It was way back in January that BlackBerry announced the Q10 at its worldwide launch of its BlackBerry 10 OS and its Z10, the latter being its full-screen handset that it hoped would change its fortunes.
So it's a bit of a shame that fans of the traditional physical BlackBerry keyboard have had to wait several months for the Q10 to appear, but at least all the main networks have the Q10 in stock now. You can also buy it SIM-free for around £530 (inc VAT) – that’s not cheap by any standards. The new Samsung Galaxy S4 is only about £50 more.
The really good news is that in all its moves to reinvent itself BlackBerry has not lost sight of what it does best. The keyboard on the Q10 is absolutely fantastic. I really can’t praise it highly enough. The keys have that characteristic shaping we know and love – it makes each key very tactile and easy to find under the thumb, and there’s even a curvature to the space bar. The keys will be a little small for some fingers, but they felt great under mine. They depress with a positive action and click a little, which reassures you that you’ve hit them.
BlackBerry hasn’t implemented the same predictive text system here that it has with the Z10 – it doesn’t guess a word when you type out a couple of letters and then let you use that word with an upward sweep. But then that’s not practical with a physical keyboard. Still, the predictive text system is very good, and all the old BlackBerry favourite shortcuts are here so if you are upgrading from an earlier older OS version you’ll get some comfort from being able to use them. And if you can’t be bothered to type, hit the microphone key on the front to dictate text – though I didn’t find this to be all that accurate.
Ease of use features abound. A hangover from the old BlackBerry OS is the ability to start typing the name of an app or web search and see options narrow down on screen. It’s fast, slick and easy. Meanwhile, the new BlackBerry OS 10 screen sweeping - with its 'peek' views of incoming messages in a unified inbox that unites Facebook, Twitter, email and more - means you can remain in touch with important people and their messages without needing to leave what you are doing.
There’s more of the front area given over to the screen than with older BlackBerry handsets, but that’s not come at the price of squishing up the keyboard. Instead the optical trackpad, Call, End, back and BlackBerry keys are gone and an extra centimetre or so of screen space is in their place. As the screen is touch-sensitive this is a very sensible idea.
The back is nicely rubberised and has a two-tone finish that’s reminiscent of that used by Motorola, for example on the Razr HD. It’s not a bad look. The volume rocker is on the right edge, and it has a handy central button that can be used to mute the speaker or issue a voice command. The top edge has a power button and the headset slot.
The dual-core 1.5GHz processor is supported by 2GB of RAM and everything felt slick and smooth under my fingers. There is 16GB of built-in memory but not all of that is user accessible, and out of the box 11.4GB was free on my review device. There’s support for microSD cards, which live under the backplate and you can access the slot without removing the battery. The Q10 takes a microSIM.
All mod cons are here with NFC and LTE both supported. There’s a micro HDMI port too, right next to the micro-USB on the left edge. I found myself trying to drop the mains power connector into the slot on more than one occasion. Business users may like BlackBerry Balance, which lets companies maintain an area of the device locked down for work use while their employees can do their own thing in another area without affecting it. Think of this as two separate profiles or skins.
BlackBerry 10 suffers from a lack of applications, and depending on what you need this could be its downfall. Messaging fans will be pleased that WhatsApp is here. As a user of the Kindle app on Android I headed into the store to get it and discovered it isn’t yet available. Rather than run through a list of what is and isn’t available, I suggest you take a look at BlackBerry World and find out if your favourites are there. Be aware that apps need to be reworked for the Q10’s square screen so make sure you check Supported Devices.
BlackBerry is not known for putting emphasis on its cameras but there are two here. The front one is a 2-megapixel, 720p offering while there’s an 8-megapixel camera on the back. It is good enough for snaps and the Time Shift mode that was made much of at the BlackBerry OS 10 launch is here. This takes multiple shots and lets you fine-tune an image so that, for example, everyone in it is smiling.
Any fan of handsets with physical QWERTY keyboards will want to give the Q10 a look. BlackBerry does the best phone keyboards in the business. If messaging is your thing, and you aren’t bothered about video, web browsing, or a huge app store, then the BlackBerry Q10 may appeal. The jury is out on the new OS, though, and the app store still needs some support from developers.
Manufacturer and model
LTE 3, 7, 8, 20
3.1in, 720 x 720 pixels
119.6 x 66.8 x 10.35 mm
BlackBerry OS 10