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Review: BlackBerry Q10

Not cheap, but a most excellent Communicator

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The Q10 implements the fast and fluid UI introduced with the Z10. Task-switching is particularly easy and leaves you wondering how rivals contrive to make it quite so difficult. Once the hump of having "no home screen" has been negotiated, it's easy to get around.

The Q10 sees the debut of a new kind of command line, if you like, built into Universal Search and called Type and Go. Universal Search is accessible from any of the system screens - which you get to with a simple swipe up from anywhere - after which you can immediately begin typing. But Type and Go is a special set of queries which assume you want to perform an action. So, type {verb} {subject} and fire away. Only a few characters of the verb or subject are required as the system prompts you for completion, as you can see from this very Real World example.

It can be used to update your Facebook status, make a call, or even post a full Tweet.

Supported verbs are call/phone, sms/text, mail/email, bbm, tweet/twitter and facebook. It also learns as you go along - I now need only type "ca" and hit return to call my wife. Type and Go is a great feature, a natural for a real-QWERTY device, and very accessible (one swipe up, and start typing). It's so obvious you wonder why nobody thought of putting it into a smartphone before. I do remember a command line interpreter called CMDP for Psions, but it was a developer tool rather than something integral to the UX.

BlackBerry has promised to expose a Type And Go API later this year to allow third parties can integrate their apps with it. It would be great to see common system commands supported, such as "set notifications to silent", for example, or "mark prior messages as read" without having to enter the Hub. And perhaps some greybeard will conjure up a LISP or DCL interpreter. Just for the lulz.

But, as I hinted at earlier, the Q10 makes some demands traditional BlackBerry users will find puzzling, and perhaps even discombobulating, at first, as the Q10 has dispensed with the Trackball.

Firstly, you need to hold the device lower down in your hand than a traditional 'Berry - in order to reach the top of the screen more comfortably. And you need to reach the top of the screen to pull down the settings (with the swipe-down gesture Android uses for its Notifications pane) or to reach the top row of "Active Frames", which is what BlackBerry calls the eight most-recent running apps.

It isn't avoidable. In addition, some routine actions on the Q10 are decidedly more laborious without a Trackball: such as selecting text, for example, or moving sequentially through messages in the new unified inbox, or "Hub". That simply isn't possible. To use Q10, your fingers must leave the keyboard zone - I'm afraid there's no escaping that fact.

I found I got used to almost all of this very quickly. Task switching is so intuitive, I have discovered I am not the only Z10 user to find myself making the "up" swipe to see the active tasks, er, Frames, on other devices. It's swings and roundabouts, with the positives largely outweighing the negatives.

The Type and Go "command line" is part of Universal Search, introduced in BB7, and with the Search history retained in icon form - very handy.

The browser is excellent - click for a larger screenshot

[Left] Browser options - note the keyboard shortcuts and [Right] Reader mode

Hello, file system, fancy meeting you here! Here, in the browser

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Next page: Hubba hubba...

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