BlackBerry, the company formerly known as Research in Motion, showed off its upcoming Qwerty BlackBerry Q10 smartphone at the BlackBerry Jam developer conference this week, and V3 got some hands-on time with the device.
Although BlackBerry said the Q10 is finalised in hardware design, there are still some software tweaks to be made before it hits the market, which is expected sometime in April.
Design and build
On first impressions, the BlackBerry Q10 looks and feels sturdy and robust. This is due to its glass weave construction on the back of the device, which BlackBerry says is twice as strong as plastic, as well as a stainless steel chassis that wraps around the sides of the device.
Not only does this improve build quality but it also gives the BlackBerry Q10 a more premium look compared to the firm's older, mostly plastic models. In our opinion, BlackBerry has certainly aimed the BlackBerry Q10 at the business user, making it more durable in urban environments.
Measuring 120x67x10.4mm, the BlackBerry Q10 doesn't feel as wide to hold as that might sound on paper, and it sits quite nicely in your hand. At 139g, it's also not too heavy, feeling similar to an iPhone 4.
Though less weight would have been nice, the device does feel solid and durable, as though it might withstand a few knocks.
What sets the Q10 apart from the BlackBerry Z10 launched late last month is that it has a 35-key physical Qwerty keyboard, echoing the firm's older devices.
BlackBerry told V3 that the keyboard is not only the largest it has ever built into a Qwerty smartphone, at three percent bigger than the keyboard on the BlackBerry Bold 9900, but it has been strengthened with horizontal 'frets' that run from edge to edge to make it more robust. These stainless steel frets also ensure that keys stay in place and don't get caught on clothes.
The keys have decent travel when typing and are pretty easy to operate, with few or no mistakes made when typing, in our experience. The keyboard is also backlit, to help when typing in dark environments.
The BlackBerry Q10 touts a square 3.1in touch-enabled Super Amoled technology screen with 720x720 resolution at 330ppi. During our short hands-on test, we found that the screen showed very good colour reproduction.
The phone uses mainly black backgrounds for apps, which BlackBerry said it designed to save battery life. As a result, text is clear, even when the phone is held at an angle.
The screen responds well to touch gestures too, though it feels a little strange operating a square touchscreen that is relatively small in relation to most other smartphones on the market. We are sure that this will take some getting used to, as some functions require the keyboard while others call for a gesture on the touchscreen.
Running the BlackBerry 10 operating system, the Q10 seems generally responsive to commands. However, it's worth noting that our test model wasn't completely finished in terms of software, so we'll have to wait to get our hands on a final BlackBerry Q10 device in order to fully review it.
Nevertheless, from our initial experiences, the BlackBerry Q10 seemed to have enough performance despite its rather average internal specifications, which comprise a 1.5GHz dual-core CPU along with 2GB of RAM.
There's 16GB of flash storage installed, which is upgradable via a microSD card slot. Blackberry has also built in support for 4G LTE networks, for those willing to pay more for a superfast mobile internet connection.
BlackBerry has yet to reveal the BlackBerry Q10's estimated battery life and talk time.
On first impression, we were quite surprised by the BlackBerry Q10. Although it looks quite similar at first glance to BlackBerry's older Bold series smartphones, you'll see on closer inspection that the firm has made an effort to set the BlackBerry Q10 apart and create a modern up-to-date smartphone by adding some subtle unique features.
However, because the BlackBerry Q10 won't be launched for at least another two months, there are many features we weren't able to test fully. Check back later for a full review of the Blackberry Q10 to see how it stands up against the competition.