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A QWERTY BlackBerry smartphone people may actually want to use again

BlackBerry (formerly known as Research In Motion, or RIM) saw its new BlackBerry 10 (BB10) line of devices and software as a fresh start after a painful period of losing market share to Apple's iPhone and Google's Android operating system, and even losing its place in corporate and government environments as the secure device of choice -- and it looks like BlackBerry was right about that new beginning as favorable reviews roll in for its Q10 QWERTY-based smartphone.

BlackBerry 10 was introduced in late January 2013, with the Z10 and the Q10 slated as the first two smartphone releases featuring the new BB10 operating system. The Z10, which is a touchscreen-only based smartphone, was released in the U.S. on March 22. 

Now, the BlackBerry Q10 will soon make its way to mobile carriers and store shelves -- and the reviews are in. According to some of the top tech sites around -- including CrackBerry, TechCrunch, AllThingsD and ABC News -- the Q10 rocks the traditional BlackBerry design, but with major updates worth upgrading for. Or, in the words of AllThingsD, the Q10 is the "BlackBerry of BlackBerry users' dreams."

  • 3.1-inch square AMOLED multi-touch display (720x720 px)
  • 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus 
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage 
  • Up to 64GB microSDXC
  • 8 MP rear camera with 1080p video
  • 2 MP front camera with 720p video
  • Multi-touch touchscreen
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • GSM/UMTS/CDMA/LTE network compatibility
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • NFC
  • IEEE 802.11n-2009
Pricing & Availability

The Q10 will be released in the U.S. in late May for $249 (with a two-year contract). It will be available for Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA. 

It will head to Canada May 1 at C$199 ($194 USD). It will be available for Rogers Communications, BCE Inc. and Telus Corp.


While QWERTY keyboards seem to be a thing of the past when it comes to today's smartphones (take the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S IV, for instance), reviewers of the Q10 were pleasantly surprised with the design of BlackBerry's second BB10 device. It still holds onto the traditional BlackBerry look while embracing new changes that are slight, yet noticeable. 

Kevin Michaluk of CrackBerry says: 

The BlackBerry Q10 feels strikingly familiar when you first pick it up. It has the classic BlackBerry design with a physical keyboard nested below a sizeable screen. While we love the BlackBerry Z10, there is something about picking up a smooth BlackBerry with a keyboard that feels just right. The rear is constructed of a light-but-tough glass weave with a matte finish, while the outside frame is a cool and sturdy steel.  The device itself feels solid, strong and will no doubt stand up to the trials of everyday use.

Darrell Etherington of TechCrunch says: 

The BlackBerry Q10 is proof that a handset can take cues from the past and still be a modern, attractive device. The PVD-coateed metal border that frames the phone won’t scratch easily, as it’s the same treatment used on high-end watches. The carbon/glass composite back is extremely light, yet flexible and strong enough to handle spills, and since it’s created using a process through which it’s cut from a giant sheet and then formed instead of injection moulded, no two backs will have exactly the same pattern. It’s lighter and smaller than the Z10, feels better in the hand and looks miles better, too.

Katherine Boehret of AllThingsD says:

Physically, the Q10 bests the Bold with a slightly bigger touchscreen that measures 3.1 inches, diagonally. To make room for this screen, the Q10 sacrifices two features. First, its keyboard runs straight across rather than in the more comfortable, broad U-shaped curve like on the Bold. Second, the Q10 lacks a track pad, the below-the-screen square that functioned as a precise cursor. In about three days, though, I got used to working without these features.

Joanna Stern of ABC News says:

While the Z10 could be mistaken as any big-screened smartphone, there's no mistaking the Q10 – it looks and feels like a BlackBerry through and through, with a screen stacked above a keyboard. But while it looks traditional, the phone has a freshened up aesthetic. The back of the device has a slightly curved shape and has also been spruced up with a soft-touch coating that's smoother than the plastic backs of previous BlackBerries. And don't dare call it plastic; BlackBerry says it's a "unique glass-weave material" that thinner, lighter and stronger than plastic. The 139-ounce phone is light, but not markedly thin. The 10.35mm phone is also noticeably thicker than the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S4.



Though smaller than what you'll get on the BlackBerry Z10, the Q10's touchscreen is effectively just as sharp (technically, the Z10 crams in a few more pixels per inch). The AMOLED screen on the Q10 shows off BlackBerry 10 in all of its glory. It is bold and bright and looks sharp from edge to edge. Now, the switch to SuperAMOLED is significant; until now, most BlackBerry users were accustomed to LCD screens. Though there have been many debates on AMOLED versus LCD, the bottom line is that AMOLED uses up less power and less physical space. The main difference is that LCDs activate individual pixels to block out a single backlight, while each pixel on an AMOLED screen emits its own light. Because AMOLED creates blacks simply by turning off individual pixels, we found the Q10 made for much stronger blacks than the Z10, though LCD has an edge on whites and visibility in direct sunlight. On that note, the dark themes included in OS 10.1 look fantastic on the Q10 and save you battery life to boot.   


Overall, the display really impresses. It displays images and video with crisp, vibrant colors, and BlackBerry has even gone out of its way to tweak some user interface and core app elements to take advantage of the excellent black rendering, which also leads to battery life savings. But the display has its own downsides, too. It isn’t quite as densely packed with pixels as some of its top-tier Android competitors, for instance, and I noticed that in certain outdoor lighting conditions, owing partly to glare and partly to a weak backlight (which doesn’t auto-adjust), it can be fairly hard to make out what’s on the screen. Side-by-side with an iPhone in bright outdoor settings, the iPhone wins easily, every time.



The keyboard on the BlackBerry Q10 is nearly identical to that of the BlackBerry Bold 9900 but with a few exceptions. The individual keys on the BlackBerry Q10 are about 30% bigger than what they were on the Bold 9900 series. Rather than the slight curved layout of the Bold 9900/9930, the keyboard now sits completely straight. Though that classic "smile" always felt fairly ergonomic, it's been removed since the navigation array (trackpad, menu, back, and phone buttons) isn’t there anymore. The P’9981 had a similar squared-off grid layout to the keys, but they were significantly harder to press by comparison. The Q10’s keys sit noticeably lower than those on the 9900, which some may prefer, but on the whole we were really happy with how it felt. There are still metal frets between each row of keys that provide separation between rows and gives a bit of contrast to the otherwise solid front of the device.


BlackBerry hasn’t reinvented the wheel with the Q10; you might have already seen one in the wild and mistaken it for a Bold, in fact. But the small changes pay big dividends. Straightening the top row of the keyboard and dropping the trackpad and hardware buttons provided room for a display that’s 30 percent larger than any previous BlackBerry QWERTY, for example, and yet typing actually feels better because of wider keys and bigger frets between the rows.


The Q10’s keyboard is smartly used for more than just typing emails. From the home screen, typing the first few letters for commands like “text message Katie” or “Facebook” pulls up related functions. This feature is called Instant Action. And some 200 keyboard shortcuts let users navigate around the Q10 more quickly. Onscreen menus subtly display what keys to press for shortcuts. As you type, common misspellings will be auto-corrected. You can even turn on keyboard predictions, saving you a few keystrokes by showing words on the screen that you might be typing next. A tap on a word adds the word to your sentence. I found I could type faster without using onscreen keyboard predictions, though in some cases I could select predictions for nearly an entire sentence.


The QWERTY keyboard is everything you remember about BlackBerry keyboards – and much more. The keyboard is well-made and well-spaced thanks to the metal frets separating the rows of keys. It's also wider than some of the other models since the screen is now larger. It's actually hard for me to write about the keyboard and not completely gush about it – the keys are the right amount of "clicky" and the perfect amount of firmness. It gave me an added level of confidence when typing. In fact, I wrote the first portion of this review on the phone while sitting on a train – it would have taken me twice as long on my iPhone and it would have had twice as many typos.



The Q10 is very impressive overall. From the minute you pick it up it just feels great in the hand. It has all the features you want in a new device and there is no more worry about lag, hourglassing, or battery pulls. On the Z10 we knocked it a bit for battery life and camera, but on the Q10 if you go that route it’s almost like nitpicking. If you’re a BlackBerry fan and want a physical keyboard device then the performance of the Q10 is as good as it gets. It’s the traditional BlackBerry experience on steroids.


The home screen arrangement has been tweaked slightly to make room for three rows of apps, and the toolbar size has been reduced as well as labels have been removed. There are new tooltips, which is great because it provides a smoother onboarding process for BB10. Text selection is made easier through refined cursor control, making it much less frustrating than it was on the Z10. Cut, copy and paste functions have been added to the dialer screen, and you can set account-specific notifications for incoming messages  as well as change vibration and volume patterns for alerts for specific contacts. Overall, BlackBerry has done a good job of taking in early user feedback and using it to actually improve BB10 in the areas where it was most lacking.


The BlackBerry 10 operating system is responsive and fun to use. A list called the Hub organizes all notifications related to emails, social networks and apps in one place. The Hub can be quickly checked with a left-to-right swipe from the home screen, or by swiping up and right from within an app. Contacts are integrated with social networks, adding images of your friends to the system.


BlackBerry 10 was designed from the ground up for touch input and is a complete overhaul of the BlackBerry software you might have known. As in the case of Apple's iPhone, the BlackBerry 10 operating system is built around pages of apps. Swipe to the right and you will see pages of your applications, swipe to the left while on the first page of apps and you will see your open applications, or what BlackBerry calls Active Frames. Apps are minimized on this page and you can see a snapshot of what is happening inside the app, similar to Microsoft's Windows Phone or Windows 8 tiles. Swipe left again from that page and you're at the BlackBerry Hub. The Hub is a messaging portal where you can view all your messages in one universal Inbox, including your emails, BBMs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn messages. And yes, the phone still has the blinking red light to let you know you have a new message. If you'd rather not be distracted by your personal email, a feature called BlackBerry Balance will also allow you to separate work and personal applications.



The Q10 battery comes in at 2100 mAh - that's 16% bigger than 1800 mAh Z10 battery and over 70% bigger than the 1230 mAh battery of the Bold 9900. With the smaller screen size, dark theme option and other tweaks in the Q10 OS, we expect the battery life to be more than sufficient for both average and power users alike.
While we've been able to put the Q10 through the paces for this review, we haven't had the chance to knock out a "real world" test of the battery just yet. What we can say is that the battery life here is awesome. Even with our constant use of the Q10, the battery has held up strong and made us proud. 


Where the Z10 faltered with battery, the Q10 excels. BlackBerry claims that the Q10 can get up to 13.5 hours of 3G talk time, 354 hours standby time, 61 hours of audio playback or up to 9 hours of video. In testing video playback and solid browsing time, it managed to come just shy of that at around 8 hours continuous use, but the standby time is what’s really impressive. This phone sips power with the screen off when it’s in your pocket, harkening back to BlackBerrys of old. It isn’t quite as long-lived, but it’s still impressive for a modern smartphone. In actual usage, being neither extremely conservative or extremely power-hungry, the Q10 manages nearly two days of use in my testing, which is, again, very unusual for a smartphone. It boasts a larger 2100 mAh battery, compared to the Z10′s 1800 mAh unit. That means you can’t use the Z10′s external charger accessory to juice up the Q10′s battery, but BlackBerry offers the exact same device designed for the new phone’s battery, too.


Battery life on the Q10 was impressive. I used it repeatedly for entire days without running out of juice. This included a weekend in a remote area of North Carolina when my cell signal was roaming and several car rides when I used BlackBerry Maps for navigation.


While the older BlackBerry's could last 1 to 1.5 days without a problem, the Q10 doesn't have that same kind of endurance. Similar to the Z10, by 6 p.m. on a day of moderate to heavy use, the Q10 was in the red.



The camera is readily available and can be launched by either the camera app icon or the quick launch icon on the bottom of the home and lock screens. It starts up quickly with near-zero lag so taking photos in a pinch isn’t an issue. What’s notable here as well is that the shutter sound is much shorter and softer than that of the Z10 (though that may be an OS 10.1 thing). Overall the camera on the Q10 is great. It’s light years beyond that of the older devices and especially the admittedly crappy EDOF camera on the Bold 9900/9930. To test out the camera on the Q10, we put it head-to-head with the Z10, Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, iPhone 5 and Canon Mark III DSLR. The photos are very much on par with the competitors. 


The Q10′s camera is the same as the one found in the Z10, and as expected, performs in a very similar fashion. The big addition here is on the software side, since the Q10 with BlackBerry 10.1 now offers HDR. This is a feature that most OEMs have embraced lately, and also something I never find myself using on any mobile device. I’m also not a huge fan of it when used professionally by DSLR photographers. The addition isn’t hurting anything though, and will be welcome by those that appreciate it. Overall, the Q10′s camera is a solid performer. It won’t win any low-light awards, and that’s putting it lightly, but it can still manage to take some amazing shots, which look even more amazing with the slightly exaggerated color rendering of the OLED display. It also captures stills in 1:1 ratio by default to match the display, though you can set it to use either 16:9 or 4:3, too. Video is perfectly usable, too, and defaults to wide-screen capture.


The Q10’s 8-megapixel rear-facing camera is loaded with high-end features, including Time Shift, which captures multiple shots of people and lets you piece together a photo where everyone looks good. Other features include burst mode, enhancements that edit photos and filters that can be added after capture.


Another feature that disappointed? The camera. Similar to the Z10, the 8-megapixel camera's photos aren't as crisp as the ones you'll get from the iPhone 5 or Samsung's Galaxy S 4, and suffers especially when taking low-light shots. The Timeshift feature, which captures a few shots at a time when you're taking a group shot, is a fun addition, but not enough to compensate for the lackluster photos.



Though you’re no doubt picking up a BlackBerry Q10 because you value communication above all else, of course you’ll find all of your app and game needs fulfilled thanks to BlackBerry World. The store now has over 100,000 apps and games available for BlackBerry 10, though not all have yet been updated for the Q10. You will find plenty of top apps Q10 ready such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, USA Today, foursquare and NY Times. BlackBerry World's BB10 selection has exploded since the launch of the Z10, but there's a pretty significant challenge ahead for the Q10. The unique square aspect ratio of the display makes adapting many apps unlikely and unfeasible. Luckily BlackBerry has a unique set of developer tools and SDKs that make porting existing apps and creating news ones a breeze for developers. 


This is the one place where the Q10 doesn’t fare that much better than its counterpart the Z10. Despite the fact that BlackBerry has made a lot of noise about growing its own app marketplace to 100,000 titles, there still aren’t too many to write home about. Some big names have come on board, but crucial ones, like Netflix, Instagram and Vine, to name just a few, remain absent. The Q10′s app situation isn’t helped by the fact that it has such a unique screen size. The screen means that native BB10 apps have to be coded specifically to offer both Z10 and Q10 compatibility, which BlackBerry assures me is simple enough, but which still inevitably results in some fragmentation. Q10 users simply won’t see apps that aren’t designed for its display – unless they’re Android apps. Android ports still show up and can be downloaded and used. That’s a double-edged sword, however. I found performance to be unpredictable with Android ports; Songza, for instance, lacked its concierge feature when running on the Q10. The Q10′s app situation is a reminder just how far BlackBerry has to go.


BlackBerry World, the marketplace from which apps can be downloaded, looks slicker and runs faster than previous iterations. I downloaded and used a bunch of apps for the Q10, including Skype, The Wall Street Journal, YouTube, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Weather Channel, Kayak and Angry Birds Star Wars. Along with the Facebook and Skype issues, I found that a health-tracking app and a Sudoku app didn’t work well. BlackBerry attributed this to pre-release app issues.


The app experience is still subpar. Yes, many of the key apps like Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare are there along with other media apps, but key apps are still missing like Instagram, Spotify, Rdio and a strong GPS or Maps app, like Waze or Google Maps. (BlackBerry's native maps app is still missing key points of interest.) Additionally, the apps aren't as robust as Android or iOS options. In my testing, the Twitter app was sluggish at times.

The Verdict


It’s a BlackBerry. It’s got the look of a BlackBerry. The feel of a BlackBerry. We may be living in a world of full touchscreen phones, but this is a modern day smartphone with a keyboard that people will be PROUD to carry, use and show off. BlackBerry is back baby!


The BlackBerry Q10 is unique among smartphones, with its square display and hardware keyboard. And BlackBerry knows that it will appeal to a certain kind of consumer. What I found in using it, is that I actually gravitated towards tasks that were productive – zapping my inbox overload, typing up actual complete paragraphs for longer posts (I’ve never used another smartphone to do that), using the newly-ported Skype app to stay in touch with teammates. This is a business phone, and an unabashed one, and in a world where we often want our devices to do everything for us, a little focus is actually a very refreshing thing. That said, evaluate your priorities if you’re thinking about getting a Q10: the app situation is still dismal for BlackBerry 10, despite progress made since the official launch at the end of January. And the OS software itself still has some bugs, too: I experienced one black screen freeze that required a soft restart, and one issue where my cellular signal continually dropped until I turned cell traffic off and then on again. For those reasons, I still have trouble recommending it generally over the iPhone or a top-tier Android phone, if only because of the ecosystem that now surrounds those devices. But if you’re a BlackBerry lover, or if you long for the days when you could feel that keyboard under your fingers, the Q10 is very impressive device, especially from a company that more than a few people had completely counted out completely.


For plenty of users who gave up on BlackBerry years ago, the Q10 probably won’t change their minds. But for those of us who love physical keyboards and want a keyboard paired with the full functionality of a serious smartphone, the Q10 delivers.


Everything I said about the Z10 can be said of the Q10. It is a fully modern BlackBerry – and not just by BlackBerry standards. It's fast, has a mobile browser that beats many of the others and an outstanding physical keyboard. No, its battery life and camera are not as strong as the competition, but its bigger issue lies with the fact that it runs a brand new operating system. While the software offers something entirely different than others, overall it and its app store lack the robustness of Google, Apple and even Microsoft's offerings. Many who have been waiting for a new Blackberry with a keyboard and a real browser will find the Q10 to be the phone they have been waiting on for so long. As for me, I'd replace my Bold with the Q10 in a heartbeat, but ultimately it's not enough to become the only phone I carry.

Sources: Bloomberg, CrackBerry, TechCrunch, AllThingsD

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Not to feel bad on price America
By Uncle on 4/24/2013 6:06:59 PM , Rating: 4
Not to feel bad on price America. What the writer failed to mention is at $199, Canadians have to sign a three yr contract not a two yr, lucky buggers. For an extra $50, it takes Canadians 1 yr more to be ripped off by our monopolies.Oh well if I get sick over the gouge, I get cheap medical.

RE: Not to feel bad on price America
By blueaurora on 4/25/2013 8:08:13 AM , Rating: 3
Well with your new phone and sickness you can call someone who cares while waiting 6 months to actually get seen! ;)

By Kutcher on 4/25/2013 12:18:15 PM , Rating: 1
It's free so people go in for stupid stuff and those are the people who wait.

When you actually have a problem there's no wait and no bill. Plus there's always the private clinics, which are often covered by the health plans we get from the jobs we all have.

RE: Not to feel bad on price America
By xti on 4/25/2013 4:48:51 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Not to feel bad on price America
By Belard on 4/26/2013 4:45:00 PM , Rating: 2
You know, if you keep your mouth shut, people won't know how stupid you are.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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