The BlackBerry Q10 is one of the newest handsets from Blackberry, the company formerly known as RIM.
Blackberry has had a troubled time of late – its Playbook tablet tanked, its previous generation handsets failed to excite and a promised operating system update was seriously delayed.
Against this backdrop of misery, gloom and poor expectations for its future, the company finally unveiled its new BlackBerry Q10 and Z10 handsets in January.
The Q10 retains the familiar Blackberry look of a half-height screen coupled with physical Qwerty keyboard, but there are some notable differences between this and earlier models.
The most obvious is the lack of any touchpad or rollerball which on early handsets were the only way to navigate menus.
Even on later touchscreen versions such as the 9790, the menus and icons weren’t optimised for fingers and could be fiddly to navigate and use without resorting to the trackpad.
In contrast, the new BlackBerry 10 software which powers the Q10 is designed only for finger tip navigation, meaning icons and menu settings (as well as the screen itself) have been enlarged to improve usability.
Dropping the physical control also means eliminating one of the biggest gripes with previous Blackberry phones, namely the ease with which the roller can get jammed or the touchpad broken.
This alone should help improve user satisfaction and save networks, retailers and users a fortune on handset repairs.
The new software drops the traditional Blackberry ribbon of icons along the bottom of the screen in favour of the icon grid found on Apple’s iPhone and mobiles running Google’s Android operating system.
The new Blackberry 10 software feels more fluid and reliable than earlier versions, though the absence of an onscreen ‘close’ button to shut down apps could easily cause confusion given the lack of any kind of Home button.
Instead, to close an app you must now swipe it upwards until it reduces itself to a tile on the first page of the icon grid.
Seasoned Blackberry users may find it takes a day or two to get used to the changes, but the upside of dropping the touchpad/touchscreen hybrid of recent models is a more consistent user experience.
Thankfully Blackberry has retained the physical keyboard on the Q10, a decision which will be welcomed by all those who find them quicker to type on than the virtual keyboards on iPhone and Android handsets.
Coupled with firm’s market-leading push email service, the physical keyboard continues to make the Blackberry the essential handset for keeping up to date with emails while on the move.
The review Q10 loaned by Three was a lot better at handling calls than my 9790 which often fails to connect or hangs and reverts to the recent call list when dialling out.
As both handsets are operating on different networks it’s not possible to definitively say whether the new software and/or hardware are to credit or the network but the more reliable performance was noted and appreciated.
Also deserving a mention is the Q10‘s impressive, solid felling, build quality which beats many of the Android handsets which pass across our desks.
The BlackBerry Q10 is a definite leap forward for the firm, but sadly only helps it draw level with the competition even as the market leaders are working on new features and updates.
The larger screen makes it a better device for browsing the web on and overall makes it more pleasurable and comfortable to use, but it’s still too small for gaming and video playing. For such tasks the full-screen Blackberry Z10 or an iPhone or Android handset would be a better purchase.
On the plus side, it’s still the case that nothing beats a Blackberry for mobile email and the new software and hardware offers a welcome upgrade for those who need constant, reliable access to their messages.