The Q10 is BlackBerry's first device with a hardware keyboard running the new Blackberry 10 operating system. It's due to be released 'later this year', a decision which surprised many as the firm prioritised the full-touch Z10 despite the their heritage with keyboards.
Despite BlackBerry being absent from Mobile World Congress this year as an exhibitor, their staff are here and I got to spend some time hands-on with some prototype Q10 devices.
The devices are unfinished - I was shown but asked not to photograph the software load - but initial impressions were mostly positive:
- Hardware build quality feels excellent - noticeably better than previous devices especially around the keyboard which has a new method of fixing to the hardware to secure the keys at the edges.
- The keyboard feels larger (it is - by going edge-to-edge the keys are 3% bigger, a small number but a noticeable change) and retains the shaped design familiar with previous models.
- The screen is bright and crisp and operates the same touch interactions as the Z10 for navigating the interface.
- The interface works well - the software is already familiar from the Z10 launch and the Q10 has the same screen width so most apps simply require a little more scrolling.
- When entering text keyboard entry was easy but the experience of moving the cursor or switching screens using touch input felt odd - there is no hardware 'back' or 'menu' buttons. The process worked well enough but requires the existing users to 'unlearn' some actions which have become almost instinctive over the years.
BlackBerry staff said they expected many customers to switch to full-touch quickly - they're clearly very confident in the firm's new soft keyboard. It was suggested that - for many - the Q10 may be a transition step. That may be the case, but for those (myself included) who prefer a hardware keyboard for messaging this looks promising.