BlackBerry Q10 review

BlackBerry Q10 review

Summary: If you're a fan of keyboard-equipped BlackBerry smartphones, you won't be disappointed by the Q10. However the app store needs filling out and the small, square screen isn't ideal for some uses.

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  • Editors' rating:
    7.0
  • User rating:
    7.7
  • RRP:
    £441.67

Pros

  • Excellent QWERTY keyboard
  • Some compelling keyboard-based features
  • LTE, NFC and HDMI support
  • BlackBerry Balance keeps business and personal usage separate

Cons

  • BlackBerry World needs more apps
  • Small 3.1-inch screen

Back in January, Research In Motion announced its name-change to BlackBerry and launched the long-awaited BlackBerry 10 OS along with two new handsets — the Z10 and the Q10. The Z10 was given to journalists attending the launch event, and reviews quickly followed. The Q10 has only recently hit the market, and is now available from all major operators as well as SIM free.

The delayed arrival of the QWERTY-keyboard-equipped BlackBerry Q10 may disappoint diehard BlackBerry fans, but it's been clear for some time that touchscreen-only handsets are now the main focus for smartphone makers.

bb-q10-1
The Q10 has a 3.1-inch, 720-by-720-pixel screen and a QWERTY keyboard, but no control buttons between screen and keyboard as in previous 'classic' BlackBerry smartphones. It measures 119.6mm (4.7in.) by 66.8mm (2.62in.) by 10.35mm (0.4in.) and weighs 139g (4.9oz). (Image: BlackBerry)

Design
There's no mistaking the fact that the Q10 is a BlackBerry handset. The keyboard says it all, with distinctive rows of keys separated by bands of silver, and the shaping of the keys themselves, giving all the clues you need.

The keyboard is absolutely superb. Keys are easy to find under the fingers thanks to their centre ridges, and depress firmly when pushed; they even click a little. There's a small nubbin on the D key whose second function is the number 5, helping you find the number keys by feel easily. We don't want to appear gushing, but BlackBerry still makes the best physical smartphone keyboards by a country mile.

bb-q10-keyboard
The excellent Q10 keyboard combines with BlackBerry 10 OS features such as contextual autocorrection, next-word prediction and a personalised learning engine to deliver a superb typing experience. (Image: BlackBerry)

BlackBerry has moved away from the curved keyboard design it has used in recent devices, presumably to maximise screen space. The design is the first from BlackBerry without a section between screen and keyboard offering shortcut buttons and some sort of screen navigation device.

This also allows more space for the screen, although it does mean that all navigation has to be based around the touchscreen or the keyboard. It's relatively easy to place a voice call, as there's a call button on the bottom of the handset's app drawer and on running app screens. Tapping it takes you into the phone app, where you can access contacts.

Despite BlackBerry's best efforts, the Q10's screen is small, measuring 3.1 inches across the diagonal and just under 2.25 inches square. It's a Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 720 by 720 pixels (330ppi) that delivers a bright and sharp — but just too small — image.

Web browsing is an uncomfortable experience requiring either lots of horizontal and vertical scrolling or a diversion into Reader mode, which strips out all everything except text, allowing you to read content with vertical scrolling only. This works, but we felt we missed out on important and useful elements of designed web pages when using Reader mode. We weren't happy with video viewing either — bigger screens really are better for this kind of thing.

bb-q10-sides
The Q10 comes in black or white and has a volume rocker on the right plus Micro-USB and Micro-HDMI ports on the left. At the back, under the removable battery cover, there's a MicroSD card slot for storage expansion. (Image: BlackBerry)

The Q10 is a solid feeling handset with a nice sturdy build. It may be a little too substantial for some people, at 10.35mm (0.4in.) thick, but we found it quite comfortable to hold and use. The rocker button for volume control is well placed on the right edge, with a central mute button that doubles up to pause video and initiate voice control. The upper and lower parts of the volume rocker can be used to take photos when the camera software is running.

This multi-use is welcome, and it makes the positioning of the Micro-USB port and a Micro-HDMI connector on the left edge of the chassis all the more irritating. We prefer the charge port to be in the more ergonomic location on the bottom of a handset. Also, because Micro-USB and Micro-HDMI ports look very similar, we absent-mindedly tried to push the charge connector into the wrong port on more than one occasion. Why did BlackBerry not simply opt for MHL support?

The rounded edges of the chassis and curved top and bottom are pleasing to the eye, as is the patterned backplate — which also provides a slightly rubbery grip.

Features
With a dual-core processor running at 1.5GHz and 2GB of RAM, the BlackBerry Q10 is reasonably well specified. Our review sample, from Vodafone, always felt speedy when connected to the mobile network, or when the dual-band (802.11a/b/g/n) Wi-Fi kicked in.

The BlackBerry Q10 supports LTE, HSPA+ and EDGE with its microSIM sitting under the backplate. The backplate provides protection for a MicroSD card, which thankfully you can access without removing the battery. This can be used to augment the 16GB of internal flash storage, some of which is taken up by the OS and preinstalled apps: fresh out of the box, our review sample reported 11.4GB free. The 2,100mAh battery, incidentally, is rated for up to 13.5 hours' (3G) talk time and up to 14 days on standby.

The Q10 supports Near Field Communications (NFC) and GPS and has a full set of sensors — accelerometer, magnetometer, proximity sensor, gyroscope and ambient light sensor. Probably more interesting for corporate users, though, is BlackBerry Balance, which keeps business apps, services and data separate from the user's personal information. Companies can essentially designate an area of a BlackBerry 10 OS device as a 'walled garden', leaving the rest of the device free for users to populate with their own apps and data. Balance — which is available in conjunction with BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10, BlackBerry Enterprise Server and BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express — could be the feature that helps the company win back lost corporate ground.

Anyone interested in speedy text-based communication will appreciate the feature called 'Type and Go'. This builds on the universal search concept that lets you find apps, map locations, do web searches and more simply by typing on the keyboard then tapping the app or URL icon that appears. As long as you're on a main screen and not in an app, you can type to make something real happen. Type "SMS Pete" and you can send a text if Pete is in your address book, for example; entering "Email Jenni" will do a similar job. It's fast, simple and efficient.

The main 8-megapixel camera at the back shoots 1080p HD video, while the front facing 2-megapixel camera can handle 720p. Both shoot in 1:1 (square), 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios, which are easily switchable via tappable on-screen icons. You can also switch into Time Shift mode, where the camera shoots multiple images — including before you depress the shutter — so you can assemble a final photo with all your subjects looking their best.

BlackBerry 10 OS is built around a brand-new user interface, which we discussed when we reviewed the Z10. Central to this is the BlackBerry Hub, a unified inbox bringing together Twitter, BBM, Facebook, Linkedin, email and more. You can 'peek' at this when you're in other apps by dragging the screen to the right, and go into it fully only if you need to. Once you're viewing content a right-hand sidebar lets you do things like mark as read, delete, call an SMS sender and so on. Options are context dependent.

It's a really nice idea, and it works smoothly — although not everyone will want this kind of unified approach, and it could be more flexible. It only copes with one Twitter and Facebook account, for example, so power users are going to have to look elsewhere.

Another constraint that might put some people off the BlackBerry Q10, and BlackBerry 10 OS in general, is the BlackBerry World app store. Although it has developed significantly since launch, there are still notable absences — and just because an app works on the Z10 doesn't mean it will work on the smaller, square-screen Q10. The ability of BlackBerry 10 OS to run Android apps helps, but there's nothing like a well-made native app and there's work to do here. If apps are particularly important to you, make sure the ones you need are available before you buy.

Conclusion
Those who held out for the BlackBerry Q10 following the launch of the Z10 won't be disappointed. The excellent keyboard and clever ideas like Type and Go should make 'classic' BlackBerry fans happy. However the BlackBerry World app store needs filling out, the small, square screen isn't ideal for some uses, and BlackBerry may find that the QWERTY keyboard's days are numbered.

Specifications

General
Manufacturer's specification http://uk.blackberry.com/smartphones/blackberry-q10/specifications.html
Dimensions (W x H x D) 66.8x10.35x119.6 mm
Weight 139 g
Processor & memory
Clock speed 1.5 GHz
Processor model Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus (dual-core)
RAM 2048 MB
Storage
Internal 16000 MB
Display
Display technology OLED
Display size 3.1 in
Native resolution 720x720 pixels
Connections
Ports Micro-USB 2.0, Micro-HDMI
Slots MicroSD
Wireless
Wi-Fi 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
GPS receiver Yes
Short range Bluetooth 4.0, NFC
GPS technology
Accuracy enhancement system A-GPS
Antenna built in
GPS receiver + GLONASS support
Input devices
Keyboard Yes
Touchscreen Yes
Camera
2nd camera front
Flash Yes
Main camera rear
2nd camera resolution 2 megapixels
Main camera resolution 8 megapixels
Power
Removable battery Yes
Battery capacity 2100 mAh
Standby time 355 h
Talk time 13.5 h
Expand

Prices

Price
Price GBP 441.67

Topics: Smartphones, Reviews, BlackBerry

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Talkback

33 comments
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  • Hang up over apps...

    6.0

    When will journalists etc. get ove the number of apps!

    I have a Z10 which is used for business and personal use, I have all the apps I need now that Skype is available.

    Instead of stating it only has x number of apps, state which apps are missing.
    pjc158
  • Blackberry at its best

    10.0

    By far the most productive device for getting work done on the go, and in the evening I can plug it into my TV and instantly watch the latest films in HD. I honestly don't know what apps are missing in terms of functionality on offer - I can do everything I want. The only issue I can see is for people who have allowed themselves to be locked into a walled-garden like iTunes.
    Observer123
  • Q10

    9.0

    "Small screen" is a silly criticism. With a qwerty obviously one realizes there will be a smaller screen.

    BlackBerry 10 is a fantastic OS. I love my Z10. Look forward to seeing these Q10s. I know a few people waiting patiently.
    kooool1
    • Doh! I bought a Q10 and nobody told me it had a smaller screen!

      9.0

      The screen isn't that small compared to the first 4 iPhones (3.5 inches).

      Developer interest in BB10 increased from 55% last year to over 83% today. BB World grew from 70,000 to 120,000 BB10 apps (which only 20% are Android ports) in only 3 months. BlackBerry will upgrade Android Player to Jelly Bean 4.2.2 when OS 10.2 is released, which should improve the experience with Android ports significantly. But native apps will always be better than ported ones because they don't integrate with OS features as well and offer an inferior experience. It's encouraging to see more developers chose to make native BB10 versions of their popular apps.

      Making BBM available for free will certainly hurt rival communications platforms, but not BlackBerry. Now Viber/Whatsapp/Instagram/Skype and others have to compete with BBM on Android and iOS platforms; some of them like Instagram can't reach BB10 users, so they will be at a disadvantage now. And yes BBM is that good... if you download it on your Android or iPhone you won't need any of those other apps.

      More importantly, BBM will NOT be available on WP8/Nokia phones.
      Stefano G
  • Business Phone

    I need a Business Phone with a decentish camera as proof of things I see. I just wish you had the Option to switch off the Teenage stuff (Twitter, Facebook and apps that Business people don't want). BBM is good for getting messsages to clients or users but this looks the nearest thing to a decent Smartphone for business that's out there. WIll probably stay with Q10 once my Bold comes up for renewal soon.
    Desperate Dan
    • Switching Off the Teenage Stuff

      8.0

      You can: Hold your finger tip over any app icon until all of them wiggle. 2 things happen (1) Some icons will show little garbage cans in the corner of the app. Tap the can to delete the app. (2) A blue line appears beside the app that you touched. You can move that app to wherever you want on the page or move it to a different page. I put my most important apps on the 1st page & moved the lesser ones toward the end.
      Budzogg
      • Is it not just as easy to not sign in to these services?

        5.0

        If you aren't signed in, you won't receive the notifications. Surely?
        mountjl
    • Business phone

      Go all the BB Hub and press the 3 dots on the right bottom. It'll take you to the menu. Press "Settings" and once there, press hub management. It will then allow you to turn off all the accounts you don't want to see.

      As simple as that!
      Clawdawg
  • No D.O.T.

    BlackBerry doesn't have Defender of Texel -- blahhh.
    10basetom
  • Okay...

    9.0

    Since I've been using my BB phones primarily for business purposes, I really don't understand the comment about the lack of apps. Exactly what apps am I missing, that I need?
    ITOdeed
  • I personally think Blackberry...

    ...missed the boat by placing the Q10 as a premium device. They should have released a portrait slider (i.e. Torch 9800-like) or landscape slider (i.e. Droid series-like) as their premium physical keyboard device. The small screen was fine with e-mail-oriented pre BB10 OS devices, but it doesn't make sense with a more modern mobile OS running the engine.
    CHIP72
  • The Great Divide

    8.0

    I think we are starting to see an every increasing divide. We have two camps people who work and get things done and those that play. Right now the camp that plays on the web are the ones driving the industry simple because they were an untap market (Stay at home moms, teenagers and young adults) before the iphone they were not important cause well they did not buy much cause nothing was for them; the other side was already well cared for with lots of choices to well get the job done. Now most of the younger generation will start to go into the real world and will find tech is good but the amount of it they need and use is very few. playing games is okay when your stuck at the airport or on the train but at the office or even when you get home to the family its home work dinner and practices. Time will start to show up the flawed market strategies actually grow up; things will.change.
    medric
  • BLAH, BLAH

    10.0

    Here we go again with the never-ending complaint of apps... OOOOOOH I cant get the fruit ninja game. BlackBerry is for the more professional kind anyway... not the teeny bopper mcdonalds kiddy playland genre. BlackBerry knows their targeted audience.

    And as someone else noted in the reviews, the screen is not much smaller than the older iPhone screens... guess some people expect the behemoth sized notebook screens.

    I am a BlackBerry fanatic. But I did have to return my Z10 because I simply cant handle texting on a touch screen. My wife, who owns a S-3, said she liked the typing on the z10 better but I just cant stand it. I need my QWERTY keyboard and I cant wait to get it.
    DB-6
  • Good keyboard.

    9.0

    This is my kind of smartphone.

    It's simple, fast, and has long battery life.

    Apps aren't that important to me, as all I want is a phone that can be used for web browsing.

    The Q10 fulfills that role well.
    ForeverCookie
  • Searching Content from Home Page

    10.0

    I accidentally discovered that you can search the contents of your BB by just typing from the home page (the one with all the app icons) without going to the search app. I meant to type "Text Joe" but instead typed "Tes" - to my surprise, every email, contact, text, etc that contained "tes" came up. In other words, if you have an unique work you are looking for (eg. "PCB", but you can't recall which of your contacts used "PCB", you'd be able to find it in an instant).
    Budzogg
    • Universal Search

      This is the Universal Search feature. It was present on the Bold 9650 and Bold 9930 and was one of the most important features for me. I would like this feature added to the Z10. Two finger swiping up already brings up the keyboard, so why not implement Universal Search here?
      Nate650@...
      • yup

        I agree they should do it on home screen with the double swipe but otherwise u can just hit the search icon
        Ahnomimush
  • Q10 Reviews Out of Date & Superficial

    8.0

    Excellent security code system: you are not limited to only 4 digits as with other phones (not to mention the cool fade-out screen). Note that you can use a sentence if you wish - trying hacking that! And have you heard the amazingly loud, annoying & very effective "find me" sound when you've lost it in the house & resort to Blackberry Protect to find it?

    Day 1 with the Q10 was a bit challenging as it is very feature-rich & probably not as intuitive as an iPhone, but after a few days, I'm loving the Q10. Every day I discover new capabilities some of which have been discussed on reviews; most are not. I'm disappointed with the media in that they appear to spend just enough time to write 500 words of fluff (mostly repeating what everyone else has been saying so nothing new is learned) & move on. This is a true disservice to potential users.
    Budzogg
  • Predictive Typing

    10.0

    The hyper-sensitive screen of the q10 was a bit off-putting at first, but the predictive typing is excellent. Not only is the key-board excellent to use, but I'm training myself to look at the suggested words right away as a mere tap on the chosen word with your finger tip sends it flying to the text box. It is so good that, after a couple of days of typing, it starts to suggest the next word that you might use without typing even the first letter of the word. I can type an entire sentence without typing more than a single letter! How's that for efficiency! I haven't even tried the voice capabilities yet!
    Budzogg
  • Q10 - Outlook

    5.0

    Why does nobody talk about the absence of synchronisation with Outlook. I bought the Q10 and thought it would seamlessly work with Outlook as my previous 3 Blackberries. I cannot believe they have brought out a business phone without this ability. Mine is in its box until they fix it. Very disappointed. Somebody's head should role for such a poor management decision.
    MrSteg