It is finally here! The first BlackBerry BB10 smartphone with a full qwerty keyboard launched in the US a few weeks ago and I put it through its paces. I purchased the phone out of contract at T-Mobile for $579.99 + tax. For most BlackBerry faithfuls, this is the the top phone to have. the Z10 is a great device but for me, I need a berry with physical keyboard. Coming from the Bold 9900, this was not a necessary upgrade but I couldnt resist a flagship BB10 smartphone with a keyboard. Lets go over in detail what I think about this device and BB10 overall.
В Q10 Full Video Review
First Impressions Hardware
When I first unboxed this device, I was immediately impressed by the build quality. Ive watched other reviews saying it felt cheap but that wasnt the case with me. The phone is nicely weighted and it feels really good in the hand. The back cover is made of a rubberized plastic with faux carbon fiber weaving. I know what some of you mightВ beВ thinking right now. Plastic? Cheap materials! Yes, the back cover is plastic but Im not so snobby that Ill write off a device just because its not made of aluminum. The rubber is grippy and soft at the same time. The keyboard is straight unlike the curved Bold keyboard I was used to. The keys are also noticeably higher than the Bolds keyboard which is a nice touch. The frame, frets separating the key rows, and all hardware buttons(volume rockers and sleep button) are made of metal. Overalls, I was impressed with the Q10s classy good looks and build quality.
Q10 Unboxing Video
Diving Into BB10
Im not the type to sit and read through pages of boring manuals. I get too excited and like to learn by jumping right into use. I think that is the best way to learn. Right when you boot up the device, you go through the standard setup of emails and social media accounts. The purpose of this smartphone was clear from the beginning. To consolidate your core communications into one location. They call this: BlackBerry Hub. I was somewhat familiar with it. On legacy BlackBerry devices, this was called Messages. В BlackBerry Hub is an evolutionary improvement over Messages. It includes email accounts, text messages, notifications, social media feeds, BBM, voicemails, calls, and emergency alerts. BlackBerry Hub is a core feature of BB10. You dont have to open up an email app to read emails or a Twitter app to read tweets, and so forth. Everything is consolidated nicely.
I have to admit. It took me longer than I expected to get use to the gestures. I expected to get use to them in a day but it took about a week to fly through everything as quickly as I did on my old Bold. Still, there were things about BB10 that I didnt like. Ill go through them all later. The gestures are fairly simple. My favorite gesture so far is the swipe from the bottom bezel to the middle-right. BlackBerry calls this, Peek and Flow. Its a quick way to get to the hub. I think once you get used to mastering that gestures, the rest become easy.
The keyboard at a glance looks like a straightened version of the Bolds keyboard and in summary, it is. В The keys are a bit higher allowing a bit more throw and the frets separating the rows are slightly thicker. It was easy getting use to this keyboard. It is excellent. Hands down, the best smartphone keyboard on the market today. As great as this keyboard is, the software side leaves something to be desired. Word Substitution(formerly Autotext) is not as fully featured as their legacy OS6-7 predecessors. For example, there is no option for smartcase. When I macro t to the, it wont capitalize at the beginning of a sentence. Another bug in my OS build (10.1.0.1720), the back macro is broken. To summarize, I use this macro to enter punctuations quickly. These issues are relatively minor. Nothing a software update couldnt fix. Overall, the typing experience has been excellent. I can almost type as fast as my old Bold. Maybe Ill catch my old speed in another week or two.
Processor speeds and benchmarks are relevant when comparing phones on the same platform. On a new OS with no other comparison except the Z10, specs bragging is irrelevant. As far as Im concerned, I couldnt care less about how many cores this Snapdragon has. All I know is this phone is fast. It opens apps quickly and I dont notice any stutter. Pinch/zoom works well as well as scrolling. This phone handles multitasking without me noticing it. Sometimes I forget to close apps because I dont notice them slowing down the phone. For those who want to know anyways, Ive pasted the specs below.
QualcommВ® Snapdragonв„ў S4 processor with 1.5 GHz dual-core CPUs
16GB Internal Flash Memory
Up to 32 GB Expandable with Micro SD card
Apps and Multitasking
As most of you know, the app selection is limited compared to the other platforms. Many of the popular apps are missing from BlackBerry App World like Pandora, Netflix, Instagram, and etc. Most of these apps can be accessed by sideloading their Android counterparts. I choose not to do this. It seems like a hassle and Id rather have native apps. Ive tried the ported WordPress App which is an Android clone and its funky. It works but the gestures are not native and its not as snappy. Another trick to alleviate the app gap is adding a shortcut of mobile sites to the homescreen. For instance, Bank of America doesnt have an app (yet) for BB10 so I went to their mobile site via the browser, hit menu, then selected add to home screen. This makes an icon in your app tray. I did the same for my payroll site and have my finances all set.
As far as multitasking goes, its very straightforward. BlackBerry calls their apps running active frames. Depending on the developer, the apps can show updates or other information. For example, BeWeather will show the temperature of your location and most battery apps will show the current state of charge. Active frames are similar to Android widgets. Currently, there is a limit of 8 active frames and theyre ordered by use so if you open a 9th app, the app thats at the bottom of the list gets closed.
You are lucky if you can get a days life out of todays smartphones. With bigger screens and faster processors, smartphones eat up plenty of juice especially with lots of antennas on. They almost always need to be topped off in the car or while sitting on your desk. Luckily, the Q10 has a large 8WHr battery(2100mAH) that is enough to last a full day for the average user. Ive been spoiled by my old Seidio 2600mAH battery on my Bold so I was used to 2+ days before having to recharge. BB10 on the Q10 is tweaked with lots of battery optimization tricks. Theres softwares tweaks under the hood as well as UI differences like a power-saving dark theme compared to the Z10. Keeping all the unused antennas off like GPS and Wifi should give you more endurance on your Q10.
Call quality seems on par with my old Bold which is to say its very good. I wasnt sure what to think at first since dedicated call and end buttons are now gone but swiping up an app reveals the call icon glued to the bottom-left of the screen so thats not a big compromise. Accepting a call is as easy as swiping down and rejecting a call is done by swiping up. One thing I did notice that disappointed me was the speakerphone wasnt as loud as my Bold.
The Q10 sports an 8mp 1080p rear and a 2mp 720p front facing camera. I dont like to pixels peep smartphone cameras as theyre pretty much the same quality with some exceptions. It is a nice update from my Bold since the Q10 has autofocus. Im sure most of you have seen their Time Shift feature. After seeing demos of it in action, I wasnt impressed. After using it in the real world, Im reminded of the old mantra, Dont judge a book by its В cover. On paper, its a feature that combines burst shooting with face recognition. This feature looks like a gimmick but its incredibly useful in practice. When you open the camera app and enter Time Shift as your shooting mode, simple tap on the screen and you will hear, Click, Click, Click, SNAP! The camera take a series of burst shots and gives you a timeline to edit. It can zoom into a face and you can adjust the frames to get the perfect shot. Wheres the magic in that? Ive discovered that Time Shift actually takes 2 or so frames before you hit the shutter button and leaves it in the memory buffer. What does this mean? Say youre taking spy photos of your significant other and they see you trying to ninja a shot. If they intercept right when you hit the shutter, no worries. Theyve already been exposed. At this point, you can show them their futile attempts to block and gloat in victory. This is just one example of Time Shift being very handy. HDR mode is cool too but Time Shift is the highlight of the camera.
The front facing camera is decent to use as a mirror, say if you think you have a booger or something, but I dont find myself using it too much(modesty helps). I have tried it out with BBM Video and although its В not HD quality(maybe due to network), its surprisingly good and not choppy. Clear but lower resolution. When BBM comes out for iOS and Android, it should be interesting to see if BBM Video comes with it.
BB10 is new and it have some quirks that bother me. For instance, the universal search feature isnt consistent. If I were to type where is burger king?, search would give me the option to open the browser and Bing or Google that query. If I were to type BBM tom, search would show a list of people and when I tap on one, it would go to BBM in the same active frame. It wouldnt open the BBM app. This is also happens when I type text XYZ and email XYZ. This becomes an issue when I swipe up the active frame and begin a new search. It would open up the active frame which is already in BBM or text messages. It doesnt open a new search frame. Very quirky.
Another issue I have is the Hub. I love the hub. Its great but it NEEDS a timeout feature. Say I get an email from Amazon or whatever. I open it in the hub and swipe out of it to go the my browser. Cool. Then I hear a chime and get a new mail. Awesome. This is the moment! Its time to peek and flow! I peek, then flow right into the Amazon email Crap! I didnt close it. Now I have to hit another button to get to my new email. This issue could be easily solve by timeout options or reset to the main hub when navigating away. It defeats the whole purpose of peek and flow.
This phone has lots of niceties only revealed once youve used it for an extended period. This first is the keyboard shortcuts most Bold and Curve users are familiar with. Hitting space to scroll down a page and Alt+Space to go up is surprisingly efficient since its fast and you dont have to waste movement scrolling and covering the screen with your fingers. Likewise the t and b will take you to the top and bottom of the page.
Another nice feature is Reader Mode. I found this while trying to refresh a page. On legacy BlackBerry devices, r would refresh the page but on BB10, it enters Reader Mode which removes the ads and distractions while only serving you the content. its great for reading high media-rich site that can feel overwhelming at times.
Overall, Im extremely happy with this smartphone. It has meet most of my expectations and fulfilled nearly all my needs. Of course it would be great if more developers jumped onto the platform but ultimately, thats not up to BlackBerry. They can do all they can to entice developers but I think they should continue to build and refine BB10. The size of an app ecosystem seems to correlate with popularity and sadly, BB are not as popular as iOS and Android. Hopefully, their craftsmanship will get the customers and the developers will follow.
If you want more apps than you know what to do with, this phone is not for you. If you want a smartphone thats great for emails, text messages, communications, with a good battery, than this phone is an excellent choice.