It's time for a PhoneDog Snapshot Review, where we take our typical two-part review and condense it down into a tiny little video that's loaded with information! Today, the BlackBerry Q10.
BlackBerry released the Z10 earlier in the year as its first BlackBerry 10 smartphone. With new hardware, new software, and availability on multiple carriers worldwide, it was marked as a solid improvement for the struggling OEM and was released on multiple carriers in the United States, giving it a better chance of succeeding. But the real replacement for die-hard BlackBerry users is this smartphone: the BlackBerry Q10. Featuring a big, beautiful physical QWERTY keyboard, it upgrades the keyboard BlackBerry line into the fold. It's coming soon to Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and T-Mobile.
Much like the Z10, the BlackBerry Q10's hardware and software are completely new. The design may closely resemble older smartphones from the manufacturer, but it's an entirely new animal. BlackBerry 10.1 is preinstalled, and the hardware has been brought up to near-current standards. And man, that keyboard. It's back.
Specifications include a 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU, 3.1-inch HD 720p display, 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD recording, 2,100 mAh battery, and 4G LTE connectivity. The de sign language of the BlackBerry Q10 is somewhat of a pro and con; existing users of a BlackBerry QWERTY smartphone will instantly feel at home, but most will feel like the form factor and overall design is a flashback to 2006.
If we're comparing BlackBerrys to BlackBerrys (pun intended), the software is a giant leap forward. BlackBerry 10.1 is a night-and-day improvement over BlackBerry 7. The gesture-based navigation and removal of the trackpad brings BlackBerry into modern times, and innovative features like BlackBerry Hub and Time Shift compete with some of HTC, Samsung, and Apple's offerings. Much like the Z10 though, I have struggled to nail down the gesture flow on the Q10 - at times, it takes multiple clicks before something will respond. At times, it makes it seem like it's less fluid than it really is.
If we're comparing BlackBerry 10.1 to iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8, I can't find a compelling reason to switch to the BlackBerry Q10. For any previously-held benefits, a competing argument can now be made that Apple and Android OEMs such as Samsung and HTC have equal solutions. Apple and Samsung's KNOX now hold equal dominance in the enterprise space. HTC has Zoe, BlinkFeed, and beautiful hardware.
The Q10's winning strength is the physical QWERTY keyboard, hands down. For those that receive hundreds of emails daily or text messages nonstop, the Q10 is going to be a great option. Though I wish they had retained the curved QWERTY keyboard found on older models such as the Bold 9900, the large keys make for a fantastic typing experience. Within a few minutes, I was pounding out emails at near-computer speeds.
BlackBerry needs to beef up their app store, and fast. In today's competitive market, the ecosystem plays a huge role, and it's an area in which BlackBerry continues to struggle behind the two industry heavyweights.
Despite the OS overhaul, it still retains an unnecessarily corporate feel. Personalization options just aren't there, which will frustrate those that like to make a device unique. Though one could argue that the corporate brand image has always been synonymous with BlackBerry, Samsung and Apple have been successful in breaking the mold and creating devices that appeal to both the personal and business sides of life.
The BlackBerry Q10 is a solid step forward in an industry that is known for taking leaps forward. Existing BlackBerry users may like the Q10 and the keyboard is fantastic, but it continues on the path that BlackBerry has found themselves in before, and that is there's no real reason to migrate to BlackBerry. BlackBerry no longer has a lock on any particular feature; a reason that would compel prospective buyers to switch. It's a nice device - it's just not enough.
In the main categories that potential buyers consider prior to purchase - build quality, hardware, carrier availability, and software - there are existing devices on the market that go above and beyond what BlackBerry 10.1 and BlackBerry's smartphones offer. When you're running a marathon, you run to pass your competitors and win - you don't run beside them. So while the software is good and certainly an improvement from past BlackBerry OSes, there's no winning feature or hardware bonus over iOS, Android, or Windows Phone devices. At this point, unless a QWERTY keyboard were paramount, I wouldn't recommend this over alternatives in the marketplace.