BlackBerry 10 has taken quite the roller coaster ride when it comes to gaining traction. Before it was officially announced, many people (myself included) were excited simply because it was nice to know that BlackBerry wasn't totally dead, and that the Canadian company wasn't ready to give up just yet. Although BlackBerry was already considered one of the four major smartphone platforms, it wasn't a secret that if BlackBerry 7 was the best that BlackBerry (then RIM) could do, BlackBerrys probably wouldn't have shelf life for much longer.
The BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 were the first devices to be announced for BlackBerry 10, and the phones were about what was expected to come from BlackBerry. You have the full touchscreen device, the Z10, which brought the hardware aspect of BlackBerry up to speed in terms of what's most popular. You also have the Q10, the smartphone that holds on to that QWERTY keyboard that is largely what keeps a lot of users to continue using BlackBerry when more popular platforms, like iOS and Android, are dominating in the software and app market aspect. However, despite the refreshed interfaces and being able to create two high-end smartphones, so far BlackBerry 10 has not been able to produce a very optimistic outlook for many on the future of BlackBerry 10.
However, the refreshed platform is still very new and has a lot of work cut out for it. Although BlackBerry 10 has over 100,000 applications on its app store after just a few months of being official, as I and many others have mentioned, there are still a number of key apps missing that really help draw crowds to a platform. Netflix, Instagram, Hulu Plus, and Spotify are just a few that users have expressed interest in having.
But to be fair, the lack of applications probably isn't the only thing holding BlackBerry 10 back. You also have to consider that the only two models we have seen released so far in the U.S. are the aforementioned Z10 and Q10, and both models didn't come at the cheapest price. The BlackBerry Z10 intially started at $199.99 on both AT&T and Verizon, but have since dropped to $99.99 as of recently on both carriers. T-Mobile also has the Z10 available for $0 down, but with T-Mobile's new plans you pay for the phone in full either up front or by paying $23 a month for 2 years. The Q10, on the other hand, still costs $199.99 on AT&T and Verizon and requires a $99 down payment with T-Mobile, but again, you will be paying for the device in full. Even with the Z10 at $99.99 on subsidized carriers, it's not exactly a cheap option for people who are looking for a good deal; usually, BlackBerry has options for all price ranges.
And that's why I think the Q5 should be available to the U.S.
The Q5 is essentially the BlackBerry 10 version of the BlackBerry Curve, and although not the highest quality phone the line was very popular for its lower price tag and decent specs. I owned a couple of BlackBerry Curves of my own, and they were certainly not the worst phones I've ever had. Rumor has it that the BlackBerry Q5, which is a step below the BlackBerry Q10, might not even be arriving in the United States, although there have been reports that it might show up for AT&T users. Even if it turns out to be true, I think BlackBerry seriously needs to reconsider letting other carriers have a shot at the lower end device.
A lot of people are afraid to take a chance with BlackBerry 10, and rightfully so. The platform, although making progress, is doing so at what seems to be a very slow rate. The average consumer won't want to drop $199.99, or even $99.99, on a device that doesn't give them as much functionality as other phones and platforms will, but they might be willing to work something out if the Q5 happens to be cheaper in both subsidized and unsubsidized pricing. They might be willing to give up the luxury of having more applications and a familiar platform in order to give BlackBerry 10 a shot. Also, the Q5 isn't exactly a bad phone. In fact, the phone is almost the same as the Q10 minus a few megapixels on the rear-facing camera and the materials aren't as high quality. Other than that, it's practically the same as the Q10 and is a fun, "youthful" looking device, and I think a lot of consumers would find it attractive enough to purchase as long as the price was right.
BlackBerry is also supposed to release a phablet sometime in the near future, and while I understand that the number of people who prefer phablets over smaller phones is increasing by the day (therefore making this a smart move by BlackBerry in my opinion), there are still a lot of people that heavily take price into consideration as well, even in the U.S. Although some key applications that are missing in BlackBerry 10's market is no doubt hindering the phone's sales and success, I'm also starting to think that by not offering a cheaper option that BlackBerry is shutting out a large number of potential customers - and even if they do release the Q5 in the U.S., they'll still be shutting out customers if the rumor to make the Q5 an AT&T exclusive holds true. Each carrier that plans to support BlackBerry 10 devices should have a lower end device to choose from. Android does it, Windows Phone does it, and even Apple does it every year once a new iPhone is released. Low-end phones still have a demographic, and they still very much matter.
Images via BlackBerry, ZDNet