The keyboard's fixed location also means that the BlackBerry Q10's screen is small: 3.1 inches in diameter with a 720-by-720-pixel resolution. You can't operate the Q10 in landscape orientation, as you can with an all-touch device.
The BlackBerry Q10's screen while peeking at the Hub (left) versus the Z10's screen (right).
Because the Q10's display is square, rotating it doesn't help address the small-screen problem, whereas other smartphones with physical keyboards have deeper screens that provide a wider viewing area well suited for videos and Web pages when rotated.
The bottom line is that anyone who uses a non-BlackBerry smartphone will quickly hate the small, inflexible screen. It's simply too undersized to be useful for most activities one does on a smartphone. You end up with either too little space to operate on screen or, in the case of Web pages, impossibly small items that you can't read or interact with. Forget about visiting Web pages or using apps for video editing, photo editing, slideshow editing, text formatting, game playing, or the thousands of tasks an iPhone or Android smartphone can handle.
Even basic Web pages and communications-oriented apps can be hard to use, given how little you can see at any one time and how small text is. I'm talking about email, Twitter, Facebook, and the like. That tiny, nonrotatable screen essentially relegates the Q10 to being a texting device (BlackBerry Messenger, Twitter, email, and so on) — not a real smartphone. If all you want to do is communicate via text and read very basic info like sports scores, headlines, or stock figures, the Q10 is fine — but why limit yourself or pay full data rates for a subset of uses?
Tapping into the strengths of the BlackBerry Z10
Outside of the strengths and weaknesses of the physical keyboard, the BlackBerry Q10 works the same way as the BlackBerry Z10, with the well-designed and useful Hub all-messages view, the handy Peek and Flow user interface for switching among apps and checking for new messages, and BlackBerry's multiple levels of security.
The Q10 delivers those three BlackBerry 10 OS capabilities very nicely, despite the very different screen size and the use of the physical keyboard.
At the end of the day, the Q10's physical keyboard limits its utility to a subset of what's possible on the Z10. Even if you're a diehard keyboard purist, you should rethink limiting yourself to the physical keyboard. You lose too much, and most people have discovered that they can adapt after a week or two to the onscreen keyboard. There's a reason touch-only devices account for nearly 100 percent of smartphone sales.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.