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BlackBerry Q10: first impression is key

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Will the new BlackBerry Q10 handset, sporting a physical keyboard, win over diehard users of the old BlackBerry – or even new users? LIRON SEGEV offers his first impressions.

The BlackBerry Q10 is the almost-twin-brother to the BlackBerry Z10, with two exceptions: It has the 10.1 operating system with various updates from the initial version 10 shipped with the Z10: and the obvious QWERTY keyboard.

At first sight, the Q10 looks like the BlackBerry Bold. But it quickly becomes obvious how different it is. The phone is LTE enabled and ready to connect at the fastest speeds available. It has a 3.1″ 720p Super AMOLED display with a pixel density of 330ppi. It measures 119.6 x 66.8 x 10.35mm and weighs 139g.

Having used the device for only a few days, this is a ‚””first impression‚”” review. While this review is focused on the Q10, some Z10 comparisons are made for those looking to compare the two devices.

The Keyboard

I am used to having a keyboard that comes and goes as the need to type arise, so I was concerned that having a physical, fixed keyboard would take away from screen real-estate. However, after just a few minutes on the device, this concern vanished. The traditional BlackBerry keyboard comes alive with every physical tick of the keys. I realised that I actually missed the tactile feel of keys being pressed that no haptic-feedback software keyboard can replace.

The keyboard no longer has the ‚””smiley face‚”” shape of the Bold, but now is straight, and uses distinct metal guitar-like-frets to break up the rows. And, just like on a guitar, these help you find the keys more accurately as you slide your fingers over the keyboard. The keys themselves are thick and superbly spaced, making it so easy to tap the rights keys all the time.

On the Z10 there is the feature that allows you to ‚””flick‚”” up the words you want to use on the soft-keyboard. The same prediction feature applies to the Q10, but without the flick-ability. Instead, the words are shown just above the keyboard. Interestingly, this feature is disabled by default on the Q10. After using the device for a while, I realised why the keyboard is so good that I hardly need to use the predictions. Having said that, I found that the ‚””flick‚”” was faster on the Z10 for frequently used sentences but more accurate on the Q10 for new sentences and words.

In a world where password are a mixture of uppercase, lowercase and numbers, it is really nice having a physical keyboard that has everything in one location verses software keyboards that have letters, symbols and numbers on different screens. This allows for less mistakes to be made when typing those complex ********** passwords.

The keyboard also brings back some of my old favourite shortcuts. While in Twitter or in Email, press T to go to the top and B to go to the bottom. Press N to go to Next Email and P to go to previous email. But there is no need to remember these off by heart since, when you open any menu, you will see a small letter on the side of some menu items, revealing their shortcut keys.

Camera

The Q10 has the same cameras as the Z10: 2 megapixel front-facing camera with 3x digital zoom and 720p HD video recording: 8 megapixel rear camera with Auto Focus, 5x digital zoom, 1080p HD video recording, and LED flash.

New in the 10.1 operating system is the addition of HDR (High-Dynamic-Rang imaging). This features capture a greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest areas of the image, which results in an enhanced photo. For some reason, I usually preferred the shots I took without the HDR than the ones with HDR.

The camera is quick and I love the ability to tap anywhere on the screen to snap a photo. No more looking for the camera icon and having to refocus and reframe the entire shot. Various camera options are available for experimenting and limited scene selections are enabled or disabled, depending on the shooting mode.

Of course, the Q10 has the same Time Shift feature that the Z10 has so that you can select the people in the picture with their eyes closed and replace it with a frame where their eyes are open. Read more about this and Story Maker here.

The BlackBerry Q10 gives you the best of of both worlds best physical keyboard and the BlackBerry 10.1 smartphone operating system with all its features, such as Hub, Peek View, Apps and Active Frames.

While these are well-known, there are a couple of features that deserve highlighting:

BlackBerry took the view that, if you want to preform an action, just do it. If you want to send an email, no need to open the email app: just type mail, followed by the name of the person you want to mail, and the BlackBerry Q10 will create a mail and address it to that person. Same applies if you want to Tweet. Just type: Tweet this is a cool feature and it will post it to your timeline. Other shortcuts include : li for LinkedIn, Memo and ToDo for Reminder,FB for Facebook status change and msg to SMS. To dial someone, just type dial, followed by their name.

No need to search through the screens to find an app or any info: just begin to type and all related items come up instantly, from emails to text messages to apps to music. Now just select from the list. While this feature was available in the previous BlackBerry devices, the team did a tremendous job from both a speed and an accuracy point of view and I use this feature all the time.

There is now the ability to copy and paste numbers into the phone Dialer. This is a 10.1 update more than a Q10 feature, which we will probably see soon on the Z10, too.

The Q10 has the same elegant web browser as the Z10, which scores a high 485 on html5test.com. While you obviously don’t have the screen size, I found that everything I wanted to do was not just possible but was a pleasure.

A Reader option, which I use often, takes a web page, strips out the unnecessary clutter like advertising and banners, and only loads up the content.

The Q10 has a 2100 mAh, which is even bigger battery than the Z10’s 1800 mAh option. Both the smaller screen and the Q10’s Dark Theme help conserve the battery.

I consistently achieved more than 10 hours of battery life over three days of varying usage. After being out most of the day checking emails, making and receiving calls, and checking Facebook and Twitter, at the time of writing, my battery is at 65%. Very impressive indeed.

In the event you do need extra juice, you can get the Charger Bundle that comes with an additional battery and a built-in microUSB cable, it can be used as an emergency charger if you don’t feel like swapping out the battery.

Over the weekend, I conducted my own field-research. I took the Z10 and the Q10 on a ‚””walk‚”” to see people’s reaction to these devices. I saw three distinct different types of reactions from non-techies:

¬∑Reaction 1: Those people currently using BlackBerry 7 devices unanimously remarked that it was definitely their ‚””next phone when my upgrade is due””:

¬∑Reaction 2: Those people that were using another brand of phone, but were previously BlackBerry owners, loved the phone and ‚””can’t wait to go back:

¬∑Reaction 3: Those who never owned a BlackBerry but used another brand of phone, loved the keyboards and often commented ‚””so this is what the keyboard is all about‚””. However those people still preferred the BlackBerry Z10, as it is more in line with what they used.

Many people have been on standby. They saw the BlackBerry Z10 but also knew that the BlackBerry Q10 was about to be released and so they waited to see which phone they would prefer. While they may still buy the Z10, they wanted to see and feel the Q10 before making their final decision.

Make no mistake though. The Q10 is not just about a great keyboard device.

The BlackBerry Q10 is for those who want a high-end device that is a real hard-core work phone. They want a phone that can handle tough work assignments, yet still play games, download apps and play various media types – all while maintaining a serious battery life.

And yes, it also has a keyboard.

* Liron Segev is also known as The Techie Guy. You can read his blog at http://www.thetechieguy.com or follow him on Twitter on @Liron_Segev

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