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BlackBerry Q10 review: Qwerty lovers rejoice!

Matt Hamblen | April 25, 2013
The new BlackBerry smartphone features a real keypad, along with some great new features.

BlackBerry rates the Q10's battery life at up to 9 hours for video playback and up to 61 hours for audio playback, with up to 13.5 hours talk time on 3G. However, I was running the Q10 on 4G HSPA+ from AT&T (LTE is not yet available where I live) and found that I could barely get a full 8 hours on a single charge after a day of using it for a variety of tasks (including some admittedly power-sucking tasks like voice commands, video and audio).

An OS upgrade

The Z10's BlackBerry 10 OS is chock full of great features -- like a universal inbox called the Hub and Active Frames, the latter a feature that some have likened to live tiles in Windows Phone 8. The Q10 picks up all those same features, but will ship out of the gate with an upgrade to BlackBerry 10.1 that adds some significant new features and a number of minor ones.

A really cool new feature is a high dynamic range mode (HDR) for the camera, which automatically picks the best combination of dark and light areas of an image based on three frames taken in sequence. It is a noticeable improvement over version 10 for indoor shots.

But the biggest OS improvement in 10.1, in my opinion, is a feature that BlackBerry calls Instant Action, which is designed to provide keyboard shortcuts in various apps. For example, if you want to reach your colleague quickly via BlackBerry Messenger, you can just start typing the name in the home screen; when it appears in a frame on the screen, you touch the frame, type the message and finish by touching the enter key.

The advantage to Instant Action is that there's no need to first open the Messenger app. This works with other apps as well -- for example, when I typed the letter "t" from the home screen, I was immediately shown a screen with the choice to "add a task" or "post a tweet." When I touched "post a tweet," I was immediately shown the Twitter composition field. I found it to be a real time saver.

BB 10.1 also allows slightly more content to appear on the display by hiding the toolbar for more onscreen space, which can be quickly brought into view with a finger swipe.

Yet another feature has to do with the optimization of the battery for the particular display that the Q10 uses. Because Super AMOLED relies on black as its primary tone (while white is the primary tone in LCD displays), the Q10 uses black backgrounds instead of white in various Q10 applications (such as calendars) to save power. Unfortunately, I found the effect of having black backgrounds annoying, although not seriously.

 

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