Blackberry Q10 Review

BlackBerry-Q10I wanted to start this review by acknowledging that it is way overdue. I had the intentions of writing this review back in late July, after using the Q10 for several weeks. However, the arrival of my adorable baby Hannah put the brakes on much of my extracurricular activities!

The Blackberry Q10 has been on the market since May 2013 in Canada and the UK, and was released in early June with most major U.S. carriers. When most people think of Blackberry, they think of the iconic keyboard devices which literally changed the way many of us communicate via email and text messaging.

Despite launching several months after the Blackberry Z10 touch screen model (see my Z10 review), the Q10 is seen as the future of Blackberry. The device incorporates that iconic physical QWERTY keyboard along with a 3.1” touch screen, and the new Blackberry 10 operating system.

First Impressions

I have to admit, I was excited to get my hands on the Q10. I have been using the Z10 since January 2013, and I really love it. I remember from the first time I used the Z10, the operating system seemed fast, intuitive and refreshing compared to my previous phone – the Apple iPhone 4S. It had been a number of years since I used a physical keyboard with a previous Blackberry model and I was looking forward to trying a device which combined the best of both worlds.

The moment I picked up the Q10, it just felt so right. It fit perfectly in my hand.  Compared to the Z10 which boasts a 4.2” screen (and I love), the Q10 felt so natural to hold, and admittedly fits better in your pocket than larger smartphones. After using the holster case for several weeks, I opted to go back to just slipping the Q10 in my pocket for safe keeping, and the size really helps.

Hardware

Along with the keyboard and Blackberry 10 OS, the Q10 is packed with some pretty decent hardware including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.5 GHZ dual-core processor, 2GB RAM and 16 GB of storage, an 8 MP rear camera and 4G LTE for fast Internet and downloads.

The 3.1” Super AMOLED touch display offers 720 x 720 resolution – big enough to allow a decent web browsing experience, view photos, videos, email and more. Although full touch screen lovers will miss the screen real estate they are used to, the Q10 does a pretty good job of combining touch screen with the physical keyboard. The screen manages to display three rows of icons compared to four rows on the Z10.

One of the biggest attributes of the Q10 is its large 2100mAH removable battery which claims up to 13.5 hours of talk time (3G) and almost 15 days of standby time. This was an important feature for me, as battery life on the Z10 was typically shorter than my average work day.

During everyday use I did notice a significant difference in battery life compared to the Z10. Initially I could get a full day of use out of the Q10, although this has seemed to diminish somewhat over time. The Q10 also seemed to randomly get very warm, and I would sometimes notice the battery life was sucked up quickly – this seems to me to be software related or perhaps a glitch in the operating system. Luckily this didn’t happen very often.

Thanks to the built in removable microSD memory card slot, I was able to plug in the microSD card from my Z10 to take along my photos and music. Although I assumed syncing the Q10 with my PC using the Blackberry Link software would automatically transfer over all of the apps I had downloaded onto my Z10, this did not happen.

I had to manually download apps to the Q10 – which in hindsight was a better option, because I did not want all of the apps and games I had previously downloaded to be on the new device. I avoided many of the games I had enjoyed on the Z10, and stuck to the key apps I use frequently, such as my CIBC banking app, Skype, Stocks, Amazon Kindle, Crackberry news, and Reebee (shopping flyers). Social networking apps like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare come preloaded on the Q10, along with StoryMaker, Maps, Docs-to-Go and BBM.

Cool Features

There were no surprises for me as the Q10 has the same operating system as the Z10. Therefore the functionality and features were essentially the same, save the larger battery, physical keyboard and size difference.

I have to say though, while using the Q10, it felt more like a business device to me. It is built to be a productivity tool. With this in mind, I wanted to talk about Blackberry Hub – the all-in-one inbox Blackberry has built into the BB10 OS. Blackberry Hub is a killer app if I have ever seen one. While other smartphones have centralized email inboxes which bring all of your email into one inbox, Blackberry Hub is different.

Not only do all of your emails from multiple accounts show up in Blackberry Hub, but you can respond or send new emails from any of your accounts – not just a default account. One of the most fun and time-saving features is how Blackberry Hub incorporates all of your social media accounts.

All of your social media messages or updates show up right in your Hub. And with Blackberry Hub you can respond to social media posts and messages without even having to open Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others. Simply respond like you are replying to any email, and the message or post goes directly to your social media account. The same applies to text and Blackberry Messenger (BBM) messages. Talk about a convenient timesaver!

I have to be honest. Blackberry Hub is one of my favorite tools, and is what sets BB10 devices apart from the competition. It makes Blackberry 10 devices true communication tools.

Overall Impression

After using the Q10 for several months, I can say without a doubt that it is a productivity enhancer. Combining the Blackberry Hub with multitasking abilities and key apps like Docs-to-Go, banking apps, Bloomberg, Skype, Ebay, Maps and social media apps of course allowed me to get work done while keeping in touch and communicating effortlessly with friends and colleagues.

For those of you who love your Blackberry keyboard, I have no doubt you will love the Q10. It combines your favorite keyboard with a fantastic new operating system and better touch screen than past devices. For myself though, I am going back to the Z10 which I truly enjoy…I just can’t give up that beautiful 4.2″ screen!

The Final Verdict

The Good

  • Solid build, attractive design
  • Perfect size in your hand
  • Best physical keyboard bar none
  • 3.1” AMOLED touch screen is a nice compromise for touch device and physical keyboard
  • Blackberry 10.1 OS
  • Blackberry Hub is a killer productivity app
  • Blackberry Balance allows work and personal modes
  • Ability to side-load Android apps
  • Larger removable battery – extends to all day use
  • Expandable memory

 

The Bad

  • Still a limited app selection – but has most of the apps I needed
  • Screen is too small for those used to all touch devices (especially 4-5” devices)
  • Takes time after boot-up to load Blackberry Hub – must wait before you can access contacts or emails
  • Physical keyboard use is best with two hands – not great for one-handed typing which I prefer
  • Unit sometimes got warm and the battery life seemed to diminish

Update

Since I began writing this review, Blackberry has released OS 10.2 which included a number of enhancements. Most notable were Priority Hub which learns how you communicate and which messages are most important, presenting them in their own folder (as well as in the regular Hub), message previews – which show at the top of your screen, improved Copy and Paste functionality and lock screen notifications (shows recent emails and messages without having to unlock your phone).

I also noticed an improved Internet browsing experience. Before OS 10.2, when browsing websites on the Z10 or Q10 I would often have to pinch and zoom in order to actually read the text on the website. I notice now when websites load the text is automatically larger, eliminating the need to zoom in! I still enjoy using the “reader” mode too which removes the images from a webpage – showing only the text in an easy to read format.

There are several other enhancements in OS 10.2 – click here if you’d like to read about all of them.

Blackberry 10 Launch – My Experience

I attended the Blackberry 10 Launch event in New York City last Wednesday. As a new member of Team Blackberry Elite, I was invited by RIM (now Blackberry) to attend the event as well as several other events and activities exclusive to the Elite program.IMG_0406

My first impression of the event was the grand scale of the location, and setup. Walking into the building at pier 36, which looked deceptively unassuming from the outside, I was met by a large crowd of people registering for the event. After obtaining my name tag and checking my coat, I shuffled to another much larger area filled with hundreds of reporters, analysts and other invitees enjoying a nice spread of bagels, pastries  fruit and more.

Surrounding us were large images of the back of new Blackberry, imagery outlining the new features of BB10 and screens showing live Tweets of the event. After having a bite to eat I wandered around taking it all in.

This was a huge day for RIM.  Some would say a “make-or-break” day. BB10, now over a year behind schedule, is in many people’s eyes, RIM’s last hope for survival in an industry it created a decade earlier.

Glancing down at my watch, I realized it was getting close to 10:00AM. I checked my email and had received a message from a RIM staffer who was to seat me that morning. I located Kari and she led me through the crowd into the main venue. An even bigger room, filled with rows and rows of chairs, even more people, and a large stage at the front. As we approached the stage, Kari led me to the 2nd row centre where I took a seat. Wow. What a seat!  The reality of the whole even was starting to hit me.

IMG_0418I removed my camera from its case and began snapping pictures. As people moved into the main hall, the atmosphere began to grow with excitement.

We were moments away from the biggest announcement in the company’s history. The previous year had been one of struggles, layoffs, bad press, the appointment of a new CEO and plenty of nay-sayers calling for the death of RIM.

Some said it was too late for RIM. The Blackberry’s world market share had gone from close to 50% 4-5 years earlier to just over 5% today. Apple’s iPhone and the newer Android phones had changed everything. Each new model stealing more and more of the market away from RIM. As the bring-your-own-device movement has grown, more and more people have gone from having a work phone or carrying two devices, to using just one device of their choice.

But during this time, even with plenty of defections to the competition, RIM had still managed to grow their user base to 80 million. Nothing to sneeze at for sure. But can it hold onto them? If RIM can help it…BB10 will change everything.

Thorsten Heins takes the stage to great applause. CEO for just a year, Thorsten has had his work cut out for him. He begins by welcoming the crowd and acknowledging the difficult year leading up to now. One of the first announcements made is that Rim (Research in Motion) will now become Blackberry, one brand.IMG_0428

The next hour or so are full of announcements,  demonstrations and plenty of cheering from the crowd. As Thorsten introduces BB10, dubbed a “mobile computing platform”, he goes on to explain that BB10 represents a platform for the next ten years.

Capable of running powerful devices, connecting devices like your car, and launching Blackberry into a new era. With growing anticipation, the new Blackberry smartphones are finally introduced to the crowd to great applause. As anticipated, they include a touchscreen model, dubbed the Z10, and a physical keyboard model — the Q10. Both models boasting larger screens than any previous Blackberries. The Z10 features a full 4.2 inch screen with higher resolution than the iPhone 5!

New features are highlighted, like Blackberry Balance — the ability to separate work and personal files and apps,  Timeshift photos, peek, and flow, Blackberry Hub and more. The integration of all social media together with email and instant messaging is RIM’s solution to information overload and the need to open various applications to check for updates on other devices.IMG_0452

Through various demonstrations we preview the new BBM video chat function and BB10’s ability to share a user’s screen with another across the country or across the globe. Next, the subject of apps!  Over 70,000 apps will be available at launch — the largest number of any “new’ platform at launch. Apps like Skype, Amazon Kindle, Angry Birds and over 1,000 of the tops apps for other platforms.

For me personally, a native Amazon Kindle app is absolutely huge and a welcome addition. As an ebook author and reader, the lack of a Kindle app for the Blackberry Playbook tablet had always left a big hole in my user experience. I look forward to trying it out on the Blackberry Z10!

At one point during the presentation, Thorsten pointed out that there were six launches happening around the world simultaneously — New York, Paris, Toronto, Dubai, London and Johannesburg — before pulling up a live screen showing the crowd at each event.  Truly a global launch!

Blackberry also used the launch as an opportunity to announce that Alicia Keys, the singer and performer, will be Blackberry’s new Global Creative Director. Alicia used an analogy about dating to describe how she had been a faithful Blackberry user years before, but began to notice newer, cooler looking devices at the gym and began “seeing other phones”. With the launch of BB10 she was now going steady with Blackberry again because it now met both her work and personal needs and looked sexy again. IMG_0451As one of her first assignments, Alicia will be travelling around the world, talking to customers and Blackberry users — and will document her experiences using her Z10.

When would the new devices be available?  The Z10 will be released first followed by the Q10 in early April.

Due to carrier testing they would not be available in the U.S. until March, but were available the next day in the UK, and on sale in Canada February 5th! Although prices may vary, Thorsten did acknowledge that the Z10 would be priced at $149.95 with a 3-year contract in Canada.

The one month delay for a U.S. release was a disappointment to many and could have a negative  impact on the momentum Blackberry is trying to build around the launch. Both the UK and Canada represent large, important markets for Blackberry and it will be interesting to see what sales look like in the next few weeks.

In his closing remarks, Thorsten told the crowd that everyone would leave with their very own Blackberry Z10 so they could try out all of the exciting new features for themselves. The crowd erupted!  It felt like an Oprah moment when she would give everyone in her audience one of her favorite things!

As things wrapped up, we all made our way to another room to demo the phone for ourselves and get some lunch. The event had left me feeling positive about Blackberry and its future. The devices looked great, and some of the new features were really cool. I was looking forward to trying one out myself!

I have now been using the Z10 for 5 days and I really like it. I am hoping to do a full review next week. Stay tuned.

To watch the live event, you can see it here.

The events didn’t end there for Team Blackberry Elite members. Following lunch we boarded a couple of buses and the Blackberry staff took us on a tour of the city/scavenger hunt type event. It was fun and we got to try out our new phones while seeing incredible NYC. Blackberry really went out of their way to not only show us a great time, but also to meet with all of us and answer our questions. I even met Thorsten Heins.

Later that evening my wife and I attended the Blackberry Fan Event at Milk Studios, where we were treated to free drinks and great music.  The place was packed and when Thorsten arrived he received a rockstar welcome! He even posed for pictures with all of the excited fans. What a fantastic trip, event and experience. Kudos to the Blackberry staff and management for a great day!

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