Just five years ago Blackberry devices were still the must have device of corporate CEO’s, were popular parts of a vast majority of IT departments mobile fleets and were commonly found in the hands of those regulars in the Qantas Club lounges. So what’s happened? Fast forward to 2013 and it’s hard to find a Blackberry in the hand-me-down basket of your IT team.
Earlier this year to much fanfare the latest and some would say last ditch effort from this once great company was launched. Blackberry 10 – the operating system which seems to have been in development for years, and the announcement of two new devices.
This all comes after years of consistent demise in handset sales and a move globally toward both Apple and Android devices away from what was once the dominant player – Blackberry.
At least two new Blackberrys in 2013
The two new devices announced were the Z10 and Q10. The Z10 is a full touch-screen device which sits alongside its Android and Apple competitors with style, the decision for buyers is more about the operating system and app environment than anything else if you’re in the market for a full touch-screen phone.
So what of the Q10? The Q10 has a full QWERTY keyboard and a decent sized touch screen too. Why is it Blackberry have left the Q10 to follow its Z10 sibling – surely the Q10 is everything about Blackberry that could just help them retain a chunk of market share.
Despite my personal passion for Blackberry devices over the years, Blackberry simply can’t compete with Android and iOS (Apple) today. Blackberry 10 is a sleek, very well thought out operating system – however it lacks Apps, and for my mind is too hard to adjust to for users coming from Android or iOS.
So what about those who are still using Blackberrys?
This is where Blackberry as a company needs to accept they have the most to gain. Convert two, three and four year old handsets still in the corporate environment.
Once you spend a year or more in a more sophisticated App environment like iOS and Google Play you will likely have an investment in the environment. If not the Apps then it’s the user interface of these devices, which can become second nature for users.
With that in mind Blackberry has the opportunity to bring users into their new Blackberry 10 operating system from previous Blackberry devices.
Most importantly the QWERTY keyboard on the Blackberry Q10 could just be the single most important selling point of the Q10 when it comes to giving existing Blackberry owners a choice. At a gala event this week in Florida Blackberry announced another QWERTY based phone the Q5 which will be cheaper and be the perfect device for “emerging” markets. Begging the question – if the keyboard can give them those sales – why isn’t the Q10 being given a higher level of importance over the Z10?
What’s the Q10 like?
Thanks to the good folk at MobiCity we’ve got our hands on a Q10 this week. Unfortunately there is no planned release date for the Q10 in Australia, the device has only just gone on sale in Canada and there is still a month before it goes into the US market.
In the hand the Q10 is probably one of the nicest Blackberry handsets I’ve held. It’s quite light (139g) and while it’s pretty much all plastic there is a higher level quality to it than with other “plastic” devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4.
Around the back
The entire back of the Q10 is a dimpled plastic with the Blackberry logo in the centre. The 8 Megapixel camera and LED flash are the focus of the top section of the rear side, while on top is the single power button for the device.
Gone are the “left and right side convenience” buttons which were a feature of Blackberry handsets of old. These buttons were customisable in the OS to be shortcuts for your favourite applications or settings, and I think that’s a missing feature of the Q10 but given the advanced touch-screen gestures and a much more advanced operating system perhaps they won’t be missed.
Around the side of the device is a metallic grey coloured edging. This would be much better off in actual metal as has been seen on previous handsets, but perhaps for weight and easy of construction that’s not to be on the Q10.
There are two things which dominate the front of the Q10. The 3.1 inch touchscreen and the full QWERTY Keyboard.
The screen is a solid size, but you will feel like you’re missing something in many apps. On an app like Twitter or Facebook you’ll feel like you need to scroll so much more than should be necessary.
However as with Blackberrys before it the Q10 (Blackberry 10 Operating System) allows for a high level of customisation. If your eyes can handle it, you can reduce the font down to a very small size to fit more on-screen and this works really well.
If you’re using a Blackberry with a keyboard now, or remember it fondly – the Q10 is a welcome return with one reservation. Despite being the leader in Keyboard phones for many many years, Blackberry have abandoned the “curved” keyboards which brought them great success and placed each row of keys in a dead-straight line. It’s not noticeable to a great extent but there is definitely an element of disappointment in the absolute ease of use that should come from a Blackberry keyboard.
That’s being super picky on this device. The Q10 keyboard is what any Blackberry user will want – if you don’t like a full touch-screen smartphone then the Q10 is quite simply the only option on the table.
Blackberry 10 – The Operating System
This is not iOS, and it’s certainly not Android. Blackberry 10 is a unique operating system which has some quite brilliant concepts built-in.
Your “multi-task” apps are all on a single page, and swipe left a few times to find the Blackberry Hub which in one view will show you all your messages – Text, Twitter, Facebook, Calls etc – just like the old combined message centre would show on your Blackberry but with today’s design.
Apps on the Blackberry 10 OS (Z10 and Q10 devices) are fresh and modern looking. Before this Operating System apps you might have seen on other phones quite simply looked terrible on Blackberry. Today, your Facebook and Twitter apps look right on par with their iOS and Android counterparts.
The Blackberry App World has 120,000 apps – a lot – that’s for sure, but it’s still missing basic popular apps like Instagram which will bring it down.
Dropbox and Evernote support by default along with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn mean this really can be both a corporate and a casual device.
Overall this should be the flagship Blackberry device in 2013 – but instead the company chose to highlight the full-screen Z10 in all its glory and rush it to market. I think if anything today, Blackberry needs to embrace the keyboard, build on its point of difference – the Q10 is that.
If you’re a former Blackberry user now on an iPhone or Android smartphone – unless you hate your current phone, you won’t be back to Blackberry. But for people without a smartphone, and importantly for current Blackberry users – the Q10 is without doubt a great handset, quality build and a top-notch operating system. Consider your App needs first then get yourself a Q10.
Unfortunately as stated earlier there is no planned Australian release date at the time of writing. However, like me – you can jump over to MobiCity and grab one for $749.
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.