The BlackBerry Q10 represents the return of the original BlackBerry, and unabashedly so. Sure, it runs the same BlackBerry 10 operating system as the full touchscreen BlackBerry Z10, but it packs it into the classic, keyboard package every hardcore communicator and enterprise accomplisher knows and loves. But how does it compare to the iPhone 5, and if you're considering both -- which one should you get?
I've been using BlackBerry 10 on the Z10 for a month or so, and I've been using Kevin Michaluk's BlackBerry Q10 review unit quite a bit this week, and the modern multitouch experience translates better to the 720x720 display on the Q10 than I thought it would. The keys don't disappear when you launch a video or game, of course, and that means not only a list-views constrained to fewer items on the Q10, but 16:9 content is much, much smaller. Yet for the most part, BB10 handles it with aplomb, hiding what it can, scrolling what it can't, and letterboxing what it has to to get the job done. Just like traditional BlackBerry users expect.
On the other hand, the AMOLED display is sub-optimal and a compromise. It's a concession to battery life, which is the entire focus of a workhorse phone like the Q10, but it brings with it the problems in direct sunlight and the slight blue caste we've all learned to know and dislike about that particular screen tech.
The hardware keyboard is pretty much perfect. I'm not personally a fan, but for everyone who does still love QWERTY on mobile, the Q10 keyboard is very likely the best BlackBerry has ever produced. Once you get past the trackpad/trackball row going the way of the dodo, and the keys straightening out because of it, you be blasting away just as quickly, if not more quickly, than the days of BlackBerry gone by.
Apps are still sparse, and Android emulation is a stop gap. A lot of big name brands are already on BlackBerry, and more are coming, but I miss many if not all of the indie apps from iOS. That applies to Android just as much as BlackBerry -- the most interesting and delightful software is still being written almost exclusively for iOS.
BlackBerry 10 is also a brand new OS -- the newest in mobile now -- so while it has all the basics, and carries over a lot of the smart ideas from the Z10, it's still first generation and that means it squeaks a little when it turns around too fast. Sometimes you can't get into form fields. Sometimes you get weird errors. Sometimes it ignores errors and you wonder if that's okay or not. It is. Every modern mobile OS has been there.
No one who wants an iPhone will want a Q10. The Q10 is for those who long for that quintessential BlackBerry experience. It's for those for whom communication, especially enterprise communication, is the primary if not only purpose of a phone. It's for people for whom BBM and BES-based security is paramount. And that's a decidedly different focus than the iPhone.
The truth is, the Q10 is a hold-over from an old but not quite yet forgotten age. Hardware keyboards aren't a growth market anymore. Those who cling to them do so because immigrating to touch has proven challenging for them. Kids today, however, are be touch-screen native, and the Q10-style BlackBerry will fade as the Z10-style grows to take it's place.
But right now, today, I don't care. Right now, today, it's like watching your favorite hero from the past come out of retirement to kick ass once again, even if it's for one last time.
Go check out CrackBerry's coverage, then come back here and tell me what you think.
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.