The BlackBerry Q10 is the second BB10 smartphone and packs a physical keyboard but can it compete in today’s world of quad-core smartphones?
The BlackBerry Q10 is the first BlackBerry 10 smartphone with a physical keyboard, something which almost immediately puts it at a disadvantage, especially when you consider the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One is already impressing many with its Full-HD screen and blindingly fast performance. Both of which don’t have physical keyboards.
This is only a problem of course if you consider the BlackBerry Q10 as a phone that is in the same category as these flagship handsets. It isn’t, and truthfully it never could be. It’s a business phone, it’s BlackBerry’s bread and butter category and it's looking to make a statement of intent.
BlackBerry Q10: Size and build
Under the hood there’s a 1.5Ghz dual-core processor, it may not sound like much but in combination with the large 2GB RAM, the Q10 is zippy and responsive.
Storage comes in the form of 16GB internal while a microSD card slot lets you expand up to 32GB, there’s also NFC and a microHDMI out port.
With a large 3.1-inch SuperAMOLED display and a full 35-key QWERTY keyboard, the Q10 is considerably larger in surface area than its BlackBerry Bold 9900 predecessor. That’s not a bad thing though because at 139g it feels surprisingly light.
Where the BlackBerry Z10 predominantly featured plastic the Q10 has taken a more premium approach with a metal chassis accompanied with a carbon-fibre style back.
Rather bafflingly, the battery cover slides down to come off, something that many BlackBerry owners will know to be a very poor decision. On our first day using it the back would come off every time we pulled it out of the leather case.
Luckily once the case loosens up it becomes less of an issue but it’s still something that really should have been considered.
BlackBerry Q10: Features
The Q10 comes loaded with a QWERTY-optimised version of BlackBerry 10 known as BlackBerry 10.1. Set to be landing on the Z10 in the near future BB 10.1, for the time being at least, remains a Q10 exclusive offering all the normal features you’d expect like ‘Peek and Flow’, tiled multi-tasking and the BlackBerry Hub.
Included in the list of extras however is Keyboard Shortcuts which let you tweet straight from the homescreen simply by typing the word ‘tweet’.
This works for Facebook, LinkedIn and will let you search the web, send emails, the list goes on. It’s a great way of utilising the keyboard and offers a genuinely quicker alternative to simply going through each app.
One of our biggest gripes about BlackBerry 10 is the same issue we had with Windows Phone 8 and that’s the lack of big name apps.
We realise it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy (app developers won’t commit to a small app market, small app market won’t grow without big app developers) but if BlackBerry got WhatsApp to make an appearance then surely they should be working just as hard to get Instagram, Vine and IMDB to feature as well.
BlackBerry Q10: Screen
The 3.1-inch SuperAMOLED display is impressive. By opting for AMOLED BlackBerry have been able to tweak with the display with blacks using up far less battery by simply turning off the pixels.
Not only does this have a genuinely noticeable effect on the battery life it also offers the added bonus of images that have great colour and range. If there’s one complaint we do have it’s that it could be a little brighter, it’s a problem we found with the Z10 and under direct sunlight you could struggle.
BlackBerry Q10: Camera
BlackBerry has stuck the same 8MP rear-facing camera on the Q10 along with a 2MP front-facing camera. Both do their jobs admirably with the rear-facing camera performing well under good sunlight giving clear and bright results.
Another of the extra features to arrive with BB 10.1 is HDR functionality, by taking more than one image and then blending them together BlackBerry, along with every other major smartphone manufacturer is looking to solve the problem of low-light images.
Sadly we can’t report that it’s a complete success, while images do certainly seem a little brighter, the trade-off is a dulling of the colours.
A feature that works much better is Time Shift which lets you take a picture and then effectively go back in time on a face if that person had their eyes closed. It could have been a gimmick but as with the Z10 it works well.
So overall it certainly won’t replace your digital camera in the same way that the Sony Xperia Z could but it’s fine for casual shooting and social media uploads.
BlackBerry Q10: Keyboard
So this is what all the fuss is about. Before the arrival of flagship smartphones BlackBerry didn’t have to worry about putting a physical keyboard in, it was arguably quicker to use than the raft of early touchscreen devices.
Now though the smartphones have caught up and BlackBerry has to seriously justify removing such a large chunk of potential screen space for a set of physical keys. Thankfully it's pulled it off.
The keys are the largest they’ve ever been and the inclusion of large metal frets means there’s no worry of accidentally hitting the wrong key. They feel sturdy as well with each key giving a satisfying click that reaffirms why you went tactile in the first place.
Ultimately though it’s down to personal preference, where some will pick it up and be able to write far quicker than any touchscreen user others will simply see it as a step backwards.
BlackBerry Q10: Battery
Thanks to the screen tweaks (mentioned earlier) and the fact there’s only 3.1 inches of display to backlight the Q10 offers up a battery experience almost on par with the BlackBerrys of old.
With some light usage we were able to squeeze almost 12 hours without having to charge and around 8-10 hours with regular usage. In an age where everyone has to plug their iPhone 5 in by lunch this was a very pleasant surprise.
BlackBerry Q10: Verdict
Rather aptly, the Samsung Galaxy S4 could not have launched at a better time for BlackBerry, not in terms of sales of course.
Instead we’re referring to the phone itself. Overall reviews have been positive but one of the underlying points that were consistently raised was that Samsung has tried to do too much, clouding its original purpose with a raft of gimmicky new features.
We’ve reached a plateau where smartphones, even budget smartphones are more than fast enough for our daily needs, so it’s no longer about how many features you can cram into one handset, instead it’s about making sure that the few it has it does really well.
In this regard BlackBerry has created not only the best smarphone with a physical keyboard but also one of the best work smartphones you can buy today.
No it won’t play games very well and the small screen is almost entirely useless for watching films but that’s what 7-inch tablets are for, instead it focuses on being a fast and efficient worker, and honestly, you’d be hard pressed to find better.
BlackBerry Q10: Verdict
To try and compare the BlackBerry Q10 with the HTC One is like suggesting the JCB phone is comparable with the S4. They’re not, because they’re all designed to do very different things.
The Q10 is not a media-savvy gaming phone, instead it’s a great work device that offers a fast typing experience and a battery that will last you a full working day. If it has a flaw it’s that, like BB10 as a whole, it desperately needs well known apps.
BlackBerry Q10 release date: Out now in exclusively in Selfridges. On general release early May 2013
BlackBerry Q10 price: £579.99