When BlackBerry announced the BlackBerry Z10 at the beginning of the year, it left its QWERTY roots as it went it with an all touchscreen smartphone to showcase its latest operating system BlackBerry 10. A couple of months later it also introduced the BlackBerry Q10, the first BlackBerry 10 smartphone with a Qwerty keypad. But both these phones are priced pretty high at above Rs 40k in India.
The third BB10 phone they released was the BlackBerry Q5 and this phone was priced at Rs 24,990 when it was officially unveiled in India, a couple of weeks back. We got one of them for review and see if this is the first BB10 that could have a mass appeal and also keep BlackBerry loyalists from jumping ship.
Boring Design But gets Form Factor Right
With the Q5, BlackBerry has not done much to impress in the design department. Even when compared to the old Curve series and the premium Q10, this looks a tad boring but it gets its form factor right.
As with the Q10 and the Z10, you would find the find the volume rocker, which doubles as buttons for the camera when in the camera mode, on the right hand side. On the top is the power/lock button and a 3.5 mm audio out. On the left side, towards the top half is the microUSB port. There is no microHDMI port, and also a flap where one will find the microSIM and microSD card slots. The back cover and thus the battery is not removable, a first for BlackBerry. We are not really fans of phones without removable covers as battery is always something of a concern.
The Q5 comes with a 5 megapixel 1080p HD camera with an LED flash at the back and a 2 megapixel 720p HD front camera. An LED indicator is at the top of the front display which is perfect so that you don’t have to keep switching on the screen to see if you have received something.
The back is smooth and fits perfectly in the hand. Unfortunately there is no grip so it could slip easily from your hands. The phone is quite light also at 120 grams and when it comes to dimensions it is 4.72-inches tall, 2.59-inches wide and 0.42-inches deep and is definitely a lot more compact than most smartphones available in the market today.
The Q5 Keyboard is the Star
For those that want to stick on with a physical keyboard, the Q5 is your best bet. Though the keys are not as great as the ones on the Q10, it gets the job done very well and is actually even better than the Curve keyboard. The keys are well spaced out and the keys are soft to tap and if you have loads of emails and chats this keyboard would be perfect for you. For those switching from the older Blackberries you will still find all your faithful shortcuts here.
Performance of the Q5
The Q5 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor with 1.2 GHz dual-core CPUs and comes with 2GB of RAM. This engine is more than enough to power BlackBerry 10 and you will find no signs of lag while using this phone. The phone does come with just 8GB of internal storage so picking up a microSD card to supplement this would be a good option if you like to carry a lot of media around.
BB10 on the Q5 is Fast and Fluid
You can check out our full review of BB10, the new operating system from BlackBerry here. It works almost flawlessly on the Q5. The Flow user interface is gesture based and designed for single handed use. The operating system does take a bit of getting used to but after a few days it will be a breeze for anyone.
The highlight of BB10 is definitely the BlackBerry Hub which pulls in all your communication into one place including email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Talk, Foursquare, calls, voice mail and any app which supports it.
Q5 Camera Disappoints
The Q5 sports a 5 megapixel rear camera with a LED flash that is capable of recording in 1080p and there’s a 2 megapixel front camera, capable of recording in 720p. Unfortunately the quality of pictures do not live up the specifications.
The camera is also very basic with just a few shooting options like Normal, HDR, Stabilisation and Burst mode. It also comes with the TimeShift features which captures multiple images in a burst and then detects faces in the picture and allows you to choose the best profile shot of each person in the picture with a simple zoom and toggle option. There is a built-in photo editor app which has a few good options for post-processing.
Photo quality is average in good light. Colors are well defined. Indoors it is a different story and pictures turn out very grainy. With the flash on pictures turned out pretty average indoors.
Battery on the Q5 is Non-Removable but Lasts Long
The battery is a very important deciding factor when one goes to buy a smartphone. The Q5 has a 2180 mAh battery, which is non-removable. Due to the capacity and also the smaller screen size, the battery on the Q5 is pretty good and actually got us through the 24 hour mark easily, with our email accounts, social networks synced and a couple of hours of calls. We would put this has definitely one of the selling points of the Q5.
Apps: BlackBerry World is Still Disappointing
The big issue plaguing operating systems other than Android and iOS, is the app ecosystem. While the BlackBerry World is still growing in terms of number of apps it is still missing big names like Instagram, Google Maps, Flipboard etc. A good replacement for Google Maps is the MapMyIndia maps solution which comes free with the Q5.
BB10 allows for porting of Android apps, so you could find a number of apps in the app store which are not native. These apps do not function as well as they should and we are hoping that app developers release native apps soon for the BB10 platform.
Conclusion: BlackBerry Can Live to Fight Another Day
While Android phones at this price range do come with better specs, the Q5 feels more solidly built than phones in this range. The OS also performs a lot better. The roadblock to its adoption is unfortunately the apps, and that is one thing that we don’t see changing for the foreseeable future.
The Q5 without all its fluff is definitely good for productivity especially with the BlackBerry Hub and also Docs to Go integration.
An important question for BlackBerry to ask itself is whether there is still a sizable market for phones with physical QWERTY keyboards. Even they chose to go ahead with the all touch Z10 first. Even in emerging markets like India, media consumption on devices is high and people prefer bigger screens as can be seen with the success of phablets like the Note 2 in the country.
If you’re someone who still loves to type of the physical keyboard, as we have said before look no further than the Q5. Considering that there are no other mid range devices with a keyboard, the Q5 will definitely cater to a small niche market. And with the Z10 and the Q10 being priced exorbitantly, if you are someone who wants to remain in the BlackBerry ecosystem and wait while the app ecosystem matures, we think the Q5 is definitely for you.
Great battery life
BlackBerry Hub brings all your communication together
Great physical keyboard
OS is completely gesture based so takes a bit of getting used to
Screen ratio is a problem while watching videos and browsing the web
Camera is average