According to BlackBerry representatives, 80% to 90% of BlackBerry's 76 million subscribers are still using older BlackBerry smartphones with physical keyboards. That's a lot of people who will likely be delighted by the new BlackBerry Q10, with its stylish qwerty keyboard, vivid Super AMOLED display and updated BlackBerry 10.1 software.
The next question, however, is whether people who currently use smartphones with virtual keyboards (including the recently introduced BlackBerry Z10), will feel comfortable going back to (or trying for the first time) a qwerty keyboard device.
Currently, BlackBerry says that the major U.S. carriers will make the Q10 available in late May at a suggested price of $249 with a two-year contract. It will be available on Canadian carriers May 1.
I had the opportunity to test the Q10 and find out for myself.
More than another qwerty
At 4.9 oz. and 4.7 x 2.6 x 0.4 in., the Q10 is a tad heavier, thicker and wider than the Z10 -- although it is shorter.
The Q10 has rounded corners and a gently curving top and bottom edge that are actually seductive -- especially when placed beside the boxy and rectangular Z10. It feels great in the hand, with beveled edges all around the plastic back. There is a black steel edge around the entire device and a glass front above the keyboard. The back comes with a gray tweed-over-black pattern. (The Q10 will be available only in black for some U.S. carriers; there's no word yet which carriers will also carry the white version.)
In fact, the profile of the Q10 is reminiscent of various BlackBerry Curve models of days gone by -- the Curve 8520 being the closest. These days, however, designers have pushed the 35 hard keys into three full rows with a partial fourth row at the very bottom for the spacebar and command keys. Naturally, because of the touch screen, there's no need for the iconic BlackBerry roller ball or track pad above the keys to navigate with.
The keys are not arranged in curving rows as with older Curve models and instead are in straight rows, separated by polished stainless steel frets, not unlike a guitar. The appearance is elegant.
The keys are slightly beveled to make them easy to handle. I found that, after several days of use, I gradually went back to my old way of two-thumb fast typing, the way I used to work with an older BlackBerry (instead of pecking with my right-hand index finger while holding the phone with the left hand, which I do with modern virtual keypads). Maybe I've lost something by going virtual? With the Curve, I could type entire stories by thumbing along at a fast pace -- a real advantage while covering crowded trade shows.
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