The first BlackBerry 10 device is the Z10 which is BlackBerry’s flagship device and the Q10 is the more ‘BlackBerry’ BlackBerry with a more conventional look. What I mean is that when you hear someone say ‘I’ve just got a new blackberry’ you expect to see a phone with a smaller screen and a full QWERTY keyboard.
So with that in mind how will this device cope with competing with the full touch devices? And not to mention the Z10 too!
To find out those answers and answers to any other questions then please read on. Not before you’ve watched the BlackBerry Q10 unboxing video from Matt of course.
10 second review:
- Product: BlackBerry Q10
- Price: £449.99 pay as you go, free from £29 on contract and from £479 sim free.
- Summary: a beautifully designed, well built smartphone with an interesting OS with some good features but it certainly isn’t perfect.
- Best of: keyboard, super AMOLED display, browser speed, built in apps, camera
- Worst of: severe lack of decent apps, back cover a little loosely fitted, battery life not as good as it should be
- Buy Now From: eXpansys
- Also consider: BlackBerry Z10, HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4.
BlackBerry Q10 specification:
- Platform : Blackberry 10
- CPU : Dual-Core 1.5GHz
- Memory : Internal phone storage: 16GB / RAM: 2GB / microSD slot
- Display : 3.1″ SuperAMOLED display, 720×720 resolution at 360 ppi
- Camera : 8MP rear facing camera, Auto Focus, 5X digital zoom, 1080p HD video recording, 2MP front facing camera, 3X digital zoom, 720p HD video recording
- Connectivity : Bluetooth® 4.0/ Wifi 802.11 a/b/g/n / 3.5 mm stereo audio jack / Micro-USB / NFC / microHDMI-Out
- GPS : yes
- Network: GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz / HSPA/WCDMA: 850/2100 MHz / 4G LTE
- Sensors: Gyro sensor, accelerometer, proximity and ambient light sensor
- 35-key physical QWERTY keyboard with backlight
- Battery : removable, 1800 mAh
- Weight : 139 grams
- Dimensions : 119.6 x 66.8 x 10.3 mm
What’s in the box?
- Blackberry Q10 smartphone
- UK 3-pin charger
- European 2-pin charge
- Micro USB cable
- In-ear headset
- Warranty information
- Safety and product information
- Start here guide
On the top of the Q10 is where the 3.5mm headphone jack and power/wake/sleep buttons are. There are also 2 tiny holes for noise cancellation.
The left of the phone houses the Micro HDMI and Micro USB slots next to each other, the rest is smooth.
The up/down volume buttons and media function button are on the right side of the device along with nothing else.
On the Bottom is the external speaker and microphone for voice calls.
On the back is where the 8 megapixel autofocus camera with single LED flash is placed, we also have the lovely removable back cover with lush BlackBerry logo too.
And finally on the front of the device is where the magic happens. Starting at the top is the speaker for voice calls, front facing camera and proximity sensors alongside. Below all of that is the 3.1 inch Super AMOLED display and finally the pièce de résistance is the magnificent full size 5 row QWERTY keyboard.
It’s not every day I get to review a device such as the BlackBerry Q10, this is mainly down to the fact that BlackBerry’s are the only competition in the Physical QWERTY keyboard game, aside from the cheap Nokia’s of course but I’m talking about at the top end of the market here.
The Q10 is something of a thought provoker, I mean, when I first picked the device up it just felt absolutely beautiful and it makes me think ‘why the heck don’t other manufacturers make devices with QWERTY keyboards anymore?’ I ask myself that very question simply because I really do feel that there is still a space in the market for physical keyboards.
Like I mentioned above the phone feels simply awesome to hold in the hand, and once I began to use it as my main device I realised just how brilliant the design and build quality were.
The Hardware build quality is brilliant.apart from one gripe I have with the back cover, when it is ‘securely’ fitted to the phone there is wobble which suggests poor fitting and at times during use, for example when texting I found that the cover did move around a bit.
Other than that one gripe the build quality is perfect, the phones weight is just right for me, yes it’s heavier than a few other top end devices on the market but that’s the appeal of a physical keyboard phone, it feels sturdy which allows for robust key presses as fast as ones hands can press. On the subject of the keyboard, it’s the best physical QWERTY keyboard I’ve ever used! Its larger than that on the Bold 9900 which was large in itself but very cleverly BlackBerry have managed to make it better, instead of having a slight curvature on the top row all of the rows of keys are straight so that it closely resembles the touch screen QWERTY on the Z10.
Design-wise I have no complaints; in fact I will go as far as saying it’s my favourite looking BlackBerry ever, I was a proud owner of the Bold 9780 and thought that was great but this is in another league to previous devices.
This is the biggest change when it comes to BlackBerry’s these days, because of the BlackBerry 10 Operating system.
If you are regular visitors to the tracyandmatt website then you will no doubt have seen James’ BlackBerry 10 videos on the Z10 and Q10 so I will attempt to keep this section short.
First up is the setup process, this is a set of extremely simple instructions that explains the functions of the operating system and it allows you to set up your Wi-Fi connections etc. here too.
Then we’ve got the various screens available once you’ve set your phone up, The screens are similar to that on iOS, just screens full of the installed applications and its much the same as other operating systems in the way that you can create folders, and download as many apps as your storage allows and the screens will add automatically for you.
The most drastically different aspects to BlackBerry 10 compared to every other operating system currently are twofold. These are the Active frames page and BlackBerry Hub.
First of all we have the active frames screen which allows the user to open 8 different applications and the information on the app once you’ve closed it will change (dependant entirely on whether the developer adds this feature into their app) Here’s an example to better explain what I’m trying to say:
You will notice the Facebook and Twitter apps aren’t showing any information that the user can see without reopening the apps, whereas the Crackberry and AccuWeather apps are showing information that can be seen easily. This feature is something that I used every single day, particularly with weather and battery apps simply because it makes it so that I don’t have to open an app to see the information I want to see, and it really does work well and I didn’t have a single issue here.
Now for the BlackBerry hub, this is an area within the OS that brings together all of the users communication tools into one area for ease of use to enable users to communicate easily without the need to open apps every time they needed to.
The best example I can think of is on iOS you require separate actions to send a text, whatsapp and Twitter messages.whereas in BB10 all of these are integrated within the hub which makes things a lot faster. In the hub you can sign into e-mail accounts, Twitter, Facebook, whatsapp, LinkedIn, Foursquare and it handles text messages, BBM and calls too.
I know it seems like it could be disastrous when all of this is synchronised at once but it really isn’t at all, this is because you aren’t forced to view everything in one long list if you don’t like that, all you have to do then is select a section such as a specific e-mail account and it will only show mail from that account on the right hand side. This just makes things less complicated in the long run.
Here it is in all of its wonderful glory for you guys:
I can see that some people just wouldn’t get along with the BlackBerry hub but I personally found it to be extremely good, I found myself communicating with friends and family etc. so much quicker whilst using the Q10 so I was as you can imagine very sad to see the device go, maybe other companies will catch up when it comes to communication? But for now I am lusting after a BlackBerry 10 device.
Onto the BlackBerry 10 gestures now and here’s where I have some confusion. It took me a matter of minutes to get to grips with the operating system on the whole and I’ve read some reviews and reports of people being very annoyed and dazed by having to learn to use something new.I’m sorry but isn’t that the whole point of something that’s new? Because on the whole i live for new technology no matter how complicated it is but I would say that blackberry 10 isn’t complicated, particularly if new users follow the setup processes if they are at all worried about using it.
There are a few gestures that you will use constantly with BlackBerry 10, but this is going to be specific to the Q10. To unlock the device there are two ways, number one is to press the power button and then simply swipe the screen up but the second one is the method I used all of the time as it’s just easier, when the screen is off simply swipe up from the bezel just above the QWERTY keyboard to the top and voila you’re unlocked, this is something that I could do with day to day while using my Note 2 as after using the Q10 for a week, then going back to my phone I tended to try the swipe gesture!
The second most commonly used gesture is the one to close an application, instead of me explaining this here’s an image of me doing the gesture:
To do this action it is the same as unlocking the device, swipe up from the bezel, simple.
Next is the Peek gesture which allows the user to peek at a notification without the need to stop what they are doing. For example if you are browsing the web you can simply partially swipe up from the bezel and then swipe to the right and you will be peeking into the hub which allows you to see if the notification you’ve received is important.
Here’s the gesture in action:
The final gesture that you will use a lot is simple, the gesture is to access the hub at any time. You do this by swiping to the right at any time regardless of what you are doing at the time.
As you will know by now the Z10 is BlackBerry’s flagship device as to be honest from experience their new OS is made for a full touch screen device as I just see it working a lot better in the long term, but for now let’s talk about the Q10’s browsing capabilities.
Surprisingly awesome is the easy way to put it, if you want a little more info though here goes. You have to start using the Q10 with a completely open mind because you have to think that it won’t come close on performance to its full touch counterparts, but once I began to browse on this thing I was so surprised at how fluent, fast and simply gorgeous it was.
A lot of this is down to BlackBerry’s absolutely epic decision to add their very first Super AMOLED display to this phone, it’s seriously paid off because text is so crisp and sharp and the fluidity of the actual browser is almost perfect to be honest. I compared speed of navigation and web page load times to my Galaxy Note 2 and was so surprised to see that the Q10 was almost just as quick in every aspect. The 3.1 inch display does take some adjusting to but once I did that I just enjoyed every minute of browsing, I can imagine myself owning a device such as this as my main device again now which is brilliant as I am a huge fan of BlackBerry’s past so I’m a happy bunny.
The browser itself is very simply but I think this is what makes it work so nicely, the black theme to preserve battery life on the phone really makes it looks brilliant. There is the ability to open lots of web pages in tabbed format, a reader mode which is great!, and there’s built in flash player of all things!! All in all this is a great browser that deserves the plaudits.
Here it is in action:
There are quite a few really good pre-installed apps from BlackBerry themselves, I will give you a brief insight into them all here.
Calendar- Here’s a calendar app that is simple but effective, it’s very easy to create an event/task on the fly and it will even offer a reminder so you don’t forget.
File Manager: This simply does what it says on the tin, it’s a simple file manager that allows you to easily locate files, anything from a document to a music file and it is very handy to have available, particularly if you drag and drop a file or files onto the phone but you aren’t sure where to. This app also integrates Dropbox and Box files from the cloud so that you are able to view and upload files of yours.
Remember: This is a simple application for remembering things you really could do with not forgetting, it’s very much like the reminders app on iOS, you can add things like shopping lists or passwords so you don’t forget them.
Blackberry Maps: The only maps app you are ever realistically going to use on the Q10 is the built in, this is mainly down to the screen real estate. The app itself is basic, it does what it’s meant to and nothing more, navigating to a place is very simple and it does contain voice guidance is a nice little bonus. I found the app to be extremely accurate also which is basically what a decent maps app should be right? I’m looking at you Apple.
Docs to go: This is the word processing and PowerPoint document application that comes pre-installed on the Q10. It is the app that I have used to write up most of this review for you guys (yes the keyboard is just that good!) The application is a basic word processing tool but the thing is that it works really well, even on such a small screen. It is a lot better than Microsoft Office on Windows Phone 8 devices as it has more formatting options plus it’s also smoother to operate as you don’t have to dip in and out of the document to change the format of anything. Other than what I’ve said already there really isn’t much more to say other than, here’s a couple of images of the app in action for you:
Story Maker: This is such a cool application, it allows you to create slideshows of your photos and add captions and music to the background to make it special, I created a few of my own stories with the built in items that are available to choose from and I was so impressed with the app, it makes me wonder why there aren’t more apps of this type on other platforms.
Here’s the app interface:
This is something that has had a drastic overhaul as well, BlackBerry World used to be really clunky and horrible to find apps etc. but in the new version everything is much easier to find and the layout is so much nicer too. BlackBerry have added the usual sections here-Top Paid, Top Free etc. so it makes the top apps easier to find which is very helpful on BlackBerry 10 because there are still some absolutely horrendous applications in the market that you would definitely want to avoid. BlackBerry have also decided to add Music and Video to their store, there is a vast array of artists and albums available to purchase In BlackBerry world at very similar prices to iTunes so you can tell that BlackBerry are definitely trying to complete here. There are lots of movies and TV shows available to rent and buy as well also at decent prices, so things could definitely improve for BlackBerry as a company providing that they push their marketing strategy towards getting developers to create their apps for the platform.
Here’s the new BlackBerry World for you guys:
This will be short and sweet I promise, but I have a couple of issues to discuss with you guys regarding both the Facebook and Twitter apps that come pre-installed on the device.
We’ll begin with a problem that is shared by both applications, neither of them have an active frame ability which is so boring it makes me wonder if both companies actually care much about BlackBerry. It’s not a problem per say but it became an annoyance over time because with an active frame it would allow me to see the most recent tweets or news feed updates without even opening the app, which would make browsing the apps much quicker.
Now for the Facebook application on its own, the problem with this app is the fact that it is very clunky and seems to have been rushed just so that the platform had a Facebook app. I lost count the amount of times it froze or just didn’t show me my news feed at all, so this suggests shoddy development to me and the most annoying thing about Facebook on the whole is the fact that the official app is the ONLY way to use it! Which let’s face it is a little daft. One other problem I found when using this app was the fact that it never notified me when I had a private message or notification of any kind, even if the app was open it just decided not to give me any notifications.
When the app did work properly though it is much the same as any other platform, it does the basic functions like check in, instant messaging and so on, it’s nothing special but it does the job.
The Twitter application has its own very odd problems too, at least it did for me anyway. The main issue was this happening:
The first screenshot was when I simply opened the app and it just sticks there until I’ve closed the app and left it for a while before opening it again, or if I restarted the device itself. The second screenshot happened every single time I went on the app, you will notice that the time jumps down from 3hours to 47 seconds? Well this happens all the way through the feed, flipping annoying! It means that it is almost on a constant loop of your twitter feed until it eventually after a lot of scrolling it does stop doing it, but this just isn’t good enough.
Other than these issues the app worked well and was quick, smooth and did the job brilliantly. The coolest thing about this app is the fact that it integrates with the BlackBerry Hub so that any private messages can be read and replied to in the hub; this is a great feature as it means that you aren’t forced to go into the app to reply.
BlackBerry smartphones in my opinion have always been able to hold their own when it comes to quality music playback but have always lacked in the video department due to screen sizes mainly, so when the Q10 came to me I was excited to see how it performed in both departments.
After a lot of testing I am happy to report that music playback is just a good as ever, through both headphones and external speaker which itself is surprisingly crisp and clear at playback, it’s also relatively loud compared to other smartphones I’ve used.
When it comes to music playback I am a bit of a snob if I’m honest because I listen through expensive 40mm driver headphones all the time so when I tested the provided headset I was actually surprised to find just how good they are. Playback through them is really impressive so they are well worth having a listen through if you are unsure, it’s a decent option to save you some cash, particularly if you’ve forked out the cash for the Q10 in the first place.
The player itself is quite nice too, very simply designed to do one thing.play your music and play it well. Here it is in action:
As for video playback you have to think about the size of the screen here because at 3.1 inches this phone isn’t made for full on movie watching, and to be quite honest it’s a struggle to watch YouTube even because the way that the phone displays video is in widescreen format and this shrinks the image into the middle of the screen, this would be annoying to almost everyone so my advice when it comes to video playback is get a proper media device.
The smartphones of 2013 are making a mockery of a few years ago when it comes to the quality of the cameras inside them, for instance the HTC One and HTC One Mini with their Ultra Pixel camera and the newly announced Nokia Lumia 1020 with the ridiculous 41 megapixel camera take photography to another level entirely on smartphones because companies are slowly but surely catching DSLR camera up in terms of sheer image quality.
So with the above in mind how does the Q10’s 8 megapixel camera with Led flash cope with the competition?
Fairly well as it happens, I have been pleasantly impressed with the image quality that the camera produced, it struggles in low light as most do but in high lighting it performed quite brilliantly and I hope you will agree when you take a look at the photos below.
The camera can be accessed quickly from the lock screen by simply pressing and holding the camera icon until the camera appears, this makes taking quick pictures simple and easy. A feature that will also be of note here is the fact that there is no dedicated camera key for obvious reasons so Blackberry have added the ability to take pictures with either the touch screen or the volume keys, this helps with stabilisation and I know that from experience because using the touch screen causes all sorts of hand wobble!
Features wise the camera almost has it all, there’s HDR mode (High Dynamic Range), 1080p video recording, Normal, Stabilization and Burst shooting modes, and Auto, Action, Whiteboard, Night and Beach or Snow scene modes and unfortunately there is no Macro mode which makes taking close up shots difficult at times but it’s not a big issue. Aspect ratios include a new 1:1 to match up to the screen size, 4:3 and 16:9 are there also. The shutter speed is relatively speedy making for quick photos to ensure you don’t miss the moment.
Don’t get me wrong with this though as I’m not saying that the camera is amazing nor am I saying it’s awful, it’s actually somewhere in the middle with the quality of image being quite intermittent at times meaning that on occasion you will get images with huge graininess and blurriness but at other times you will get really decent photos out of it.
Video recording is also decent as you get the choice of either shooting in 720p or Full 1080p. I took a few videos in both resolutions and have decided to show you a full HD recording because the quality difference although minimal, is worth it. There is the ability to pinch to zoom whilst shooting video too which is a really helpful feature, the zoom is ok but nothing special.
Here’s that video for you, hopefully you don’t see too much wobble from me, I had image stabilisation switched on so fingers crossed it shows.
Performance and Battery Life:
As this is a relatively new platform there isn’t a benchmarking tool worth using such as Quadrant Standard on Android so I’m going on day-to-day use with this.
I had literally no issues with the performance on this device, it was fast and fluid throughout my usage, web pages loaded quickly and I could even play angry birds star wars without any glitches. This does makes sense though as the specifications are almost identical to that on the Z10 which is a great gaming device. Overall I was very impressed with the performance of the Q10 and have no complaints to make, any issue I had was all software based which will be fixed in the released of BlackBerry 10.2 hopefully.
As for battery life I got the usual day with normal use and with hardly any use I got 3 days of usage from a single charge. Pretty impressive when you think about it, the only issue with this is the fact that on previous BlackbBerry smartphones I could get 3-4 days with normal usage from a single charge which suggests that inevitably the new operating system is a bit of a battery drain. BlackBerry have tried to combat the battery drain by changing the background theme from white on the Z10 to black on this device, I imagine it does help a little but not enough to extend the battery life by that much. It is better than most high end smartphones when it comes to battery life but it’s still not a few days to one charge phone. Maybe that will come in time?
Well after a couple of weeks with the BlackBerry Q10 I’ve come to the conclusion that there is definitely room in the smartphone market for more phones with physical QWERTY keyboards and urge manufacturers to realise this, the HTC Cha Cha was an awesome little device that didn’t get the credit it deserved, the story is different with this phone though as the praise is widespread throughout the world and so it should be!
Overall I would say that it is the single best BlackBerry smartphone I’ve used and that includes the Z10, the physical keyboard on this device is the best every made by the company and hope that they continue to stay behind the ‘Blackberry’ form factor for years to come.
I would recommend this device to almost anyone really, if you are in the market for something very different then this is your device, it’s an absolute no brainer for anyone currently using a previous BlackBerry with QWERTY keyboard as this is the best upgrade you will ever get.
Reviewed by: Chris