The Blackberry Curve is back: say hello to the Blackberry Q5.
A few years ago, everybody bet an imminent death for Blackberry. It is September 2014 and Blackberry is recovering step by step. On Wednesday 24th of September the company announced the launch of the new Blackberry Passport. According to the Canadian firm, 200,000 units were sold within a few hours.
For the last 4 weeks I have been using the small (by todays standards) but powerful and fun Blackberry Q5. This is my full review of the Blackberry Q5, a smartphone that deserves much more credit and attention from the media.
We can tell immediately that the Q5 is a Blackberry. It will immediately remind you a Blackberry Curve. It has a physical keyboard, the distinctive Blackberry logo on the back, it’s small, portable, well built and sturdy. The Q5 is a budget phone within the new BB 10 devices, unfortunately it never found its market for some reasons: expensive at launch (around £350) with BB 10 OS half baked and a lot of trouble for the Canadian company. However in September 2014 everything is different and the Q5 is extremely affordable (£150 on Amazon), BB 10.2 has improved a lot and Blackberry is in much better shape (still in recovery though).
The Q5 is a nice little device and is largely inspired by the popular range of Blackberry Curve smartphones. It features a beautiful 3.1” square display with a resolution of 720p x 720p which gives the Q5 329ppi (quite impressive for Blackberry). The LCD screen is really nice, crisp and has excellent colour reproduction. The Blackberry Q5 is powered by a Snapdragon S4 processor with 1.2ghz Dual Core CPU. Of course we are far away from the latest and powerful processor that can be found on the LG G3, Galaxy Note 4 etc… but the Q5 is extremely snappy and fast.
It comes with 2GB Ram and 8GB of Flash Memory with Micro SD Card Reader. One of the differences with the previous generation of Blackberry Smartphones is the battery. It is a non removable 2180mAH battery, but don’t be afraid…..this battery is simply amazing! I use a lot my phone for email, web browsing, taking pictures, skype etc...and the battery is still over 30-40% before going to bed. This is a real communication tool with a battery that won’t let you down!
The Blackberry Q5 is made of plastic and hasn’t got the premium feeling of the Q10 but it still feels fine, and in a way it looks like it is unbreakable! Please don’t expect a slim device because it isn’t, but it’s a phone that can be used with only one hand...which is rare in 2014!
Then comes the physical keyboard. There are still fans of smartphones with full qwerty keyboard and Blackberry is known for its excellent keyboard. I don’t dislike touchscreen keyboards because I’ve had great experiences with some of them (windows Phone and some Androids), but some others offer a poor typing experience. I am not a die hard physical keyboard fan, but I have to say that it’s a pleasure to write emails with the Q5. The keys are not as soft as the Q10 but personally that doesn’t bother me. The keyboard on this device works fine and is actually a joy to use.
In true Blackberry style, the speakers on the Q5 are very good. The sound is loud and the quality is actually quite impressive for such a small device. I had the pleasure to use the amazing Blackberry Z30 for few days (the speakers are really loud!) and obviously we cannot compare the sound quality….or the price either (£150 Q5 - £475 Z30). Where the Blackberry Q5 excels even more is with my great Sony headphones - it’s a joy to listen to some great tracks! We really should give more credit to Blackberry for their hardware because they know how to build a good phone.
One of the worst cameras on a smartphone was without a doubt the one of the Blackberry Bold 9900. But the Q5 is different: it features a 5MP Auto Focus with F2.4 lens, flash, image stabilisation, 1080p video recording and the clever Time Shift mode. So what about the results? Surprisingly good to be honest. This is a good camera for daylight photos and the low resolution by today standards (5MP) is not a problem at all. The camera on the Q5 is much better than the one on the Moto G, and it is also very fast.
Where the camera is a poor performer is at night or in low lighting situations. The flash is extremely bright but the result is still average. This is not a good camera for inside and low lights pics. On the other hand, the photo editing software from Blackberry is fast, and very intuitive, and the Story Maker app is excellent (a bit like Google awesome...but faster in my opinion).
Here are a selection of some pictures that I took with the Q5:
BB 10.2.1 OS
When Blackberry launched the new Z10 almost 2 years ago with the the new OS BB10, it received mixed reviews. It was a refreshing OS with strong points but it felt half baked and the lack of apps was a big problem for Blackberry. BB 10.2.1 is the OS they should have began with because the latest update makes it a strong contender in the mobile world.
How can I describe BB 10.2.1? Imagine the best gesture based OS a la webOS, a powerful communication tool and legendary security a la Blackberry, the great Android app that you love thanks to Amazon app Store, and an extremely stable OS: here you have the new Blackberry OS. Is it a dream come true (the best of Blackberry and Android)? I would say almost, because some of the Google apps are still not very well optimised even if you can side load some great Google applications. Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, HULU Plus, One Drive, Youtube, Twitter, WhatsApp and a long etc are now all available thanks to the Amazon app store and most of them work without hiccups.
In July and August I used the Nokia Lumia 630, and the lack of apps was a problem, but with Blackberry and the Amazon App store, I don’t find apps are a problem anymore. That’s a huge step forward for Blackberry because now they have got rid of one of their biggest problems. However, I still think native BB10 apps are better, but the Amazon App Store works perfectly fine. Strangely, on my Q5 the only apps that are a bit laggy are the Amazon apps, such as Amazon Cloud Drive and Amazon Music.
What about the rest of the Operating System? BB 10.2.1 is a gesture based OS, so there are no physical buttons and you might need a little bit of time to get used to it. However once you’ve got it, it is probably one of the most user friendly and intuitive OS on the market right now.
Swipe up and you will see your most recent apps open and working which is, in my opinion, the best way to implement truly multi tasking. Swipe right and you have access to all your apps. Swipe down and you get the setting menu.
Finally the best of BB10, and the reason why Blackberry is still the best communication tool, is the Blackberry Hub: swipe up and left and you have access to all your notifications from email, text messages, BBM, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, etc… Blackberry Hub is amazing and very addictive, like the red light that flashes when you have a new notification.
There are a lot of reviews of BB 10.2.1 on Youtube and I recommend watching some videos because it is easy to fall in love with the new Operating System. And since Android apps are very easy to install, you can enjoy Blackberry without limitations.
As mentioned earlier, I used the amazing Blackberry Z30 for one week, and BB 10.2.1 is amazing on big screen and for sure more enjoyable than on the smaller screen of my Q5. If you want to investigate this rather unique Operating System, the Q5 (with physical keyboard) or the Z10 (full touch screen) are perfect devices to start with because they are more affordable than ever. We like to praise the Motorola G for being a great device at a low price, the Blackberry Q5 and Z10 are for sure great smartphones for the price you pay for them right now. I would choose the Q5 over the Z10 because of the battery life.
If you have £150 and want to try something different, or need a second device, the Q5 will get you a lot for your money! If you want to buy a new phone which is affordable, and if you value security, a physical keyboard and long battery life: don’t hesitate go for it, honestly you will be very surprised!
However, if you are an huge Android fan and love to customise your phone, install new roms, widgets etc….. don’t buy it because it is not for you!
Buy the Blackberry Q5 in the UK
The Blackberry Q5 is available in Red on Amazon from £179
The Blackberry Q5 is available in Black on Amazon from £129
Have you got a Blackberry 10 device? What do you like most about it, and dislike? As always I love reading your comments and feel free to write what you think about it and to share this review with all your friends!