It’s very rare to see a phone come out with a QWERTY keyboard these days, in fact, there aren’t any that are relevant anymore – except one – Blackberry’s Q10. The device packs the new Blackberry 10 operating system as seen on the Z10, shrinks the screen a little bit and adds a keyboard to it. I’m just going to come straight out and say this now – if you’re looking for an all-round phone that you can browse the web, email and then go play games and watch movies on, the Blackberry Q10 is not your best option. What the phone excels at, though, is being a brilliant communication device – read on to see why.
The Blackberry Q10 is primarily made of plastic and comes in two colours – black and white. On the front of the device, you will get a full QWERTY keyboard, a 3.1-inch 720 x 720 Super AMOLED screen and a 2-megapixel front facing camera. On the rear, there’s simply just an 8-megapixel camera with a single LED flash and a removable back cover with the Blackberry logo on it. The device feels nice in the hand and even though it is plastic, it still holds a premium feel to it. Slip the back case off and you have a removable battery, microSIM slot and a microSD card slot. One thing that drove me insane is that Blackberry kept to their traditions and had the microUSB port the side which continually got in the way if you were using the phone whilst on the charger. The unit I had was a white device, and although it looked quite nice, it got dirty very easily.
The screen is fantastic to look at, the Super AMOLED makes all the colours rich and vibrant and the PPI of 318 makes it look very crisp. The screen had no problems in direct sunlight, either and because of its small size, it wasn’t a battery sucker like most bigger handsets.
Of course, the marque feature of this phone is its keyboard – and it’s fantastic. Typing on a physical keyboard is ridiculously easy, so much better than typing on a touchscreen. Mistakes are made way less and having that physical feel gives you so much more confidence in typing quickly and longer than a touch keyboard does. It has other benefits too, like keeping more screen real estate when you’re typing and for me, I used it for buttons on a Gameboy Advance emulator, which again worked so much better than on-screen buttons.
Blackberry 10 is one of the more interesting mobile operating systems I’ve used lately, and it’s a really good one, too. How you interact by swiping between screens is very intuitive and makes using the phone such a fluid experience. The Blackberry Hub is always a highlight of the phone – what it does is keep all your messages, emails, BBM, phone calls and social network notifications in the one spot which you access simply by swiping to the left until you reach it. You can define in the settings which ones sync at what time, which ones are push sync and what types of notifications come out of it.
The email app and BBM are excellent as always and are still the best ways to message and email out of any smartphone.
Apps are kept in a 4×3 grid when you swipe farthest to the right and are displayed in a much similar way as to how apps are on Android or iOS. Multitasking on the Q10 and Blackberry 10 in general is one of the best I’ve experience on a smart phone, and it combines some elements from how Android, iOS, Windows Phone and WebOS multitask – and it does so very well. When you want to get out of an app you swipe up from the bottom of the screen and it then shrinks into a square that takes up a quarter of the screen – the app stays running the whole time. You can have videos going in the background, games, your browser, a BBM video call – whatever you want. But the point is, it is real multitasking with apps still running.
Of course, just like Windows Phone, its Achilles heel is the lack of apps in the Blackberry world. Blackberry claims that there are over 100,000, but a lot of those are dodgy Android ports and then most that aren’t still are very much in the old Blackberry style and not up to standards of modern smartphone apps. There are key apps missing too, and for me the biggest one wasn’t Instagram or my banking app, but the lack of music streaming apps. The only music streaming app available is Deezer, and it’s just a poor Android port that is hard to use due to the fact it hasn’t been designed to be navigated how you should on Blackberry 10 and there isn’t the back or option buttons it requires that are there in Android. You can convert Android apps that support 2.3 on BB10 quite easily if there are things you feel like you’re missing, but as I did, you will experience problems navigating with most due to the lack of support for Blackberry’s way of navigating.
Battery life, camera and performance
Battery life on the Q10 is phenomenal – even with 4G enabled. I managed to get through every day I used the phone with moderate to heavy use (a few hours of web browsing, social networks, emails, listening to music, taking pictures and making some calls) and still having around 40-50% left when I put it on the charger at around 10PM. Turning 4G off managed to make the battery life even better, with the same usage resulting in me having around 60% battery life left at 10PM.
The Q10 has a 2-megapixel front facing camera and an 8-megapixel rear camera with a single-LED flash. Both cameras aren’t fantastic – but they do the job. Taking selfies or any picture with the front facing camera usually results in a lot of graininess even with a lot of light, but if you’re using it to video call, it is perfectly adequate. The rear camera isn’t bad, it takes some alright pictures if the conditions are optimal but with slightly washed out colour. In day light, the pictures are crystal clear but as the light gets less and less, the pictures get grainy and dark more and more.
The device is powered by a 1.5Ghz Snapdragon S4 processor (same as found in Lumia 920, Blackberry Z10, Galaxy S III 4G) and 2GB of RAM, which makes performance great – it’s fast, there’s never any lag and it never leaves you frustrated with the speed of anything. Although the specs are a bit Q4 2012, the hardware is so well optimised to BB10 that it runs more fluidly than even a Samsung Galaxy S4 or HTC One.
Should you buy it
Do you like playing Angry Birds, Candy Crush and Temple Run? Do you like using your phone to watch movies and videos on? Do you use your phone to be your main camera? If you answered yes to any or all of those things then this phone probably isn’t for you. But, if you use your phone for emailing, text messaging, business, Facebook, Twitter and just as a communications device in general and want a great battery life and the ease of typing on a physical keyboard – then the Q10 is the device for you.
PS, for those doubting the Q10’s QWERTY keyboard still – I wrote this entire review on it.
The Blackberry Q10 is available for $699 from MobiCity.
– Battery Life
– Navigating BB10 is very intuitive
– Blackberry Hub works fantastic
– The physical QWERTY keyboard is so much better
– Small screen might deter some
– Lack of apps
– Average camera