Hands On with the BlackBerry Leap
Mar 3, 2015, 4:30 AM by Rich Brome @rbrome
updated Mar 3, 2015, 10:10 AM
BlackBerry’s strategy under its new CEO John Chen has been to dramatically cut down the number of phones the company pumps out. So a new all-touch phone like the Z10 is a big deal. That describes the Leap, although not completely. It’s very much like the Z10, but also much much lower-end. We spent some time with it. Read on for our impressions.
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The Z10 had decent specs when it came out. But it's been a while, and the Leap is almost the same exact phone. As the state of the art has moved forward, that leaves the Leap as a relatively low-end phone. The screen is larger than the Z10, but the other components are the same, including a measly 8-megapixel camera and a truly ancient Snapdragon S4 processor. It comes with 16 GB of memory and a memory card slot.
I feel like BlackBerry missed an opportunity to put some unique, differentiating feature in this phone. They did not. It's completely generic.
It's targeted at “young professionals”, which to BlackBerry means a certain amount of price sensitivity. I'm not sure that's any way to compete for the attention of people who'd probably rather have an iPhone, or anything trendier than this boring grey slab.
The Z10 had a nice design and materials. The Leap has neither. It looks as generic and cheap as a phone can. Its sides and back are made from a very soft plastic that feels somewhat rubberized. This helps the blocky phone feel more comfortable to hold. The grip is fantastic; this phone could never slip from your hand accidentally. While it feels solidly-built, the shape, materials, and weight do exactly nothing to convey quality. It feels cheap.
As for the rest of the hardware, the screen looks good, but the side buttons are terrible; they're too flush with the surface and they have to little travel and feedback. The lock button up top is a bit better, but only slightly.
The Leap supports LTE bands to work well in the U.S. on the AT&T and/or Verizon networks, and BlackBerry is proud to have a good relationship with those carriers again. I could see it coming to one of them eventually, although the initial launch market is Europe.
I have trouble putting my finger on who would buy this phone. The design and specs will attract zero consumer interest. There's no hardware keyboard. If you need a BlackBerry for work, one would hope your employer would spring for a better BlackBerry than this. So the target market seems to be very cheap IT departments, I guess? It's a head-scratcher.
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