Blackberry has officially released their Q5 smartphone that could be considered the spiritual successor of the Curve. It may not pack the punch in terms of overall hardware specs like the Q10 does, but the price is right at around $300. Is there room in the world for a low-cost phone with a full QWERTY keyboard? Today, we give you a full hands on review of the new Q5, and let you know if we recommend it.
The Blackberry Q5 features a 3.1 inch LCD touchscreen with a resolution of 720×720 pixels. The overall display screen gets the job done, but I feel that the Q10 Super AMOLED screen provides richer colors. This is more noticeable in graphic heavy content, such as comic books, magazines and videos.
One thing that is important to note about the screen is that you are locked into a portrait exclusive view. You cannot turn the phone into landscape mode and watch videos or use it the same way as you would the Z10. Blackberry has locked the phone in such a way, that you will never be able to use in it landscape mode.
Underneath the hood is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 4 1.2 GHZ dual core processor and 2 GB of Ram. It has only 8 GB of internal memory, but you can enhance it via the SD Card up to 32 GB. Most Blackberry phones have the SD card underneath the removable battery, but the Q5 buckles that trend by having the SD and Micro Sim card slot on the side of the unit, underneath a plastic flap.
Speaking of plastic, this phones build quality is all plastic and does have the elegant aluminum and glazed glass as the Q10. It does not necessarily feel like a cheap phone, but draws the distinction between a high end and lower end phone. Sort of like drawling the old parallels between the Blackberry Bold and Blackberry Curve. The Q10, has a faster processor, more memory and a bigger camera, but carries a hefty price of around $900. This unit is only $300 off contract, so it may have a more global appeal.
The big draw about the Blackberry Q5 is the full QWERTY keyboard. This phone will make sense to current or former Blackberry users, who find typing a lot of texts and emails too cumbersome on a traditional touchscreen device. Personally, I get around 200 emails a day, and it is nice to respond with a real keyboard instead of relying on the predictive text correction features found on an iPhone. The keyboard is the real reason you are buying this phone.
In the end, this may not be the most glamorous smartphone out there, and the plastic design does feel a bit tacky. Still, you can get the full Blackberry 10 experience with a keyboard at more then half the price as the Q10.
Blackberry has invested heavily in their Blackberry 10 operating system, and this phone ships with version 10.1. One of the most seldom recognized features of this new generation OS is the built in Android emulator. All BB10 phones have the ability to run Android files, which makes it easier for developers who submit apps into Blackberry World. They don’t have to redo their apps in the native language and can easily use tools to convert their existing library of Android content over to Blackberry. Currently, Blackberry 10.1 has a fairly outdated version of the Android Runtime, with 2.3. Blackberry is currently beta testing a new version of the emulator that will bring it all the way up to Jellybean. This will ensure that a greater number of apps will be compatible and will likely kindle renewed interest into Blackberry devices.
There are a few things that remain attractive about the Blackberry ecosystem in general. First of all, email. Email is handled very differently on Blackberry then it is on Android or iOS devices. The most compelling feature is the ‘delete prior’ which will bulk delete all emails in a specific inbox. If you have an iPhone and get a bunch of emails, you have to manually delete each one and it’s unrealistic to manage large quantities. Blackberry makes email management a top priority and currently still offers the best service in the business.
The second element is the revised Blackberry Messenger experience. This is one of the few services that have all data handled by the companies own data servers, so customers benefit from lower data usage. You can chat via text, voice or video chat with your BBM brethren. If you want to add a friend, you can use NFC to bump the phones to share contact details, or even generate a QR code to add a friend. No wonder the entire internet is enamored with the idea of BBM coming to iOS and Android.
Blackberry World is the place to go if you want to download apps, movies, music and games. They have over 200,000 apps currently in their system, but most are painfully woeful. Most of the apps people use on a daily basis, such as Instagram, Vine, and Netflix are nowhere to be seen. Instead, customers have turn to 3rd party app stores to get these apps, such as our own Good e-Reader BB10 App Store.
One of the big drawbacks about Blackberry World is a large number of the content is converted Android apps. This type of content normally suffers from performance issues and can often provide a lackluster experience. There is no way to organize the store by apps that were developed natively for BB10 and what ones were converted. There are also a number of pirate apps and games issued by people who weren’t the original developer.
Blackberry 10 on a whole, is a fairly polished operating system. You will likely never encounter crash issues and everything just works. Multi-tasking and Blackberry Balance remain two things that most competitors cannot touch. The severe downside is the quality of the apps out there, and people are obsessed with them.
Readers in North America and Europe often have dedicated e-Readers and tablets to consume media. A large demographic in China, Japan, Korea, and South America mostly use their phones. Reading is big business and often the phone is always with you, which makes it easy to catch up on websites and news items.
There really aren’t an extensive library of reading apps in the official Blackberry World app store. Amazon released a Kindle app for the Z10, but is only compatible with that specific model. You won’t find many apps at all and instead you will be forced to learn how to side-load in your own apps. Luckily we have put together some extensive tutorials on how do this, step by step. This will insure you can get Pulse, Flipboard, Feedly, Kindle, Kobo, Comixology, Manga, or anything else you want. I still find it odd that Blackberry has not really tried to focus more on e-Reading.
The Blackberry Q5 only has a 3.1 inch screen, so it is not the most compelling e-Reader out there. I have found the type of apps best suited to the screen are ones that display pure text. eBook reading apps really shine, because you can chance the size of the font to suit your optimal needs. RSS apps are also fairly useful, because they normally strip away everything but the core story.
We tried various newspaper, magazine, and comic book apps, but the screen was really too small to read effectively. You will find yourself constantly pinching and zooming every single page to get the pictures large enough to read the built in text.
When we first got this phone last week, I thought I would hate it. The Blackberry Q10 was a fine phone, but not worth the $900 it was available in Canada to buy off-contract. The Q5 is only a few hundred, and will reel in prior Blackberry users that may have shifted to another phone, because of the high costs.
If you love physical keyboards, text like crazy, or answer a ton of emails, this may be the phone for you. You will not break the bank and it has enough features to suit most peoples needs. For the advanced user, there is an entire new world of app-possibilities out there with sideloading.
Keyboard is a pleasure to type on
No Micro HDMI
Plastic Design feels cheap
Not the best phone to watch movies on
Blackberry World still woeful for quality apps
User Rating: [ratings id=”63781″]
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.