There is no doubt that the BlackBerry Z10, which was officially launched in India today, is a premium handset. However, whether it is as premium as BlackBerry claims it to be, is still up for debate.

The Z10 arrives with an MOP tag of approximately Rs 42,000 and an official price of Rs 43,490. At that range, its specification sheet starts to pale in comparison to the other similarly-priced handsets. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S3 was launched in the middle of last year at around the same price as the BlackBerry Z10. However, it had a quad-core CPU along with a 720p screen and is currently retailing for Rs 28,000.

The BlackBerry Z10 is priced at Rs 43,490

The BlackBerry Z10 is priced at Rs 43,490

The LG Optimus G, which is fresh on the stands is similarly specced to the S3 and is being sold for Rs 30,990. Other quad-core handsets are available for even less. The Micromax Canvas HD, notably is priced two times less than the Z10, and will cost consumers Rs 13,990. All of these handsets are priced much lower than the Z10 and clearly inch the contest when it comes to raw processing power.

In fact at that range, the Z10 will go up against the likes of the HTC Butterfly, the Xperia Z (expected to launch for Rs 45,000) and the Apple iPhone 5, all of which are priced between Rs 42,000 and Rs 50,000. Each of these phones offer something significantly better than the Z10; the Butterfly and Xperia Z have a 1080p display, while Apple has an established ecosystem and the iPhone delivers a tension-free smartphone experience in a high-end unibody design.

The Z10 is priced similarly to the iPhone 5

The Z10 is priced similar to the iPhone 5

Unfortunately for BlackBerry, the Z10 arrives at a time of major hardware overhaul in the smartphone industry. The standards or benchmarks for specifications have been altered massively since the time we first heard about the Z10’s specs. So much so, that while the company may like to call the Z10 top-of-the-line, its specs match today’s mid-range handsets from other major OEMs. 720p screens have been commonplace for a while and so have dual-core processors, both big aspects of the Z10’s spec sheets. The dual-core Snapdragon Krait processor or the TI OMAP, the two CPU variants of the Z10, are powerful, but trail the latest quad-core CPUs in raw benchmark numbers.

Then there is the 8-megapixel camera, which would have looked great on a flagship last year or the year before that, but the Z10 seems poorly outfitted in the light of HTC’s Ultrapixel technology and Sony’s 13-megapixel Exmor RS sensors. Both manufacturers have tricked out their camera firmware with the latest in imaging technology. BlackBerry has not beefed up the Z10’s camera since its first public appearance last year. However, it does have a neat Time Shift feature, which allows users to choose from a bunch of images and change the subject’s expressions. It is similar to burst-mode, but is implemented differently in the Z10.

On the face of it, things look bad for BlackBerry. Of course, it is not only about the specs sheet; BlackBerry comes with peace of mind when it comes to your data and communication. It is generally considered the most secure mode of communication for enterprises. For die-hard ‘Berry fans, that’s reason enough to shell out the big bucks. However, it will be a major jump for them from paying top-dollar for the BlackBerry Bold 9900, launched for Rs 32,500 in India in late 2011, to the current Z10. A jump in price of nearly 30 percent could be a bit too much for even the most ardent BB lover, who could consider any of the Z10's competitors in that range.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 has recently seen a price drop

The Samsung Galaxy S3 has recently seen a price drop

And the BB10 OS does bring some cool new features like BlackBerry Remember and BBM Video and the core apps seem well-integrated. It has been designed to be easily operated with one hand, bucking the trend of large-screened Android smartphones. In a world, where smartphones with larger screen sizes and shrinking PPIs are selling like hot cakes, the Z10 is a refreshing change with a 720p screen on a relatively compact 4.2-inch display. It will certainly please the purists who are looking for a touchscreen switch.

The BB10 OS is generally speedy, even though it has its share of bugs. The BlackBerry World storefront for apps, games and content is only starting out and despite a good launch will need to attract original development and a lot of work is pending in this regard. Android, iOS and Windows Phone all offer more apps, a more mature ecosystem and do have an established fan base, a bulk of which moved from BlackBerry in the first place.

All this begs the question, why the BlackBery Z10 carries such a premium price tag. We cannot see a very good reason. The build quality as we have seen is very good indeed, but that alone cannot be driving up the price. Everything else on the specs sheet is middle-of-the-pack when it comes to 2013 flagships.

The way things stand, BlackBerry is poised to enter the market with a handset that is clearly not equal among its peers, overall. This could be a huge body blow for the company that is resting all hopes of a revival on this handset and the new OS experience it brings to the table. We really cannot see a reason why the company has made the Z10 such a premium handset. It is the most expensive BlackBerry handset ever to launch in India and will definitely have its share of fans, but if BlackBerry were looking to disrupt the market with their offering, a wiser pricing strategy should have been employed.

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