Bored of the keyboard? Why I like BlackBerry 10, but not the Q10

When BlackBerry introduced its new BlackBerry 10 platform and the Z10 I was impressed, but I just can't love the Qwerty-equipped Q10.
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

The Q10 is the first of the new BlackBerry 10 handsets to arrive with a Qwerty keyboard. And while it may set the hearts of some business users and BBM addicts alight, for me the days of the hardware keyboard are well and truly past.

I've not been convinced that there's a need for physical Qwerty keyboards on smartphones for a while now.

Perhaps it's because I'm never that far away from a laptop, tablet or other device with which to email or otherwise be in touch with people, but the sacrifice of half my screen space (at least) to make room for a keyboard is just too much to bear.

I have no problem with BlackBerry 10 as a platform. In fact, I like the Z10 quite a lot, and as a phone to be used for calls, texts and emails, it really is worth considering.

But when the Q10 landed on my desk a week or so ago, within five minutes I was already frustrated and bored; it felt like using a less useful or intuitive version of the Z10, with a smaller screen. I decided to persevere and after a week with the phone... I still feel exactly the same.

There must be a better way

As I said, I'm never that far from a more efficient way to send an long email than my phone, so perhaps that's why I see no need for a hardware keyboard.

Maybe it is just what you are used to, but given that Qwerty-equipped devices are now the anomaly and the full touchscreen is the de facto standard, I'd argue that the average punter on the street will have a similar reaction to me.

If you view the Q10 as an iterative update to something like the most recent Bold, it's likely to be less of a disappointment than if you walk into a phone shop expecting a whole new experience.

What is unlikely, however, is that anyone who isn't sure they want a keyboard will walk into a shop, compare it to the other range-topping smartphones and still decide it's the best option for them.

The lack of app selection really undermines BlackBerry's platform (yes, yes, I know it's getting better but it's still left lacking) and for the Q10 it's even worse – a whole bunch of apps that are available for BlackBerry 10 are not available for the Q10 yet as they need to be retooled to work optimally for the different screen resolution.

While its screen is a little larger than previous touch-and-Qwerty-combined models, it's still positively tiny if you're migrating from a touchscreen handset. This in itself would be forgivable if it didn't have a knock-on effect on other aspects of user experience.

For example, watching a video on the Q10 is a nearly pointless experience and browsing the web quickly becomes a chore with constant scrolling required – and that's on mobile-optimised sites. Browsing full-fat web pages is more than my patience could bear.

Good for some, bad for me?

I'm not writing the Q10 off for everyone. According to some reports, the UK and Canadian markets are lapping it up, but for me, using a Q10 felt like a return to the old days of mobile, at least in terms of browsing.

I'm not impressed by a phone being good at email and messaging any more; it needs to do more than that.

Perhaps it's just me that no longer likes hardware Qwerty keyboards on phones, as we already know that BlackBerry will introduce new models running BlackBerry 10 later in the year, and it's likely that at least one of them will be a mid-range device with a Qwerty.

Perhaps that makes more sense than a premium-priced Qwerty anyway: enterprises are more likely to roll out a fleet of more moderately-priced devices and the BBM crowd will still be able to afford it, but for me the Q10 is just one more nail in the coffin of Qwerty keyboards on smartphones.

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