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Q10 India: Another last-chance saloon guzzle for BlackBerry

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BlackBerry's last, best hope has launched in India to cautious reviews which like the hardware - but echo concerns that it's too little too late.

India is an important market for the company formerly known as RIM, and one where it has lost ground to home-grown alternatives and Samsung. With 218 million subcontinental handsets rapidly being upgraded to smartphones, the Q10 needs to succeed there.

The Q10 is the keyboard-equipped version of the Z10, itself a nice piece of hardware which tries to compete with Android and iOS platforms, but its retention of a physical keyboard sets the Q10 as a communication device with smartphone pretentions, rather than the other way round as seen with most of its rivals. Our review of the Q10 illuminates that thinking, and it plays to the BlackBerry strengths - though it remains a very expensive handset by Indian standards.

The Indian smartphone market is exploding, IDC puts the number of smartphones at 16.3 million against that national population of 218 million handsets which is itself growing 16 per cent annually. The same report also pegs smartphone growth at 70 per cent in 2013, which should leave space for a Q10 or two (million).

India is also less polarised than other markets, with the iPhone less dominant thanks to cheap smartphones from Samsung and Micromax - and Nokia's Lumia taking Windows Phone into the region - so BlackBerry could have an easier time of it than elsewhere.

But that's assuming the Indian government allows it to. The security of the BlackBerry platform has been an ongoing annoyance to the local intelligence agencies which has led India to repeatedly threaten to ban BlackBerry devices unless it is given means of lawful intercept. It seems likely (though it remains unconfirmed) that BlackBerry now has servers within Indian jurisdiction, but anyone running their own BES remains beyond the reach of the authorities just as they do elsewhere in the world.

That won't matter to most Q10 buyers, who'll be more interested in the keyboard than the security behind it, but it remains a key selling point to the corporations from which BlackBerry so desperately needs support. ®

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