One of BlackBerry's (BB) key strengths, other than their BBM service, has been their keyboards. Their previous generation handsets may have been a little behind the curve in terms of features and specifications, but their keyboards have more often than not been spot on. The Q10 is the first QWERTY smartphone based on the new BB10 OS and is an ultra-premium handset targeted at the ‘old-school’ businessman who doesn’t want to let go of physical keys. We felt the Bold 9900 was overpriced when it launched and the Q10 raises that bar even further.
Design and build
The Q10 is a beautifully-crafted handset and there’s no two ways about it. It feels really good to hold and the curved sides and edges give it good grip. The aluminium frame along the side gives it a solid feel while looking classy. The glossy front isn’t much of a fingerprint magnet as is the rest of the keyboard. The physical QWERTY keyboard is almost edge-to-edge with decently large keys. The contour on the keys makes it easy to distinguish one from another. Tactile feedback is good and so is the backlighting. The keyboard is comfortable to use when you're sitting and using two hands; however, it’s a little tricky for single handed operation and nearly impossible to use lying down. This is where a touchscreen keyboard with gestures is sorely missed.
Excellent design and build
On the sides, we have a microUSB and microHDMI port, volume rocker and a power/sleep button on the top. There are a total of three microphones on the Q10 for better noise cancellation. The speaker grille is smartly placed at the bottom where you typically find the charging port. This way, the speaker isn’t blocked when placed on the table and alerts are clearly audible. Around the back, we have an 8MP camera and a removable back cover, which hides the battery, microSIM slot and a hot-swappable microSD card slot.
Very good keys
The 3.1-inch Super AMOLED display produces rich colours and deep blacks without going overboard. The sensitivity of the screen is pretty good and the odd resolution of 720 x 720 still manages to give you a high enough pixel count of 328 ppi. Overall, the Q10 is a well-built device with good connectivity and ergonomics.
The Q10 comes with the latest BlackBerry 10.1 update, which brings with it a host of new features and stability improvements. Some of the more notable additions are the HDR mode for camera, the ability to edit APNs, the ability to turn off alerts for specific applications, unlock the phone completely with just the power button and the ability to open installed apps directly through the store. The UI overall is extremely fast and fluid with barely any slowdowns. Switching between apps is just a thumb swipe away and now apps like WhatsApp are also integrate into the Hub, thereby making it easy to check your chats and mail without having to go very far. The smaller display makes it a lot easier to use gestures as your thumb reaches the entire screen, so you don’t have to shuffle your hand around too much. We were also able to easily sync our Gmail, contacts and calendar, so users moving from Android would not face much of an issue. One of the best features has got to be the ‘Night Mode’, which can be accessed from the lock screen with a downward swipe. Engaging this disables all your notifications and turns the screen into a clock with the option to toggle between alarms.
UI takes a little getting used to but it's fun after a while
The version of Q10 available in India will be powered by a TI OMAP 4470 SoC, which consists of a dual-core CPU running at 1.5GHz. The LTE version of the Q10 will come with a Qualcomm chipset instead. BlackBerry World might not have the vast repertoire of the Play Store and iTunes store, but most of your basic apps that you’d use on a daily basis are present and some are pre-installed. We have productivity apps like Docs to Go, File Manager, Reminder, Print to Go, Dropbox as well as social apps like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare etc. The Reminder app is also linked to Evernote.
Quickly switch between applications
Transferring files to and from your Q10 requires you to have BlackBerry Link installed first, and this can be a bit problematic.