When BlackBerry revealed its BlackBerry Z10 flagship device back in January, there was uproar about the lack of a physical QWERTY keyboard that the Canadian manufacturer is known for. However, the BlackBerry Q10, BlackBerry’s second release of the year so far aimed to remedy this by offering a more traditional device teamed with the highly acclaimed BlackBerry 10 operating system.
Hands on BlackBerry Q10 video review
So how will the BlackBerry Q10 compare with the Z10? And will it satisfy all those physical keyboard lovers out there?
The BlackBerry Q10 in many ways looks like the BlackBerry Bold 9900 in shape and size, mainly due to the fact that its keypad takes up the entire width of the phone’s fascia. Measuring in at almost 10.5mm thick and weighing 139 grams, the phone feels neither bulky nor slim, though it does sit comfortably in your hand.
The Q10 has a 3.1 inch screen with a pixel density of 328ppi, compared with the Z10’s 4.2 inch 355ppi display, which, whilst being over an inch smaller, didn’t make it difficult to carry out general tasks on the phone. And being 0.3 inches larger than the BlackBerry Bold 9900’s screen, the Q10 is definitely a step in the right direction. However, being used to sampling phones with 4 inch and above displays, I found it a little disappointing to watch videos on the BlackBerry Q10, especially because a heavy black line at the top and bottom of the screen meant that the actual video was halved to about 1.5 inches!
With regards to the Q10’s keyboard, I like the fact that it is much softer to type on than previous BlackBerry keyboards, meaning you don’t annoy everyone around you with your constant tapping when sending an email or text message.
One feature which I didn’t particularly take to (as with the BlackBerry Z10) was the Q10’s thin plastic removable casing, which felt like it might snap when you took it off to access the battery. The cross-hatched effect on the back of the device is again something that I am personally not a fan of, though that’s really just an issue of aesthetics.
What a seasoned BlackBerry user will notice straight away when looking at the Q10 is the lack of control buttons above the physical keyboard. However, with the introduction of the BlackBerry 10 platform, having a Home and Back button is more or less redundant (as explained below). This automatically gives way for the larger screen and keyboard, making this one of BlackBerry’s best traditional-looking devices yet.
With a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, the BlackBerry Q10, similarly to the Z10, handles running multiple applications at once really well, which is a huge improvement from previous BlackBerry models.
The most obvious comment to make about the Q10’s set up, though, is its adoption of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system, previewed on the Z10.
The BlackBerry 10 strapline, designed to ‘keep you moving’, really applies with the Q10, and the lack of control buttons on the phone’s fascia are a testament to this. To access your apps, simply scroll to the right as with any ordinary Android or iOS device; the screens are numbered 1 to 4 to make it even easier to navigate your way around the phone. If you want to exit an app that you’re in, simply swipe your finger upwards from the bottom of the screen, which will take you to the main list of home screens.
Another great feature that we already saw on the Z10 is the BlackBerry Hub. As the name suggests, the BlackBerry Hub is a hub where you can access all of your most used communication feeds, including calls, text messages, emails, BBM messages and social media notifications. You can access it in two ways; simply scroll right to the left from the main home screen, or swipe your finger up and to the right from within any app to go straight to the Hub.
Another feature of the BlackBerry 10 platform which I liked was the ability to store phone numbers in a much simpler way than with most Android phones. Instead of typing the number into your keypad and saving it manually, the Q10 lets you select the Add Contact icon at the top of your call screen, which saves you searching through various options to save a new contact.
Where the BlackBerry Q10 does differ from the Z10 is in the small details, and is due to its BlackBerry 10.1 update. Because the Q10 is the only new smartphone to be released with a permanent physical keyboard, BlackBerry has made the most of it with Instant Actions, allowing you to simply type any app, name or function straight from the home screen for even quicker access. For example, if you want to search for ‘houses to rent’, simply type it in from your home screen and the Q10 will present you with a list of possible options, including relevant apps and a Bing internet search. Alternatively, if you want to email a colleague, simply type in ‘Email Sarah’, and the device will create a new email with Sarah as a recipient, saving you the time and effort of manually opening up the email function.
A key feature which attracted me to the BlackBerry Z10 as well as the Q10 is Story Maker. In simple terms it is an in-built movie-maker app, which allows you to insert your favourite photos and music, creating a personalised movie which captures your memories.
It’s a little bit like the HTC One’s infamous HTC Zoe which automatically turns your photo albums into 30 second movies, with the only exception that with the Q10 you have to do it manually. The Q10 allows you to apply various filters to the images once you’ve inserted them into your movie, and you can even add your own titles and credits.
Take a look at the short movie we made from a day of sight-seeing in London:
Being a manufacturer that traditionally caters to businessmen, BlackBerry has ensured that the Q10 does not disappoint. Docs to Go is a built-in app which allows you to edit, create and view Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents on the go. What’s great is that you can sync the documents to your computer using the BlackBerry Link, as well as being able to share them with friends and colleagues via BBM.
The app also lets you edit documents just as you would on your computer, so you can type in Bold, Italics, change the colour of your font and add bullet points lists.
We’ve all heard of the Google and Apple Maps that are downloaded to our favourite iOS and Android devices, but BlackBerry has now updated its own maps app to fulfil its Q10’s users. It’s just a shame the Maps app isn’t as good as what Apple and Google can provide, though.
Although the app was accurate enough in finding your location, it was incredibly slow to load up the actual map on screen.
That said, I was quite impressed by the fact that the app incorporated a maps and navigation function into one application, rather than offering two separate ones like Google’s separate Maps and Navigation apps. Also, I liked the fact that the Maps app took into consideration live traffic information with expected delays as well as giving you the option to avoid motorways or traffic hotspots much like a traditional sat-nav.
The BlackBerry Q10 shares the exact same 8 megapixel rear-facing camera lens as the BlackBerry Z10, so I expected it to perform pretty much the same.
Let’s start by talking about the Q10 camera’s pre and post production modes. The Q10, like the Z10, offers various modes to enhance the quality of your photographs, including Action, Whiteboard, Night and Beach or Snow. You can also select the device’s Burst Photography mode to take a series of successive shots.
In terms of post-production, the BlackBerry Q10 also offers a range of filters that you can apply to your images, as is growing more popular on many of today’s high spec smartphones. Choose from various post production options, such as Auto Enhance, Red Eye Reduction, Brightness White Balance, Contrast, Sharpness, and Noise Reduction. Another feature that most top of the range phones are adopting is the inclusion of a HDR mode. Unlike other devices, though, the BlackBerry Q10 doesn’t make you choose between the Auto and HDR mode when you are taking a photo; instead, the camera takes the same photo in both modes and lets you choose the best one, which is handy to capture the best shots.
Another thing that I liked about the Q10’s general set-up was that the camera icon remained on the home screen whilst you are flitting through apps, as well as being accessible from the phone’s lock screen, which makes it even quicker to take a photo from start up to capture.
Also, as with the Z10, I really liked the touch capture feature on the BlackBerry Q10, which allows you to take successive shots with virtually no delay just by touching anywhere on the screen.
Now let’s touch on the actual photographs. Although after reviewing the BlackBerry Z10 I wasn’t expecting much from the Q10, I was still somewhat disappointed by the camera quality of the device.
In well-lit conditions I found that the Q10 performed quite well, producing clear and bright photos. However, this can be said for most cameras when faced with optimal conditions, and when I took a few snapshots in less well lit situations, the pictures emerged dark and had a 2 dimensional look about them. I also found at times that the camera didn’t have a chance to focus properly before the phone was taking the photo, meaning I was often left with slightly blurred images.
While I found the battery life on the Z10 pretty average, I was expecting bigger things with the Q10, particularly down to the fact that it houses a slightly larger 2100mAh battery unit. And to be honest, the battery draining was the last of my worries when using the Q10; when left idle I hardly noticed the juice going down, and even when used more frequently, I still had plenty left to last me through the day.
This is great news for BlackBerry; with the Q10 being offered as the smartphone for business use, it is of upmost importance that the device’s battery can outrun all of its competitors like the iPhone 5 and Nokia Lumia Windows Phones.
However, my only criticism of the BlackBerry Q10’s battery is that it’s not as apparent exactly how much juice you’ve got left as there’s no way of seeing the charge as a percentage. I also couldn’t find an obvious way of selecting a power-saving mode, though with the performance of the Q10’s battery with normal use, this feature might be somewhat redundant.