BlackBerry Q10 review: You'll either love it or hate it
Physical keyboard addicts now have a smartphone designed for them, but no one else may want to suffer the drawbacksFollow @MobileGalen
You can initiate some actions from the keyboard, which keyboard purists will like. For example, typing in the App screen will open the search bar, and apps and actions that match what you type will be displayed (type "tw" and the Twitter app and Post a Tweet action appear). It's similar to how Windows 8 lets you initiate actions via typing from the Start screen, and it works just like the BlackBerry Z10's Search feature.
The keyboard's feel is very crisp and certain when you press keys, and I suspect keyboard lovers will be pleased with the feel and responsiveness. The keys are quite readable, as are the device's Alt key options (such as numeral keys) -- a nice change from the often-unreadable keys on other devices' physical keyboards.
But I experienced problems when switching from the physical keyboard to the touchscreen. The screen often did not respond to my taps to select text, position the cursor in text, or activate a text field so that I could enter or paste text. I experienced the same selection issues in the BlackBerry Z10, but not the other two issues, so perhaps they're specific to my Q10 loaner unit, not to the Q10 overall. Just be sure to test such interactions thoroughly yourself while you can still return the device.
Let's get physical: The Q10's Achilles' heel
The BlackBerry Q10's biggest draw -- its physical keyboard -- is also the phone's biggest drawback.
First, it's hard to use one-handed. When you hold the BlackBerry Q10 in one hand, you need to orient your thumb to the center of the touchscreen to be able to use it effectively. But then the keyboard is too low to easily reach, especially for keys on the opposite side. The center of gravity is also off, so it's hard to press the keys confidently, as the device bounces back as you type. As a result, typing grows very slow and inaccurate.
You need to use two hands to type with the BlackBerry Q10. You could hold it in one hand and type with the index finger of the other, but that's not as fast or as easy as the method I suspect most legacy BlackBerry users already use: holding it with both hands and typing with your thumbs.
In that orientation, the thumbs are positioned well for typing on the physical keyboard but can also reach up to the screen for touch operations. That may explain why the keys' ridges, which help guide your fingers, seem designed for dual-thumb typing; when you hold the Q10 in other ways, they are less effective in guiding your fingers or thumbs to the right spots.
Having to operate the BlackBerry Q10 with both hands makes it harder to use in certain situations, like when standing on public transit or when carrying an item in the other hand. Even when walking, use the BlackBerry Q10 is a little tricky. By contrast, iPhones and most other smartphones -- the Samsung Galaxy Note II is an exception because of its humongous size -- work well when operated with one hand, so they're a little more effective for use when you're truly on the go.
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).