Phones used to have slide-out and folded keyboards. But they were, first and foremost, phones -- with QWERTYs hastily strapped to the sides of them. Then BlackBerry came along. Rather than dessert, typing was the main course, a full meal of encrypted e-mail and BBM messenger. Loyalists were hooked.
At least, that's what BlackBerry had hoped. When the smartphone revolution hit, it stubbornly clung to the past. "Businessmen want business devices, not iPhones," its ousted CEOs had said. The company then slowly lost its flock, as Apple and Android prospered. The rest, as they say, is history.
But a turnaround is on the horizon. The Q10 and flagship Z10 are a new breed of BlackBerrys that run on BB10, a platform designed from the ground up to match the highest-end devices.
It looks like a classic, but don't be fooled -- it's a giant leap forward. The well-designed hardware and impressive software make it a complete package. But best of all? The tried-and-true keyboard is even better. So if you've abandoned BlackBerry, but you still yearn for that keyboard, the Q10 is here to lure you back. Welcome back, QWERTY.
Unlike the full-touch Z10, the Q10 keeps its traditional BlackBerry silhouette -- a rounded device with a four-row keyboard below the display that harks back to the Bold. If you've used a Bold or Curve, it feels like you've reunited with a long-lost friend.
At just under five ounces and 0.4-inches, it's a smidge heavier and thicker than the iPhone and Galaxy S4. Aluminum edges give the body rigidity, and a glass-weave coating on the back adds a grippy texture.
To make room for the keyboard, the 3.1-inch screen is tiny -- a bit too small for me. I strained my eyes trying to see the details in movies. It doesn't sacrifice clarity, though. In fact, at 320-pixels per inch, it's even sharper than the iPhone's Retina display. It's not particularly bright, though, but blacks are deep and viewing angles are wide.
The centerpiece, of course, is the keyboard, and it's everything you expect and more. First, the buttons are 30 percent larger, making them easier to type on. Yet they're still well-spaced for speed and accuracy. Each key also has a slight ridge and curve, so you can feel the center of each one for no-look typing. When you press down, a confident "click" tells you the input has registered. Those little details make BlackBerry the best at QWERTYs, and your fingers will fly.
But the highlight is the prediction engine. As you type, it suggests what word may come next and shows them along the bottom of the display. So, for example, when I type "I," it shows me "I'm," "I've" and "I'll." If I choose "I'm," it'll suggest "going." On average, I cut out 60 percent of the keystrokes. In some cases, a single tap is all I needed for a word. The more you use it, the more phenomenal it gets at predicting the way you write. It's simply amazing.
The 8-megapixel camera and f/2.2 lens, meanwhile, are just okay. Indoors, photos were accurate and well-exposed, but outside and they tend to wash out for a dull and lifeless feel. If you need greater exposure, there's HDR mode, but it has a tough time with bright sunlight, too. The camera will do in a pinch, but it's a big step down from the iPhone and S4.
The filters are pretty bare-bones too, but there's a few goodies like "Time Shift," which captures multiple shots and lets you choose the best expression for each face. You can also record 1080p high-definition video or chat with the 2-megapixel lens on the front.
BB10 is nothing like earlier BlackBerry software. Instead of e-mail, it's built around apps, so simple swipes like up and down bring up settings, notifications and open apps, while left or right gestures let you scroll through homescreens. All your communication -- messages, e-mail, calls or Facebook and Twitter -- is pull together in Hub, the intuitive central nervous system. You can also run multiple apps at once, so quickly hop over and check e-mail while on a conference call.
You can now make free voice and video calls on BBM. And there's voice recognition, but it's not very accurate. You can also share your screen to collaborate.
If you use your phone for work, Balance can separate your work and personal apps and data. It's not just different homescreens; it's a complete divorce of your 9-to-5 business from your personal use. That means you won't accidentally pocket-dial an important client or receive a crude photo from your idiot friend Larry during an important meeting. It's like carrying two devices in one. If you need an extra layer of security, it's a must-have for any professional.
The biggest problem, though, is the lack of third-party apps. BlackBerry got the ball rolling with 700,000 apps, but it has a bit of catching up to do before it matches Apple and Android. You'll find the big boys like Angry Birds and Foursquare, but popular ones like Instagram, Spotify and Google Maps are missing.
The 1.5-gigahertz dual-core chip, backed by 2-gigabytes of RAM, is speedy. Apps booted up quickly and menus scrolled smoothly. I did notice a small bit of hiccup or two when running a lot of programs in the background. For the most part, everything was fast, though.
With heavy use, the 2,100 mAh battery lasts around two days, which is amazing for a smartphone. Of course, the small display helps, but don't worry -- the Q10 is rock-solid. It comes with a paltry 16-gigabytes of storage, though, so pick up a microSD card. Just slide it in the back, under the battery.
The Q10 is one of the only devices with a truly well-made QWERTY. BlackBerry has always been the best at keyboards, and the Q10 is no exception. If you e-mail and text a lot, it's the device you've been waiting for.
But the mediocre camera and the small screen aren't ideal for Web browsing or watching movies, and there are better phones with bigger displays. Really, the question is, how badly you need a great keyboard?
If you don't need the QWERTY, take a look at the higher-end Z10. It's a full-touch device with the same features of the Q10, but you get a brilliant display with a nearly-as-good virtual keyboard. For Android, the HTC One and S4 are the top-tier, while the iPhone is always a great. They're multimedia kingpins, do-it-all devices.
If you need a QWERTY, though, your choices are few and far between. You can take a look at Samsung's Stratosphere 2 and LG's Mach, but both are mediocre at best. Otherwise, your best bet is an old BlackBerry like the Bold. The Q10 is simply heads and shoulders above them all. ♦
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After joining the Apple horde for more than three years, I was to jump ship. I came from the iPhone. Now, there's nothing wrong with it, it's a great device, but I was just tired of seeing other platforms slowly catch up. Apple isn't the dominant force it once was.
When BlackBerry unveiled BB10, I was excited. I'd never been a BlackBerry fan and I'm not a businessman, either. So I was completely new to the experience.
Boy, oh boy, what can I say? I know everyone raves about the keyboard, but I had no idea it was this good. It's so easy to type on. My fingers are a bit larger than most, and I always felt the iPhone's virtual keyboard wasn't very comfortable -- I'd always mistype, damn you autocorrect. But on the Q10, I've never typed e-mails and texts faster. It's just the right size, even for me. Fantastic.
I use it mostly for Facebook and Twitter, so I take a lot of photos, and they come out great both indoors and out. It's even better than my iPhone 4. I don't record videos as much, but clips are just as good. BB10 sort of reminds me of iOS. The menus are intuitive and the touch is easy to use. And Hub pulls everything together. A flick of a finger brings up everything that's important -- e-mails, messages and social network updates -- it's just great
The apps are pretty meager, though. I have everything I need preinstalled -- calendar, e-mail and Facebook and Twitter -- but if you want to download some third-party apps, there's a lot you won't find. Overall, the Q10 isn't just for business. If you want a phone that's great for typing, it's a great choice. I'm very happy with it.Was this review helpful to you?
I have been a Blackberry user for business for the last seven years and have been mourning the death of my old BB Bold after being presented with this piece of rubbish.
Like most BB users a full qwerty keyboard means that you can write sensible emails whilst on the go which is a reason for choosing this phone over the Z10.
The real issue that I have with it is that is is just not very intuitive and I seem to spend quite a lot of time trying to escape from a screen unsuccessfully. Six of of my colleagues who also got an upgrade at the same time are of the same feeling that Blackberry have just tried to over complicate things. What would have been really helpful is if they had of kept the wheel and the home button so that at least you had some form of escape.
My honest feeling is that if you are someone that is a bit of a techno phobe then I suspect that you will find this quite frustrating to use.Was this review helpful to you?