BlackBerry Q10 (AT&T)

The BlackBerry Q10 looks like the BlackBerry Bold 9900, but improved. At 4.7 by 2.6 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and 4.9 ounces, it’s very clearly designed for both one-handed and two-handed use. It’s shorter than the full-touch BlackBerry Z10, and still narrow enough to use in one hand. The back is a soft-touch, carbon-fiber-like material that RIM calls “woven glass,” with a subtle gray-and-black pattern. (There’s also a white model.) The front of the phone is evenly balanced between a 3.1-inch, 720-by-720-pixel display and a physical QWERTY keyboard that’s similar to the Bold’s, but better. A traditional BlackBerry notification light blinks up by the earpiece.

The four-row keyboard is 30 percent wider than the Bold’s, stretching almost edge to edge. Each row is separated by a fret, which makes for a fast, accurate typing experience. My only complaint is that the Shift and Alt keys are swapped from where you’d instinctively find them, but it’s easy enough to get used to that. Your fingers absolutely fly on these keys.

I feel like I need to devote more space to the sheer physical relief of being able to type on a ‘real’ keyboard, but if this is one of the things you get instinctively, you’ll get it. AT&T doesn’t sell any other recent QWERTY phones. If you want the keyboard experience on AT&T, you might as well stop reading now. Nothing else will satisfy.

The Q10’s screen, albeit small, delivers the deep, punchy colors of AMOLED technology and clocks in at 328 pixels per inch, almost exactly the same density as Apple’s iPhone 5 but less dense than the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4. In any case, text is very sharp down to very small sizes.

The Q10 is an okay voice phone, but I expected better. Earpiece volume is moderate and there’s just a touch of muddiness at top volume. And there’s some sidetone, which I like. Transmissions also sound good but not spectacular; noise cancellation generally works, but lets a bit of background noise through. The moderate-volume speakerphone also lets some background noise through. Both the HTC One and especially the Samsung Galaxy S 4 offer better call quality. Voice commands can be activated over a Bluetooth headset, but the Q10 had trouble recognizing my family’s (admittedly odd) names, including my own.

This model of the Q10 supports AT&T’s LTE network, as well as global HSPA+ networks. It supports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, as well as Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC, and mobile hotspot mode with the right service plan. I saw 10Mbps down using the Flash-based speed test, a decent speed on AT&T LTE in New York City.

I got pretty good battery life on the AT&T Q10, with 11 hours, 6 minutes of talk time and 4 hours, 14 minutes of LTE video streaming. That falls short of the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4 (as well as the Verizon version of the BlackBerry Q10), but it isn’t shameful and still predicts a day’s use before recharging.

BlackBerry OS and Performance
The BlackBerry Q10 runs BlackBerry OS 10.1, a minor update to the BlackBerry 10 OS with a few new features and bug fixes, so check out that review for an in-depth look at the Q10’s operating system. In short, the Q10 has a modern, competitive Web browser with Flash support; a unified inbox called BlackBerry Hub that also integrates Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn; and an excellent note-taking app called Remember that syncs with Evernote, among other things.

The keyboard and the 10.1 OS update make the Q10 even better for messaging and office work. The most dramatic new feature is Instant Actions: Just start typing, and the BlackBerry will try to figure out what to do with what you’re typing, whether it’s a contact’s name, the name of an app, or something you want to search on the Web. The feature reminds me of WebOS’s beloved Just Type, and it’s excellent.