pretty sweet though - it displays the slide through HDMI to the TV/projector, while showing you the notes for the slide on the phone's screen.

Adobe Reader is on board for viewing PDF files.

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PowerPoint viewer PDF viewer

All that's great for the Z30, but we do feel the lack of a cloud solution. Sure, you can sync your docs through Dropbox or Box, but Windows Phone has cloud integration with Microsoft's Office 365 and SkyDrive services and Android has Google's Drive. These services handle both cloud storage of files and editing them online in the browser too, something BlackBerry Z30 users might appreciate.

At the time of this writing, there are no official apps for Office, SkyDrive or Drive integration, though there are third party apps that do support them.


The organizer is a big part of every business phone and luckily BlackBerry didn't repeat the PlayBook blunder of not putting a native calendar app (their tablet didn't have contacts or email at first either). No worries though, BB OS 10 has a worthy calendar.

It has a tabbed interface and several different ways to view your appointments. The first tab is for daily view and it has three view modes - Agenda (a list of all events), People (events sorted by who's attending them) and Schedule (a list of events for the day, positioned by when the start).

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Daily view of the calendar has three modes

Then there's weekly view, which has two modes - show only workdays and show the whole week. Finally, there's month view if you need a broader look of what's ahead. Multiple calendars are supported and they are color coded, so you can easily tell which event comes from where (e.g. your personal Gmail account or the work calendar).

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Weekly and monthly views

Each event has a reminder and can change your status for the duration of the event (Busy, Out of office, etc.). Viewing an event shows you three tabs - event details, who's invited (invitations are sent over email) and emails related to that event.

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Viewing an event who's attending emails about it editing an event

The calendar will warn you if two events are close together and the active frame of the app shows the next event for the day. One problem with the calendar we encountered was that the time and date picker crashes the app every single time.

While the calendar is good at scheduling things, it's not that great at keeping notes and other info you might need. This is where Remember steps in. You can add items to Remember from the app itself or just flag something in the BlackBerry Hub.

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Remember is like a scrapbook for ideas

Each entry can be assigned to a folder (and folders can be color coded). Entries start off pretty simple - a subject and some additional notes, plus a message if the entry was added by flagging something in the Hub. From here you can add due date info, attach a photo, a voice note or any file. You can tag entries, but there's no easy way to sort entries by tags.

The Clock app features the same clock as the Bedside mode on the lockscreen. You can switch to a digital watch face if you prefer. You only get one alarm, you'll have to use calendar reminders if you need more. The alarm can have a recurrence pattern (in which days of the week it's active) and a customizable snooze time.

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The Clock app setting the alarm

The Clock app also has a World clock, stopwatch and a timer.

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World clock stopwatch timer

The BlackBerry Z30 also has a Calculator app. It's slightly more advanced than most stock calculators with memory, square root and brackets visible by default. Results from your calculations go on a strip of "paper" that gets ripped off when you hit clear. Flipping the phone horizontally brings out the advanced calculator with more functions.

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The calculator checking the results of previous calculations advanced mode

The app also has unit converter and tip calculator modes. The tip calculator has undergone a slight UI revamps and no longer displays a ripped paper and we have to say we like the new one better. The clock feels a bit out of place with the rest of the interface that's closer to Windows Phone than early HTC Sense in graphical style, unlike these two apps.

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Unit converted tip calculator

The Weather app pulls info from AccuWeather and shows the forecast for today and the next four days. You can add multiple cities and see an hourly forecast too. The app switches between a bright blue and black backgrounds depending on whether it's day or night in the selected city.

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Weather app hourly forecast switching cities