BlackBerry Q10: Hardware QWERTY and long battery life have a place in mobile
The BlackBerry Q10 is the BlackBerry 10 device that the die-hard QWERTY fans have been waiting for and it doesn't disappoint. It's refreshing to use a hardware keyboard and enjoy long battery life on a phone again.
Long-time BlackBerry users were excited for the launch of the Q10 and reports indicate it is doing pretty well. I was pleased to see BB10 on the Z10 and didn't think there was really a place for a hardware QWERTY device in today's smartphone world. After more than two weeks of using the Q10 extensively, see my initial impressions, I am ready to swap my Z10 for a Q10 and bang away on a thumb keyboard.
The keyboard, long battery life, centralized communications system, and solid hardware make the BlackBerry Q10 an attractive product that stands out from the current crop of smartphones.
I used to be a die-hard keyboard fan, enjoying both the portrait-oriented ones seen on BB devices and phones like the HTC Dash and Nokia E71, as well as the landscape-oriented ones found on devices that slid sideways to reveal even larger keyboards. I still have the T-Mobile Touch Pro 2 that has the ultimate landscape-oriented keyboard.
Software input keyboards have gotten to be pretty amazing with the native ones on the iPhone and Windows Phone platforms competing with innovative Android keyboards like SwiftKey and Swype. However, after using the Q10 and its QWERTY keyboard I have to say it is a breath of fresh air in the all-too familiar black slab market.
While the keyboard design and tactile feedback is enjoyable, I am particularly impressed with the shortcut/universal search functionality that lets you pick up the device and start pressing keys to get things done. For example, press "T" to see options to add a task, text someone, view apps, contacts, calendar events, and more. Enter "TW" to quickly post a Tweet, access settings, and much more. Enter "text" and a name to jump right into messaging and knock out a message. Enter "F" to post to Facebook, dial a 6, start filtering contacts with F in the name, and more.
You can do something like this, but much more limited, on the iPhone but I always forget to swipe to the right to see this screen and don't find it that useful except to find apps I rarely use. Android has something like this in Google Search, but none of the other universal search utilities are as useful as what you see on BB10.
Most of us have come to accept that our modern smartphone will likely need a top off charge to get through the day. Even with a fantastic looking display, push email, and frequent use you can expect the BlackBerry Q10 to get you through a FULL day and more. I still charged it up most evenings, but didn't have to compromise my phone usage to make if from 4:30 am to 9 pm each day.
I am a fan of the unified communications found in the BlackBerry Hub and appreciated it on the Q10 as well. The hardware is easy to use one-handed and thus swiping up and over to the Hub is a simple task that helps BB10 serve as one of the best communications platforms I have ever used.
Calls sounded fine, messaging was quick and easy, and BBM is getting more integrated into 3rd party apps.
The Q10 is reminiscent of the great hardware designs from BlackBerry in the past and is built very well. I like the feel and design of the weave back. The keyboard is rock solid with perfect angles on the keys. The OLED display has dark blacks, clear fonts, and vivid colors.
I did feel a bit cramped with the display at times when browsing websites and trying to play games. However, for text entry you are going to consume a large portion of your display on a slab with the software keyboard so it isn't much different than what you experience on the Q10.
To stay on the keyboard more and reduce the need for tapping on the display, a touchpad or trackball may have been nice. The Q10 is short enough that I can cover the entire display with a thumb reach, but sometimes jumping between the display and the keyboard can be affect the experience.
The camera performed well and it is nice to see HDR on the Q10 with the latest BB10 software.
I did not experience the BB Hub delays I saw on the Z10 while using the Q10 and wonder if that is related to the 10.1 update that comes loaded on the Q10 out of the box. Everything was zippy on the Q10, including the Android apps that I use regularly.
Yes, there are not as many apps on BB10 as there are on other platforms. How many do you really use on a daily basis anyway? As I used the Q10 and tried to figure out what was really essential, I discovered just about everything is there on the Q10 or available via the web browser.
As I use more and more accessories, like the Pebble watch and UP band, then I miss apps on these newer platforms. However, for daily usage I never really felt too limited by the Q10. I was able to make calls, text, email, check and update social media status, capture and share photos, play some good games, enjoy Evernote, check movie times, and more.
I do appreciate some apps on iOS and Android, such as movie apps (Fandango, AMC, Regal), Starbucks, Audible, and a few others, but I can also get by without them. I do enjoy Remember the Milk, Skype, Songza, YouVersion Bible, TuneIn Radio, and more on the Q10. There are so many apps built into the OS that I don't feel the need to have a ton of 3rd party apps either.
Is the Q10 for you?
If you truly must have a ton of apps and have some niche apps that you need on your smartphone, then the Q10 is not for you. If you watch a lot of video content and play lots of games, then the Q10 is not for you. However, you may want to check out the Z10 with its large display and functional design.
If you need to be out and about all day, appreciate a new user interface, prefer a hardware QWERTY keyboard, are focused on communications, and like your smartphone to be efficient then you may want to consider the Q10.
I am personally a bit tired of all the large phones and truly enjoyed the smaller Q10. It was fun to use a hardware QWERTY keyboard again and I was able to bang out text quickly on the keyboard. I may be faster with SwiftKey or on WP8, but the ability to enter a couple letters and do more than just enter text is extremely efficient.
The BlackBerry Q10 is available now from T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T from $100 to $200 with a contract or equipment installation plan. Sprint should be getting the Q10 soon as well.