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The Blackberry Q10 proves QWERTY phones aren’t dead yet

Column Long live the physical keyboard
Fri Apr 26 2013, 14:56

BEFORE THE COMPANY formerly known as Research in Motion (RIM) released its Blackberry 10 mobile operating system, I opined that Blackberry hadn't innovated enough to succeed.

I wrote that the company was wrong to completely overhaul its Blackberry mobile operating system, and I went on to moan that the firm was unlikely to succeed if this was all it had up its sleeve.

Rereading my rant, I spotted a few sensible words at the bottom. Here are my words: "[Blackberry] needs to focus on becoming, once again, the number one choice for enterprise users and for those after a phone with a great physical keypad."

I continued, "Instead, it's going after the wrong audience, consumers who are already drooling over the latest Samsung flagship or avidly reading up on the rumoured specifications of the next Apple iPhone."

This week, I received a Blackberry Q10 to review, and after a couple of days with the phone I felt like the firm had sent me the handset to prove my previous thoughts wrong. As you can see from our Blackberry Q10 review, the handset is easily the best smartphone that the Canadian phone maker has released in years, and in terms of features and performance it matched the HTC One and Sony Xperia Z.

It even outperformed its Blackberry Z10 sibling, which apparently hasn't exactly been flying off the shelves since its release earlier this year.

As well as proving me wrong in my view that Blackberry 10 would be doomed on arrival, the Blackberry Q10 also proves another point, that the QWERTY keyboard phone is far from dead.

This is a odd claim for the owner of an iPhone 5, I know, but with the Blackberry Q10 the firm has put some doubts in my mind as to why there are not more QWERTY handsets on the market. Sure, there are affordable keyboard phones aimed at kids and Facebook obsessed teens, such as the Nokia Asha 210, but why are there no high specification QWERTY keyboard phones available?

We all use QWERTY keyboards daily, tapping on our laptops, PCs or touchscreen smartphones, so why aren't phone manufacturers trying to push more miniature physical keyboards into our hands? Although I'm now skilled at typing on a touchscreen, albeit dodging the odd autocorrect slipup, I found that the keyboard on the Blackberry Q10 - just like those on previous Blackberry handsets - made for faster, more accurate typing.

Yes, squeezing a physical keyboard onto a device does mean that you have to make do with a smaller touchscreen, and the Blackberry Q10 isn't exactly featherlight, but that's where tablets come in. The demand for tablets isn't slowing down, and I've just stumbled across a report that claims a third of Americans now own a tablet, despite the fact that tablets have only existed for a few years. While using the Blackberry Q10, I've been turning to the iPad for web browsing and viewing videos, and I'm sure that a lot of other people who own touchscreen smartphones do the same thing.

I'd love for Nokia to unwrap a high-end QWERTY handset at its Windows Phone 8 launch event next week, and it would be great if Samsung were to announce a downsized Galaxy S4 with a physical keyboard, but that isn't going to happen. Not any time soon, at least.

That's why, along with QWERTY keyboard phones, Blackberry isn't dead yet either. With other phone makers avoiding physical keyboards as if they were a thing of the 90s, Blackberry essentially has its own market with the release of the Blackberry Q10, the only high-end QWERTY smartphone that will be available in shops this summer.

There's a reason why we all still use QWERTY layout keyboards daily, and that's why Blackberry has got it so right. µ


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