Six short years ago, a phone without a keyboard seemed absurd.
How would you type? How would you dial?
But the huge wave of touchscreen phones that started with the original iPhone proved that was what most consumers really wanted.
BlackBerry largely missed that trend and is only just recently catching up with its new touch-friendly mobile operating system BlackBerry 10, which debuted last month on the BlackBerry Z10.
But the company is still trying to appeal to its core audience with another new phone running BlackBerry 10, the BlackBerry Q10.
And this time, you get that iconic BlackBerry keyboard.
Let’s be clear though. The Q10 isn’t for the typical consumer. It’s a serious device and designed as such. It has a smaller touchscreen, which isn’t the best for gaming, streaming video, or any of that other fun stuff. It’s an email, messaging, and productivity beast.
If that’s you’re style, you’re going to love this phone.
Design And Hardware
The BlackBerry Q10 looks a lot like BlackBerry’s last generation of Bold smartphones, except it has a much larger 3.1-inch screen and a wider keyboard with bigger individual keys.
It’s a delight to type on. I haven’t used a physical keyboard in ages, but the keys are designed so well that I was flying. It’s definitely a better and more accurate experience than most touchscreen keyboards, as long as you can get past the tradeoff of a smaller screen.
The Q10 feels great to hold too, thanks to a special rubbery coating that helps protect it from dings and scratches. The entire phone is just plain solid. There aren’t any creaks or squeaks like you see on many non-metal smartphones. It also has a removable battery and SD card slot for extra memory, two other throwback features that’ll please BlackBerry lovers.
It is a bit odd to switch between the touchscreen and the keyboard so often though. Most of the BlackBerry 10 operating system is designed for touch gestures, so there’s really no need for the keyboard most of the time. Whereas most touch-based operating systems only show you the keyboard when you need it, the Q10’s keyboard is always there. It feels like wasted space when you’re not typing.
It’s a minor drawback, and one keyboard lovers will surely have no problem overlooking.
BlackBerry 10, Improved
The Q10 will be the first phone to ship with BlackBerry’s first major update to BlackBerry 10, version 10.1. That version includes a handful of minor improvements over the last version, including a more robust tutorial mode to help beginners learn how to navigate the phone.
The notifications centre, called the BlackBerry Hub, has also been tweaked to help you tell the difference between what apps are sending you updates. Now it’s a lot easier to filter notifications from Facebook, email, calendar appointments, etc. thanks to some handy symbols that tell you where each one is coming from.
[image url="http://static.businessinsider.com/image/5176d56e69bedd7503000001/image.jpg" link="lightbox" caption="The BlackBerry Hub." credit_info="Steve Kovach/Business Insider" alt="blackberry q10" align="left" size="xlarge" nocrop="true" clear="true"]
BlackBerry 10 also takes advantage of the Q10’s always-present keyboard. From the home screen, you just have to start typing to search your phone for anything you need: contacts, messages, emails, apps, you name it. It’s an amazing and seamless way to find stuff on your device. You can also tweet or post to Facebook from the home screen just by typing “tweet” or “fb” plus your message. Pretty cool.
Overall, the BlackBerry 10 experience on the Q10 is nearly identical to what you get with the Z10. It has an excellent multitasking system that lets you swipe up to close out an app and view your recently used one. It’s much more intuitive than multitasking on the iPhone, Android, or Windows phone.
But as solid as BlackBerry 10 is, it still suffers from a poor app selection. You won’t find many of the top-tier apps on BlackBerry. There’s no Instagram, Spotify, Netflix, Pandora, Hulu…the list goes on and on. Most of those big developers either refuse to develop for BlackBerry 10 or won’t say if they plan to at all. Either way, it’s not a good sign for the platform.
However, there is one big app on the way, and I got to test a beta version on the Q10. BlackBerry has finally confirmed Skype is coming very soon.
[image url="http://static.businessinsider.com/image/5176d56becad046404000002/image.jpg" link="lightbox" caption="BlackBerry 10 has a poor selection of apps." credit_info="Steve Kovach/Business Insider" alt="blackberry q10" align="left" size="xlarge" nocrop="true" clear="true"]
Should You Buy It?
There’s only one question you need to ask yourself before buying the BlackBerry Q10: Do you absolutely need a physical keyboard? If the answer is yes, then the Q10 is the best phone you can buy. In fact, it’s pretty much you’re only option unless you want to buy one of the older, outdated BlackBerrys.
If you’re still a BlackBerry fan and don’t need the keyboard, you’re much better off with the touchscreen-only BlackBerry Z10.
The Q10 won’t be available in the US until May, and exact pricing and availability will vary by carrier. BlackBerry says the phone will cost around $250.