Hands on with the Blackberry Q5

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Blackberry’s brand awareness is far stronger in emerging markets like Africa than what it is in the more developed, American and European markets In fact, according to Arthur Goldstuck‘s World-Wide Worx of the 10-million smartphones in South Africa, close to 5-million are Blackberries.

So, when the company decided to lead its foray into the ‘brave new Blackberry 10’ world with two, premium-priced and premium-specced handsets, we were pretty surprised. After all, the champion of the Blackberry market-share numbers has always been the inexpensive 8510 and equivalents.

It’s taken a little bit of time (four months to be exact), but the ‘other fruit company’ has come around to the fact that it needs something more cost effective than the z10 and Q10 if it’s going to keep its loyal fan base in the fold.

The Q5 is designed to be that more affordable smartphone. And – if the official line from the company is to be believed – it will only be releasing in the emerging markets, at least to start with.

Blackberry’s policy is to keep schtum on pricing until the network operators announce their deals (along with outright purchase options), but keeps on hammering away at the ‘this is a really affordable smartphone’ point. This leads us to believe that we’re looking at a prepaid price point of between R3500 and R4000, which would make it well worth it, considering the cheapest previous generation Blackberry (the 9320) will set you back R2400 from Vodacom.

The htxt team got a chance to play with the Q5 at Blackberry Live in Orlando a couple of weeks back and like most of the smartphone bearing the same logo, found it to be a robust unit with great build quality.

It runs BB10 quite competently using its dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and 2GB of RAM (both the Z10 and Q10 run 1.5GHz ARM processors, meaning that this, and the absence of an HDMI-out port are the main places Blackberry has cut some cost from the overall build). Switching between applications happened without any discernible lag and hopping in and out of the hub (the central party-piece of the whole Blackberry 10 experience) was achieved without any hassles, meaning – despite the slower processor – the hardware is well matched to the operating system’s demands.

The 3.1-inch IPS LCD was both responsive to touch and produced visuals very well (well, at least as well as the Z10 that also uses an LCD, but not quite as crisp and sharp at the Q10 which uses an OLED screen). The screen pairs nicely with the 5MP camera which takes more than adequate 2592х1944 pixel shots and 1080p, 30fps videos.

BlackBerry Q5 White

Like all Blackberry 10 devices the Q5 is also fully-LTE compliant, which would – assuming the company manages to get it into a R3500 to R400 price range  – make it an attractive option for the droves of people looking for a reliable, feature-rich smartphone, but not necessarily a ‘super phone’.

A point of contention right now is the battery the Q5 comes with.

Whats been confirmed is that it’s not removable (somewhat of a drawback in emerging market countries where charging points are often scarce and users carry a second battery around with them). What hasn’t been confirmed though, is the capacity.

Sites like GSM Arena are claiming it’s a 2180 mAh Li-Ion unit, while I managed to get it on the record (audio recordings and all) that the battery has a capacity of  2800 mAh.

All of the above details are rad, however the bits that are most interesting in my opinion are Blackberry’s decision to launch the phone i

n a choice of black, red, white and pink (yes, pink), and to use of a new hardware keyboard, well, at least for the BB10 range.

Prior to Blackberry 10, a large part of what made a user choose a ‘Bold’ or ‘Curve’ device (apart from price of course) was the keyboard style.

The Bold has always made use of a ‘quieter’ keyboard, with keys that are closer together and pitched outwards from the centre line.

The Curve on the other hand, has always featured noisier or ‘clickier’ (as one Blackberry employee referred to it as) keys that are noticeably raised and spaced further apart in an ‘island-style’ chiclet key arrangement.

The Q10 tends towards the Bold style of keyboard. The Q5 tends towards the Curve style of keyboard.

Which is more comfortable to use? Well, this will come down to personal preference and – if you were a Blackberry user before – what your first Blackberry model was.

For me (I had a 8520 before any other Blackberry), it’s all about the Q5 or Curve style keyboard. YMMV.

While I don’t think the Q5 is going to win any design awards, it’s a nice looking smartphone that fits nicely into the user’s hand. It’s extremely usable and there doesn’t seem to be any major trade-offs from a performance or usability perspective. It’s going to come down to price. And the closer Blackberry and the networks get to the magic R3000 mark, the better.



Brett Haggard

Brett Haggard

Brett is the founder of Hypertext. He's been covering the technology industry for so long, he's seen old technology be 'respun' as the next big thing one too many times. He started Hypertext in 2002 and quite frankly hasn't looked back (although he often longs for the days when a steady salary, sick days and leave were a given). Currently uses: 13-inch Macbook Air, iPhone 12 Mini, iPad 8.