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BlackBerry, and the “BlackBerry Boys" generation, has not had a truly affordable BB10 smartphone to upgrade to in a long time. The recent price cut for the Z10 smartphone (various offers peg it at around 16,500*) did offer one option. But the launch of the Z3 was perhaps always going to be critical for BlackBerry, in terms of whether it could match the $200 price of BlackBerry Z3 in certain other Asian markets.

Meanwhile, Sony has kept it simple and matter-of-fact with its fitness band, the SmartBand SWR10—no watch, no fun elements, no gimmicks, just a plain and simple band that tells you how much you have walked, run and slept, for example.

Sony SmartBand SWR10

5,990

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Sony’s SmartBand is a relatively less expensive fitness band for the health-obsessed

While it looks like a single-piece design, it isn’t. The very heart of the band is the rechargeable core—which contains a whole host of sensors and logs your every move. It weighs 6g, and sits neatly inside the silicon wristband. The core has a micro-USB port for charging, and tiny LEDs for various notifications.

You fasten the wristband using a pair of metal pegs, but sadly, this isn’t the neatest method around. A pull clamp like the Samsung Gear 2 would have been better, because the hair on the wrist invariably got pulled every time I tried wearing the Sony SmartBand.

Once this painful hair-pulling hurdle is crossed, things smoothen out. This band is compatible with all Android devices running Android 4.4 or later, and is not locked to Sony devices only, which means most of the current and previous generation Android flagships are covered. It worked well on a couple of phones we tested it on—the HTC One M8 and the Samsung Galaxy S5—but there is no word yet on when the iPhone may be compatible.

Connectivity options include Bluetooth and near-field communication, or NFC. Install and sign in to the Lifelog app on your phone, and the data from the band gets transmitted and logged to your account. On its part, the app gives you a rather detailed overview of your activity routine—steps walked, minutes walked and run, total hours slept, including the period of proper deep sleep. Not just the health bit, the Lifelog app also logs all your activity on the phone—how many minutes were spent on social networks, how much time was spent browsing the Web, or clicking pictures, for example.

You might assume that the constant Bluetooth connectivity would be a huge battery drain. But, over 24 hours, the phone lost just 10% charge on Bluetooth, with everything else turned off. Add that 10% to whatever your daily use is, and you get a good idea of when you will need to charge your phone next. The band’s own core lasts four days on a single charge, including vibration notifications for calls and SMSes on the phone.

The Nike+ FuelBand did exactly the same things, but in comparison, was a pain to use. There, the activity data and readings are mentioned as Fuel points, something that makes no sense to most users. With the SmartBand, you get actual real-world figures—minutes walked, minutes of deep sleep, etc., data a user can easily decipher.

The problem till now with all these health accessories was the price. At 5,990 for the SmartBand, Sony gets that out of the equation to some extent. What you need to figure out is whether you are obsessive enough to log how many steps you walk on a daily basis. While these results may not be medically admissible, they do give you a fairly good idea of how active you are.

BlackBerry Z3

15,990

The rumour mill had everyone convinced that $200 multiplied by 60 (the approx. US-dollar conversion rate) meant BlackBerry would price the Z3 at around 12,000. However, BlackBerry has announced a 15,990 price tag on the latest phone in India.

Straightaway, the sheer footprint of the phone catches your attention. With the 5-inch screen, the size is very similar to the Sony Xperia Z2, except that the BlackBerry is slightly less tall. There are no buttons or touch-sensitive keys upfront, because the BB10 operating system works on gestures. Flip the phone over, and the dotted pattern on the battery cover and the soft-feel finish really help in gripping this big phone.

The 5-inch screen has a fairly limited resolution—960x540 pixels. But that doesn’t lead to any usability issues. In fact, compared with a BlackBerry Z10 (4.2-inch screen with 1,280x768 pixels), the Z3’s screen doesn’t feel inferior at least as far as text readability and overall clarity are concerned. The only noticeable issue is that the Z3’s display doesn’t have deep black, which makes the rest of the colours less rich than the Z10’s display. Screen brightness levels are on the higher side compared to some other phones, which makes this very comfortable to use outdoors in sunlight.

Gestures have always been an integral part of BB10, and the interface is just fantastic to use on the big screen. The touch-sensitive panel around the screen responds consistently, and the extra screen size makes apps look much better. BB10 as an OS has always put apps at the forefront, with nothing else taking up the screen space. The updated keyboard (that update isn’t yet available for older BB10 phones) has a rather welcome language-swap feature. We quite like the idea of being able to type in Hinglish (part Hindi, part English) on the same keyboard. The preset dictionary for this keyboard understands both English and Hindi words, which means users may be able to type out messages more on the lines of conversational language.

BlackBerry has been fairly focused on the 2,500 mAh non-removable battery, calling it “huge". In our tests, as a primary phone the Z3 lasts two days on a single charge—3G or Wi-Fi connected throughout, mails and social networks syncing, etc. In comparison, the Z10’s 1,800 mAh battery, with the same usage load, would run out of charge in a day and a half. Both are good, but one is indisputably better.

For those who want a good camera in their phone, the Z3’s 5-megapixel snapper is not impressive. It will take adequate shots in good light, but not much can be expected in low-light shots. The camera app doesn’t offer a lot of settings options either.

For anyone upgrading from an older BlackBerry phone, the Z3 offers consistent performance, big-screen experience, good display quality, much improved battery life and a slick OS. The price difference, however, may lead to some confusion.

If the big screen on the Z3 is not a primary attraction for you, we would still recommend the BlackBerry Z10 (4.2-inch screen) because it feels way more premium—after all, it was launched as a fairly pricey flagship at one point, till the recent price revisions. For other potential customers, BB10’s ability to run most Android apps—yes, they run well—is perhaps an additional attraction for buying a BlackBerry phone now, be it the Z3 or the Z10.

*Prices may vary

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