With its ‘proper’ QWERTY keyboard the Q10 will certainly delight the BlackBerry faithful (it also boasts an excellent battery life and a high-quality Super AMOLED screen), but does it justify its £580 price tag?
The last time BlackBerry launched a touchscreen handset with a QWERTY keyboard was two years ago, with the Bold 9900. It was less than impressive. The touchscreen was more of a gimmick, providing virtually nothing you couldn’t do on the physical keyboard.
Now BlackBerry is trying again with its new Q10 handset. This is a follow-up to the full touchscreen Z10 which went on sale at the beginning of the year.
The Q10 and Z10 are closely related with features and functionality that might have been copied and pasted.
However, in terms of design, they couldn’t differ more. The Q10 is clearly attempting to appease the BlackBerry faithful who didn’t fancy jumping ship to the more modern-looking Z10.
On the button
Buttons and access points around the device remain in familiar positions: the power button along the top, volume control down the right.
The headphone jack is on the top rather than the left side. Next to the USB charging point is a microHDMI slot for linking to digital TVs and computers. This could be positioned elsewhere given the number of times I tried to incorrectly connect the charger cable for the HDMI slot.
The 3.1-inch screen is a third bigger than the Bold 9900. This has been made possible by removing the touchpad joystick as well as most of the function buttons from beneath the screen, to navigate around the device, so users must navigate via the touchscreen. The bigger size means it’s comfortable to hold with a thumb naturally hovering above the screen, that makes using it an easy and comfortable experience.
There is no divide between the screen and the top row of the keyboard; both are now in a straight line, rather than the familiar downward curved shape.
A solid keyboard is what makes BlackBerry ‘famous’. It continues to be simple to use and gives accurate typing results – unlike many touch versions (including the Z10). The keys are the biggest we’ve seen on any BlackBerry device and a small metallic bar separates each row, making the keyboard one of the easiest we’ve used.
The BlackBerry cover is easily removed with a simple sliding down motion. Users of the Bold 9900 and Z10 will know how fiddly it can be to remove the cases of those devices – the Bold required a tough fingernail or coin to prize open. Under the cover you’ll discover a large Li-Ion 2100 mAh battery, which makes up much of the Q10’s overall weight.
Booting up a BlackBerry handset can take a long time. The Q10 (as with the Z10) is quicker, but you still have time to make a cup of tea before it’s ready to go.
Part of the delay is the need to agree with BlackBerry’s terms and conditions without which you can’t start the device – I’ve read shorter Stephen King novels than the small print here. And if you disagree you may as well get a refund, because you won’t be able to use the device without agreeing.
There are even more agreements to be made for various apps and even Messenger (does anyone actually read this legal gibberish?) At initial start-up, BlackBerry guides you through the set-up process, such as creating passwords and a BlackBerry ID and attaching an email account and Wi-Fi. It’s a slow process, but it teaches you how to find your way around the device even if you’re a BlackBerry veteran.
The Q10 runs off a slightly tweaked version of the BB10 operating system, debuted on the Z10, with BB10.1.
The minimal tweaks are to accommodate the keyboard. Modifications include the ability to search simply by texting at any time on the home screen; entering words such as ‘text’ or ‘music’ brings up a shortcut. Another minor difference is the number of shortcut features along the bottom of the menu screen. Also, while the Z10 has three shortcuts along the bottom of the screen ‘calling’, ‘search’ and ‘camera’, the Q10 only has two, omitting ‘search’.
It’s important to stress again just how different the BB10 operating software is to BlackBerry users holding out for this device rather than the Z10 – even the most experienced BlackBerry users will need to spend a little bit of time learning the new ways of manoeuvring around the handset.
The Q10 looks like a BlackBerry, it feels a lot like a BlackBerry, but it doesn’t work like a BlackBerry. And that’s its biggest problem. Using the Z10, you simply have to adjust to the new method; the Q10, however, is a mix of old and new, so you expect certain processes, some of which have remained and some of which have gone.
The removal of the navigation keys makes for a difficult initial transition. Once through the learning curve however, the system is a joy to use. So be patient.
When receiving a phone call, the number or name of the person will appear towards the top of the screen with an arrow pointing downwards. This can take some getting used to, and requires a considerable amount of accuracy or it will simply continue to ring. Personally, I found this to be too fiddly.
However, for the more calm and composed amongst you, the call quality is excellent either through the earpiece or loudspeaker.