Review: BlackBerry Q10
|Display||720p, 3.1" Super AMOLED display, 1:1 aspect ratio|
|Operating system||BlackBerry 10|
|Processor||Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ S4 (1.5GHz dual core)|
|Storage||16GB internal storage (expandable via microSD)|
|Connectivity||4G, Wi-Fi®, Bluetooth®, NFC|
|Cameras||8 megapixel rear camera (1080p video recording) with autofocus and 2 megapixel front camera (720p video recording)|
|Sensors||accelerometer, magnetometer, proximity sensor, gyroscope, ambient light sensor|
|Dimensions||119.6mm (4.7") × 66.8mm (2.62") × 10.35mm (0.40")|
I’ve been using the BlackBerry Q10 for about two months now, having picked it up on the weekend of its general release in the UK. I’ve never owned a smartphone before; I’d been using a Nokia 2730c for two years prior.
I spent some weeks deliberating on this purchase: Android, iOS and Windows all offered tempting choices. I’ve spent a lot of time with various iterations of the iPhone and a few hours with the Samsung Galaxy Ace (running Android Gingerbread). Ultimately, I chose the Q10 because of its physical keyboard, its aesthetics and Blackberry’s new Hub.
Ergonomics & design
Coming from the Nokia, the biggest adjustment for me was the phone’s size. It’s slim, thinner than the 2730c at 10.35mm (0.40"), but obviously much wider at 66.8mm (2.62").
The 720p touchscreen takes up about two thirds of the phone’s height. With some practice, I’ve found it well balanced for texting (though at first, I was constantly afraid of dropping it). Even with my dainty lady hands, the touchscreen is easy to use: swiping down and reaching corner icons calls for minimal stretching.
I find the screen plenty big enough for reading texts and emails; browsing websites not optimised for mobiles is less fun but still manageable.
I like the tactile feedback offered by a physical keyboard. I’m mad for mechanical keyboards (I use a Filco Majestouch 2 at home) and can’t help but draw parallels between the touchscreen keyboards on phones and tablets and rubber dome keyboards: I find them both clumsy and imprecise. There’s something satisfying about typing on the Q10.
Owners of older BlackBerry phones will notice two main differences: the keys are of uniform width and the keyboard is no longer curved. Whether this was a choice made on practical grounds (there is no trackpad to accommodate on the Q10) or, as BlackBerry claims, because it makes for better typing, I am not sure. However, I find the layout very comfortable. The frets separating rows and the concave keys minimise errors and there’s a bump on the D key to guide you to the home row.
The volume controls are sensibly placed on the upper right-hand edge of the phone (I have had no issues with accidental presses). The central mute key is recessed and has a bump so you know which key you’re pressing.
The headphone jack is beside the lock button on the top edge of the phone so headphone cables shouldn’t cause problems while the phone is pocketed.
The micro B USB (for data and charging) and micro HDMI (for output to a TV, projector, etc.) ports are on the upper left-hand edge of the phone.
Overall, the Q10 looks and feels ruggedly built. I keep mine in a case but the back cover is nice and grippy. The phone isn’t nearly as angular as, say, an iPhone 5, and is comfortable in hand.
BB10 & Hub
The phone is very snappy. I don’t experience any input lag, animations are smooth and apps start quickly.
BlackBerry’s made a lot of noise about their new Hub. It aggregates all of your calls, emails, texts, and social media onto one page. It’s delightfully simple and well executed and it saves a lot of time.
There are no dedicated home/back buttons on the Q10 and BB10 is more gesture heavy than iOS or Android. It took me a couple of days to get used to: swipe from the bottom up to get to the home screen, from there, left and right to navigate apps pages, top down to bring up options and all the way to the right to get to the Hub.
You can have multiple apps running in the background. Thumbnail previews, which BlackBerry calls “Active Frames”, can be viewed from the home screen which gives you important information at a glance.
The notification LED blinks when you’ve got, well, a notification or unread message. I find it useful and unobtrusive.
The lock screen displays the time and date, upcoming events and messages/notifications pending. Unfortunately, you can’t tap notification icons to take you to the relevant app.
BlackBerry’s new “peek” feature is handy. From any app or from the lock screen, you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen and hold to see your pending notifications without closing the app or unlocking the phone. From there, swiping to the right takes you to the Hub or you can release to maximise the app/return to the lock screen.
One feature I’m impressed with is “Instant Action”. From the home screen, you can type various shortcuts rather than navigating to an app or the Hub. For instance, typing “call” or “email” followed by a contact’s name. Various apps also make use of keyboard shortcuts. For instance, in the browser or the Hub, T will take you to the top of the page and B to the bottom.
The BB10 browser is a pleasure to use. Pages load quickly and the tabs interface is clean and intuitive.
While not a concern for me, BlackBerry undeniably falls behind iOS and Android in terms of apps (though its catalogue is growing). The staples are there: Skype, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The native calendar, maps, music and to-do list apps are solid too. However, if this is a sticking point, sideloading apps is something to consider.
The rear 8-megapixel camera produces clear, sharp images. There’s autofocus, flash and BlackBerry’s new “Time Shift” feature (similar to HTC’s Zoe). Time Shift essentially captures a short video, enabling you to doctor a photo by editing individual faces, shifting backwards or forwards for the best shot.
The Q10 sports a 2100mAH battery and BlackBerry claims 13.5 hours of talk time and 14.8 days standby time. A full charge lasts me two days if I’m using the phone modestly (the odd call, some texts and light browsing/app use). With moderate to heavy usage, it should comfortably last a full working day.
I think the BlackBerry Q10 is a remarkable phone. The keyboard is top notch and the Hub is innovative and polished. Whether—like myself—you’ve never owned a smartphone before, you own an Android, iOS or Windows phone or you own an older BlackBerry, I’d be fascinated to hear whether my review has made you consider an upgrade or switch.