The BlackBerry Q10 is the first BlackBerry 10 device to join the latest version of BlackBerry with the famed BlackBerry keyboard.
While the BlackBerry Q10 feels more like a BlackBerry device, and some users will swoon over the physical keyboard on the device, the lack of predictive text and clunky means of inputting numbers detracts from the overall usefulness of the keyboard.
The Q10 runs the same software as the BlackBerry Z10 we reviewed recently, and brings with it the same issues, but gestures and navigation are easier on the Q10 thanks to the smaller screen and placement of a finger or thumb on the physical keyboard during most use.
For this test we used the Verizon BlackBerry Q10 which runs on the carrier’s large 4G LTE network. AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile also carry the BlackBerry Q10.
BlackBerry Q10 Review Guide
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The BlackBerry Q10 looks and feels like a traditional BlackBerry, but with a more premium feel thanks to a carbon fiber back that sits in place of the plastic found on some earlier BlackBerry Bold devices.
The BlackBerry Q10 is slightly shorter than the iPhone 5, but is thicker and narrower than the iPhone 5. Despite the thicker, wider size, the BlackBerry Q10 fits easily into a pocket and is comfortable to hold thanks to curved edges.
Users can remove the back of the Q10 to access the user replaceable battery and a Micro SD card slot for storing documents and photos.
BlackBerry placed the power button on the top in the middle and a headphone jack is located on the top of the device. On the right side is a volume rocker with a middle button that activates BlackBerry’s voice control and on the left is are Micro USB and Mini HDMI connections.
The highlight of the BlackBerry Q10 is the physical QWERTY keyboard which brings the design and functionality many BlackBerry users crave to an updated set of software features.
Like any BlackBerry keyboard, the small chiclet shaped keys offer a sloped design aimed at making typing with thumbs easier. The keys deliver a satisfying click and nice tactile feel when pressed and it is easy enough to hit the correct key while using the Q10 with one hand or while typing out an email with two thumbs.
BlackBerry successfully delivers a traditional BlackBerry keyboard experience on the BlackBerry Q10, which may satisfy some BlackBerry diehards, but there are too many drawbacks to using a physical keyboard.
For example, typing numbers or punctuation while using the BlackBerry Q10 requires a tap of the alt key before you can access numbers. This is only good for one number. On the iPhone 5, users can tap a number key and the keyboard will show numbers and punctuation until the user presses the space bar. On Android devices a long press of certain keys will trigger a number.
A physical keyboard may have proven the fastest means of typing on a smartphone, but software keyboards are smart enough to deliver a vastly improved typing experience.
The 3.1-inch BlackBerry Q10 display is quite small compared to the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S4 which sport 4-inch and 5-inch screens respectively, but it is a nice looking display. The display delivers good colors and is bright enough to read outdoors. The small square even boasts a 720P resolution (720 x 720) and a 328 pixel-per-inch pixel density which translate into easy to read text.
That said, it is a small square screen which means users are in for a lot of page turning, scrolling and navigating to consume or create content. One saving grace is the ability to use the space bar to scroll, but at the end it is still a small screen.
This smaller display isn’t suited for watching video, but that’s OK as there are not many big-name video apps for the BlackBerry Q10 anyway.
For current BlackBerry users in need of a BlackBerry 10 experience this won’t be a big change, but for users contemplating switching from the iPhone 5 or Galaxy S4 this is a dramatic difference.
BlackBerry 10 runs better on the BlackBerry Q10 than on the BlackBerry Z10, or at least it fits the user experience better. The software still uses un-needed animations that slow down opening an app, but gestures are more natural on this device.
Gestures also work more often, with fewer issues registering a gesture or a tap than on the BlackBerry Z10.
Using apps and navigating around BlackBerry 10 is snappy and the Verizon 4G LTE coverage delivers fast speeds for uploading and downloading. Coverage will vary based on the user’s location, but we saw speeds consistent with Verizon 4G LTE on the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S3.
BlackBerry Q10 battery life is good enough to last through a long day of use even with checking emails, browsing Reddit and using the baked in BB Hub for checking Twitter on a regular basis. It helps that the smaller display is using less power than the monster displays on competing smartphones.
Overall battery life is better than the Z10 for similar use, and very heavy users can always swap in a spare battery if work rolls right into a second day.
The BlackBerry Q10 delivers very good call quality on both ends of the call, with very little background noise coming through. Thw quality will vary based on location, but the Q10 delivers above average call quality.
The speakerphone sounds good, but like the BlackBerry Z10 could be louder.
The Q10 speaker is adequate for watching a short YouTube video or listening to a song or two, thanks to a relatively high volume, but users who want to listen to music or plan to watch movies on the small screen should invest in good headphones or a nice Bluetooth speaker.
BlackBerry Q10 Cameras
BlackBerry packs an 8MP camera in the Q10 which delivers OK looking photos, though colors don’t stand out as much as those on the iPhone 5 or Android devices like the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4.
There is a front facing camera that delivers 720P resolution and decent looking self portraits and video calls. The default camera mode takes square photos, which is not surprising given the square screen. Users can also pick 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio which will letterbox the image on the screen, but better match photos taken with other cameras.
The gallery below shows the BlackBerry Q10 photo samples. The device performs OK in low light, though it’s almost necessary to take two photos to get one that turns out just right.
BlackBerry 10 feels more at home on this smaller square screen than on the BlackBerry Z10. BlackBerry 10 relies on gestures to navigate, access settings, and switch apps. There is no home, menu or back button like on the iPhone or Android devices. Theres is a small learning curve to BlackBerry 10, but it is easy to pick up and gestures and taps are more reliable on the Q10 than on the Z10.
The BB Hub is a swipe from the left on the home screen, offering fast access to messages across any account linked to the device. A swipe up will exit an app or unlock the device to go to the home screen.
BlackBerry 10 uses the main page to show running apps, which makes multitasking as simple as swiping up from any app to go to the home screen. This is a handy way of delivering access to recent apps. Users can start typing form any screen to search for apps, contacts, emails etc., similar to spotlight on the iPhone.
The app selection on the BlackBerry Q10 and BlackBerry 10 is awful. There are no top tier music or video apps and services and apps I need to do my job like Google Authenticator are missing. Here are some of the top missing apps.
- HBO GO
- Google Authenticator
- An official Gmail App
Some third-party services and apps will offer access to these services, but app selection will be a major issue for anyone switching fromm iPhone or Android.
The BlackBerry Q10 feels more like a BlackBerry device than the BlackBerry Z10, thanks to the form factor and the physical keyboard. BlackBerry 10 also runs better on the Q10 than on the Z10 and works on the smaller screen better.
That is a low bar. Physical keyboards offer speed to some users, but a good software keyboard can deliver faster access to punctuation, numbers and overall usability for many users.
For BlackBerry owners this is a welcome upgrade, but the BlackBerry Q10 is a step down for iPhone and Android users, even with the included physical keyboard.