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BlackBerry Q10 hands on

This week saw the big BlackBerry 10 launch event, where the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 phones were unveiled. While the Z10 went straight on sale, the Q10 isn’t ready for retail yet – but fortunately we've had the chance to spend some time with this upcoming handset.

Simply put, there’s no other good phone like this one, and I was more impressed with the Q10 than the Z10. Indeed, the BlackBerry Q10 will almost certainly be the best keyboard bearing smartphone of its kind when it hits the market – if it hits the market soon enough, and there's the danger.

The BlackBerry Q10 feels just like a BlackBerry Bold. That is a good thing. Hold it right next to a Bold and you see that it's a little taller and wider, with a much bigger 3.1in, 720 x 720 screen. BlackBerry gets to play with the fact that this isn't entirely a one-handed device – you're going to type with two hands, so you probably won't have to reach all the way across the keyboard with one.

The Q10 runs BlackBerry 10, of course. Its square, 720 x 720 screen looks and works as if it was the Z10's 1280 x 768 screen with its bottom chopped off. You still see four Active Frames, but they're smaller; squares now, not rectangles. On the application panes, you get three rows of apps instead of four. You can see fewer emails in the Hub, too. This all evens out in situations where you're typing, of course, because in those cases, the virtual keyboard takes up much of the Z10's 4.2in screen. All the BlackBerry 10 gestures and features seemed intact on the Q10.

BlackBerry made sure to parallel a lot of the Z10's features here. You still get microUSB and microHDMI ports on the left, a volume rocker on the right, a microSD card slot and a removable battery. The phone's back is soft-touch rather than shiny, made of a durable "woven glass" material. The 8-megapixel main camera, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 2-megapixel front camera, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage all parallel the Z10, as well. So the Q10 should work just as smoothly as the Z10, just with a keyboard.

The most important thing about the Q10, of course, is that keyboard. Yes, the keyboard is Bold-quality. I checked it out right next to some existing keyboard toting BlackBerrys, in fact. The keys are 30 per cent bigger than the Bold's on the edges of the panel, with larger frets between the rows to prevent mistyping. When I typed an email to myself, key presses were a bit mushy, but this was a pre-production unit, so I'm willing to cut some slack here.

I love the BlackBerry Q10, but it isn't coming out until April at the earliest. Part of that is BlackBerry's fault. The software on my demo Q10 clearly wasn't ready – the demo guy stopped me from trying the browser – and an insider at the product launch told me that developers aren't getting the SDK to port third-party apps to the Q10 until next week.

So for now, all we can do is wait – and hope that the Q10 hits the shelves as quickly as possible. We definitely like what we’ve seen thus far.

For more BlackBerry-related reading, see our article on BlackBerry 10 apps and the Android factor, and our spec comparison between the BlackBerry Z10 and Apple iPhone 5.