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 Q10

Well, this is day 2 with my new Blackberry Q10. The experience so far has been positive.

Blackberry Q10I like the size of the device – it fits nicely in my hand (smaller than the Z10), although I am still getting used to the smaller 3.1″ screen (the Z10 has a 4.2″ screen) and physical keyboard. It has been several years since I have had a “real” (physical) keyboard — it will take a bit of adjustment to move from one thumb to two thumb typing.

Look for a full review of the Q10 model in a few weeks. After spending six months using the Z10 touch-screen model, I want to give the Q10 a fair comparison by giving myself time to use it day to day.

Blackberry Z10 U.S. Launch

Wow is all I can say about AT&T’s lack of promotion for the new Blackberry Z10 launch in the USA! I happen to be in Florida visiting my parents and thought I would stop into an AT&T store at the mall, the day of the launch. Walking in I surveyed the store for signs of a launch promotion, but other than a tiny flyer (a flyer…really? Not even a banner, sign or poster?) at the front of the store there was no sign of it.

I asked one of the sales staff if they had the new Blackberry Z10 and he said yes. “Would you like to see it,” he asked next. I told him yes, thinking he would lead to a display in the store, but to my great surprise, he instead walked into the back room to grab one. After asking a few simple questions, I could tell he was aware of some of the highlights of the new device, but did not have a lot of training using it.

Instead of letting him know that I have had the device since it’s January 30th launch in New York City, I simply handed the device back and left the store.

As AT&T is the first U.S. launch partner for the Blackberry Z10 I am simply blown away by the lack of effort and marketing on its part. What a joke. From my experience, the Z10 is a new bread of Blackberry. It delivers on all of the promises, and I think if people just pick it up and play with it for a few minutes they will love it.

With Verizon launching the Z10 this week, let’s hope that AT&T’s miserable excuse for a product launch doesn’t hurt sales too much. With all the bad things I hear about AT&T service in the U.S. I am just glad I don’t have to deal with them, living in Canada!

Blackberry Z10 Smartphone Review

Blackberry Z10I have been following the development of the Blackberry 10 mobile platform for quite a while. In the months leading up to the launch there was a lot of buzz, speculation and even leaked pictures of the upcoming devices.

I was even more excited when I received an invitation from RIM (now Blackberry) to attend the launch event in New York City. I was lucky enough to be part of a select group to attend, learn about all of the advanced features of the devices and even get to try them out first hand. Please check out my other post on this experience.

To top off the amazing launch event, everyone in attendance got to take home their very own Blackberry Z10!  I have been using mine close to three weeks, and I am ready to share my thoughts on Blackberry’s newest smartphone and BB10 platform.

First Impressions

The first thing I noticed about the Z10 was its sleek and thin design. The Z10 was clearly a different breed of Blackberry.

It felt solid in my hand, and fairly light weight. The 4.2″ screen is beautiful. The colour just pops, and the screen resolution (1280×768) is the same as my 42″ plasma HDTV! The HD screen makes your games, pictures and videos look really sharp and crisp, making for a fun multimedia experience.

Apps loaded quickly, including the camera. The Z10 is fast, and the specs back that up. The Z10 comes equipped with a dual-core 1.5Ghz processor, comparable to other high-end devices. It comes with 2GB RAM, 16GB of Flash memory and the memory is expandable with the built-in Micro SD slot.  This is good news, especially if you plan to use the device to take a lot of video, or download a lot of movies and large files.

Other hardware features of the Z10 include an 8MP camera on the back and a 2MP front camera for self-photos or video chatting. Your wireless options include Bluetooth 4.0 to connect with accessories and other devices, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n for plenty of connection options as well as NFC (near field communication) — a feature becoming more prevalent for sharing information with other devices, mobile commerce and even replacing your security swipe card at work.

The device came loaded with typical apps like BBM, and Blackberry World, Maps, Docs-to-Go, Calendar, Contacts and others you might expect. It also came with some of the top social media apps pre-loaded — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and even Foursquare.

The browser is fast, although I had issues loading some websites — mostly when I was not connected to Wi-Fi. I also don’t like how some emails open bigger than your screen and you are forced to “pinch” them down to see all of it.

Blackberry Hub

After entering my email and social media account information, all of the accounts were now displayed in Blackberry Hub — the heart of communication in the BB10 platform.  The Hub acts as a repository for all communication with your email, messaging and social media. Imagine, all of your messages and updates located in one location — available at the swipe of your finger. Blackberry has alleviated the need to check all of your accounts individually.

I really like this feature. When you receive a message of any sort, you are notified via a customizable sound effect as well as the iconic red flashing light.  Simply swipe the device to get to the Hub from any app, or “peak” at the message without even lifting your thumb from the screen. You can reply to any messages within the Hub as well — no need to launch the Facebook or messenger app to respond.

This convenience is one of the highlights of BB10, something you won’t find incorporated natively anywhere else. (Note: I have seen similar functionality on a Samsung Galaxy Note, but it was achieved via a separate app, and was not nearly as elegant).

Apps

At the BB10- launch, Blackberry CEO Thorsten Heins announced that more than 70,000 apps would be available soon after launch — the most of any other mobile platforms at launch. They will include the top 1,000 apps  — apps like Facebook, Skype, Amazon Kindle and Angry Birds. This was great news for Blackberry fans as a lack of apps was a major concern for the new BB10.

Blackberry 10 AppsI was personally excited to hear that Amazon was supporting BB10 with a Kindle app, considering they had not done so with the Playbook running QNX. I am a heavy eBook reader, and have a lot of Kindle books already on my iPad. This was a big plus for me.

While the initial selection of apps on Blackberry World seemed a little thin, I was able to download a free copy of Angry Birds Star Wars, the WordPress app for managing my websites, weather apps, stock market apps, CBC news , TimmyMe and some others. I have also noticed more of the announced apps have been trickling in each day, including some really fun free games like Beach Buggy Blitz and Riptide GP — a jetski game.  The Z10 can definitely hold its own as a mobile gaming machine, and with EA, Gameloft and Disney on board we should see some good quality games available soon.

I would suspect that we will see more of the top apps appearing before the U.S. launch of the Z10 in March.  But if you are like me and need your apps now, you can always side-load your favorite Android apps to get you through.

You can’t simply download and install Android apps on your Z10 though. There are a few steps necessary. Websites like www.goodereader.com explain exactly how to do it and also have the software necessary. It involves putting your Z10 in developer mode and loading the apps from your PC or Mac. It is quite simple actually, if you follow their instructions closely. They also have almost 1,000 apps that you can download which will work on your Z10.

I downloaded my CIBC banking app, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble NOOK app, Ebay, Overdrive (borrow ebooks) and the PhotoShop Express app. All of them worked fine on my Z10 and I can now wait a little longer for the native apps to be released for Z10. If you’d like to see what Android apps are available and learn more about side-loading, click here.

Cool Features

The Blackberry Z10 comes with a few standout features and apps. As I mentioned, with 8MP, the camera is pretty decent and after taking it with me sight-seeing in NYC, I can attest to the quality of the images. But the Z10 also has a really neat feature called “Timeshift’.

Have you ever tried taking a picture of your group of friends? Invariably someone is always blinking, looking the other way or not smiling yet. Timeshift helps you fix that without reshooting the photo. In fact, when activated, Timeshift actually takes 10 shots at once, and then using face recognition, gives you the ability to isolate each person’s face and choose the best shot. It works amazingly well.

The Story Maker app included with the Z10 makes it so easy to create your own high-quality movies in minutes. To test this function, I selected a number of photos of NYC, and a video clip I had taken of the Brooklyn Bridge. Next I chose the background music, added the title and credits and chose a theme from the six available. Within minutes I had made a fun video of my trip and uploaded it to YouTube. You can check it out here.

Unless you explicitly close an app on the Z10, it will remain running in the background utilizing true multitasking. Simply swipe your thumb up from the bottom of the device and the app will minimize into an active frame on the screen. You can have up to 8 apps running simultaneously, and you’ll notice that even in minimized form, the information or images in the app are changing or updating. To get back to an app, simply tap it with your finger. This feature makes it easy to jump from app to app without closing and restarting the apps.

The virtual keyboard on the Z10 is one of the best I’ve used. With next word predictive type, Z10 will begin to show words above the letters on the keyboard as it tries to anticipate what you will type next. You simply swipe up from the key to use the word it is suggesting.

It actually works really well and according to Blackberry it will learn from you so that it will get more accurate over time. I have typed some messages using all swipes after entering just two letters, and this really speeds up your typing, as you can imagine. This feature will impress even diehard physical keyboard lovers — but if you can wait until April 2013, the Blackberry Q10 with keyboard will be available.

Blackberry Balance is a great feature, allowing you to separate your work from your personal accounts, apps and data. The IT department can still choose what apps are available to you on the corporate side, and still have some control over your work side, but they can’t see the personal side. Although I haven’t yet been able to try this feature because I don’t yet have a work account on my phone, I think the separation is important and will please a lot of Blackberry users.

Blackberry has really focused on giving the user the ability to share information, pictures and videos easily on social media and other mediums and devices. If I snap a picture for example, I simply press the “Share” icon at the bottom of the screen and I can share the picture on BBM, text message, email, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, via Bluetooth, or even via NFC to another person’s Blackberry. Talk about options!

But that’s not all. One of the coolest features of the Z10 is the ability to play your music, videos and even pictures on your Smart TV or other DLNA devices (Blu-ray players, media players) without wires! Unlike the iPhone or iPad which require you to buy an adapter and HDMI cable, or an Apple TV device ($99) to play your media directly on your TV, the Z10 allowed me to stream my video clips right to my TV over Wi-Fi.

Overall Impression

After using the Z10 for a couple of weeks, I really like it. I think BB10 and the Z10 have delivered on the promise of a re-designed, re-engineered and re-invented Blackberry experience.

To me the Z10 is refreshing. The interface is innovative, Blackberry Hub and other functionality is unique and works well together. The ability to stream music, video and pictures onto my HDTV with no cables or accessories is exciting and impressed every person I demonstrated it for.

There are still some challenges ahead for Blackberry as they try to convince existing Blackberry users and new users to give them another look. But I think people will be impressed with what they see.

As more and more apps enter Blackberry World, and more phones hit the market (Q10 in April and perhaps others this year) Blackberry may prove to be a solid contender and alternative to Apple and Android.

The Final Verdict

The Good

  • Solid build, nice design
  • Beautiful HD screen
  • Unique functionality
  • Built for sharing media and information
  • Blackberry Hub is excellent
  • Great camera + Timeshift feature
  • Blackberry Balance
  • Ability to side-load Android apps
  • View photos, music and videos wirelessly on HDTV
  • Battery can be easily replaced or swapped out
  • Expandable memory
  • Price

The Bad

  • Small app selection – although more and more each day
  • Boot-up time was over a minute – 30 seconds longer than iPhone
  • Decent battery life but not as good as I hoped – won’t last full day with heavy use
  • Voice control – SIRI like functionality is just OK
  • Maps function is decent, but not as good as Google Maps
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