When RIM rebranded as BlackBerry and launched its biggest platform overhaul in years it was the touchscreen Z10 that led the path to market. It’s not perfect, but we think the BlackBerry 10 platform has a lot going for it. For fans of the old classic, physical keyboard that the brand is known for, it has been a long wait, but the Q10 has finally arrived. This spiritual successor to the Bold blends the old with the new, and it should be a real temptation for messaging addicts.
The Q10 really stands out from the crowd in the age of candy bar smartphones that are all touchscreen. The trend has been towards bigger and bigger displays, but the Q10 bucks that in favour of a square touchscreen with a full physical QWERTY keyboard beneath it. The edges are gently curved and metallic highlights break the keys into four straight rows. There’s no spacing between the keys on each row, but they are all ridged left or right depending on which side of the keyboard they’re on. The end result is a keyboard you can use by touch alone quite quickly.
Sliding round to the back there’s a single silver highlight and the BlackBerry logo on a glass weave pattern. It’s a soft touch finish which provides good grip and makes the Q10 very comfortable to hold. Up top you’ll find the headphone port and power key, on the right spine there’s the volume controls and a play/pause or voice control key, and on the left there’s a micro-USB and a micro-HDMI port.
It’s a Super AMOLED display with a 720 x 720 pixel resolution. Despite the 328 pixels per inch, which makes everything crisp and clear, it doesn’t look great next to the latest cutting edge displays and, at 3.1 inches, there’s no escaping the lack of screen real estate. It is perfectly responsive when it comes to touch controls, but if you’ve been using a full touchscreen smartphone then this is going to feel odd at first and it will take some getting used to. Thanks to the DLNA support and the micro-HDMI port it is easy enough to hook it up to a larger screen when you have to.
Powered by a 1.5 GHz dual-core Cortex A9 processor with 2GB of RAM, the Q10 feels snappy. You’re unlikely to test it out to the max very often because that screen is too small for movies and serious gaming (as it’s square you also have letterboxing to contend with).
You get 16GB of internal storage and you can boost that with a microSD card up to 32GB in size. You shouldn’t have any trouble with a lack of space. It will run on the latest 4G LTE networks and it has support for Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, GPS, and NFC.
The battery is rated at 2,100mAh and you’ll get more than a day of heavy usage out of it. That’s one of the benefits of a smaller screen size – it can last a lot longer between charges.
There was no scrimping in the camera department when BlackBerry put the Q10 together. It has an 8-megapixel main camera with an LED flash, and there’s a front-facing 2-megapixel camera as well. Shutter speed is good and you’ll find HDR as an option and a handful of scene modes. You can also capture shots in 1:1, as well as 16:9 and 4:3, which is great for big Instagram fans (if only there was a native Instagram app for BB10).
When it comes to video you can capture full HD 1080p footage with the main camera. You can also shoot 720p with the front facing camera. It’s easy to use and quality is good, but there really aren’t many built-in options.
The release of the Q10 also signals the first major update to the new platform in the shape of BB 10.1. The first release of a new platform always has flaws and oversights, so the update is a chance to smooth things over. The OS certainly feels smoother on the Q10 than it did on the Z10 when it launched. There have been quite a few additions as well, including HDR camera mode, PIN-to-PIN messaging, improved notifications, improved search functionality, and a host of other small improvements.
As a mobile platform it’s very accessible and easy to get to grips with. The Hub as a unified inbox is a particular highlight. The 10.1 update also improved the introductory help videos, so if you run into trouble that’s where to start. It feels a little barebones compared to iOS or Android, but that will suit some people. The real issue is the lack of apps. There are thousands to choose from, but many are ports that haven’t been designed with the Q10 in mind and it shows. There are also quite a few big name apps that anyone coming from iOS or Android might miss.
It’s tough to go to the Q10 from a cutting edge smartphone with a 5-inch display; it feels like a step backward. To some extent it depends what you want to use your phone for. If you want to play a lot of games and watch movies then the Q10 is not for you. If you miss having a physical keyboard then you’ll love this one, and for browsing the web and messaging the display is perfectly adequate. The trouble is that developments like Swype have really improved the touchscreen typing experience and so the idea that you’ll be able to type faster and be more productive with the Q10 doesn’t really hold true. Basically, if you’re a die-hard Bold fan, then this is the phone you’ve been waiting for. If you’ve moved on then there’s no going back.
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