BlackBerry used to mean a proper keyboard for email and IM addicts, but over the years the company has made several attempts to offer alternatives, such as the horrid 'SureType' keypad that everyone will want to forget.

And then there was the Storm, with the clickable screen, followed by the disappointing Torch models. All in all, not a fantastic track record.

At the start of 2013, BlackBerry launched the Z10 with its all-new operating system, and suddenly it looked like the company had cracked it. A high-definition display, 4G, a great camera, and a fantastic on-screen keyboard.

It got me wondering whether there was ever any need for another keyboard-equipped model at all.

But, while touchscreen keyboards are now the norm for nearly every smartphone user, BlackBerry believes there's still a market for a device with real keys. And so it has given us the Q10.

Of course, a large touchscreen has other benefits, like improved web browsing, document editing, gaming, and multimedia playback.

The Q10 sees a large drop in screen size (to just 3.1-inches), including a square 1:1 ratio (720x720-pixel) display that looks rather odd.


At first glance, any loyal BlackBerry user will suddenly feel at home with the keyboard here. The buttons are nice and tactile and easily pressed without accidentally hitting the wrong key.

What's missing, however, is the optical navigation pad that earlier models had which allowed you to move your cursor around the screen, making editing easier.

Instead, you drag a magnifying glass around the display to the spot that you want - rather like you would on other smartphones.

It's one solution, but a bit of a step backwards. On the one hand, you can now type really quickly. On the other, you have to rely on interacting with the touchscreen for correcting inevitable mistakes.

The back of the phone has a nice rubberised feel and the same fake carbon fibre effect as the Bold 9900. Back in the day the 9900 was considered quite big, yet the Q10 is bigger still - possibly to include a far larger 2,100mAh battery than the 1,250mAh cell inside its predecessor.


Imaging has always been a rather understated feature on BlackBerry devices. In most cases the image quality has been pretty good, even if the low-resolution screens on budget models didn't do them justice.

On the higher-end models, photos have usually been very good, and video has been adequate too.

Now, the Q10 comes with an 8-megapixel sensor and LED flash, plus a range of camera features also seen on the Z10.

But this is where a few downsides become evident.

As with the Z10, there's no dedicated 'camera' key. This suddenly makes it harder to just pick up and take a picture, which is frustrating.

Sure, BlackBerry 10 is all about touch operation and gestures, but would it have cost much to leave the button there? Surely not.

Worse than that, the square display means that if you want to take a 16:9 ratio widescreen photo, you now end up with a tiny letterboxed image in the centre of the screen. Switch to 4:3 and it gets a little better.

For some reason, there's also a 1:1 mode. Presumably this is for people who only take photos to view on the phone.

When you want to look at your photos in the gallery later, you'll have to put up with the black borders there as well - unless you decided to go for square photos.


Even if the camera isn't a feature of vital importance, what about the impact of the screen on gaming?

As you'd expect, gaming is compromised too. Some of the Android ports that seem to fill the BlackBerry store don't look quite right, and if you're hoping to hear me say 'but' and then point out some good points, you're going to be disappointed.

Although BlackBerry has got its own games service that lets you share game progress and connect with friends, a lot of games are just ports from Android and won't support this service.

In any case, unless a lot more devices are sold there's a long way to go before this device can in any way compete with similar game services on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

Gaming, just as with watching a film or YouTube clip, is not a strong point of this phone, which is increasingly looking like something that will only appeal to people who are addicted to BBM.

The good

As with just about every BlackBerry, the device is solid and also comes with an excellent integrated speaker, letting you make speakerphone calls, or just to listen to music and video, with excellent clarity.

The large battery also means the Q10will outperform earlier BlackBerry models, such as the Bold 9900, with moderate use.

Beyond that, it's hard to find many other positives. Sure, the keyboard is good - but it is also flawed by the lack of the navigation controls, and it might as well have had call and end keys too if it wanted to properly appeal to users who like physical keys.

The bad

With its square display, just about everything suffers from the 1:1 ratio display that means app developers have to redesign layouts in some cases.

Still photos with huge borders, videos that are tiny, apps that don't look right, and of course – restricted views of web pages, social networks, and emails.


The Q10 is one of the only devices you're going to find these days with a keyboard. Pretty much every manufacturer using Android has given up.

But don't assume this is because everyone else has given in to BlackBerry and its huge success, because it's more likely that most users have now found touchscreens sufficiently usable – especially alongside the benefit of a larger screen.

And, this being the case, BlackBerry has its own device that totally shames the Q10 - the Z10. It beats the Q10 in every single way, leaving me to conclude that after having spent many years with a QWERTY-equipped BlackBerry, it's probably time to let such devices rest in peace - at least unless BlackBerry can find another way to do it.

Thanks to Vodafone for supplying this review unit.