10 July 2013

BlackBerry Q5 launches in the UK.


Earlier this year BlackBerry dragged itself out of the dark ages with a slick new operating system, the BB10, and it's now onto the third new handset of its new generation - the BlackBerry Q5, which follows hot on the heels of the BlackBerry Z10 and the keyboard-equipped BlackBerry Q10.


Step in the Q5, a much better bet for email warriors.  The phone has a more basic specification than the Q10, but the cuts aren’t too drastic.  It ships with a five rather than eight-megapixel camera, and the dual-core processor runs at 1.2GHz instead of 1.5GHz.  However, there remains 4G support and NFC.


The Q5 looks smart, and is available in black, white, red and pink.  However, it is all hard plastic, with no rubberised rear to take the edge off, and the battery is sealed within – unusually for a BlackBerry device.  It does feel tough, though, and the keyboard is a good one.  The spaces between the keys means you hardly ever press the wrong one when typing and so it is possible to bash out long emails quickly.  Some many find the keyboard slightly too wide to use comfortably one-handed, though.


However, the rest of the operating system is simple to use with one thumb.  BB 10 is built around gestures and messaging, and it's always quick to get to your mail.  Swiping up a little way from the gesture bar above the keypad brings up a sidebar showing if you have any new messages in your various accounts, and from there you can swipe to the right to go straight to the last inbox you used.  Swiping left again anywhere on the screen gets you to the BlackBerry Hub – basically a list of your various email and social media accounts, texts, BBM, notifications and calls, with new activity displayed on each icon.


It's a neat system that cuts through the tangle of ways we use a modern smartphone, and makes the associated information overload more manageable.  The operating system also copes well with running multiple apps.  Wherever you are, swiping upwards on the notification bar takes you to an open application view, where running apps are presented as cards allowing you to switch to them or close them.


The operating system also looks good on the Q5's screen - the colours are vibrant and text is sharp.  We could even read the text on web pages when fully zoomed out, but the screen's limited vertical resolution compared to that of the larger smartphones means you'll spend more time scrolling.  Also, the screen's outdoor performance is good but not impressive.  Whilst the Z10's hyper-bright screen could cope with bright sunlight, the Q5's screen seemed dimmer.  It was still usable, but struggled in really sunny conditions.


The phone isn't particularly quick  -  Although it renders web pages quickly, there's an occasional jerk in the operating system, especially in the menus.  The Q5 has a very average battery life: after 24 hours of use, including 30 minutes of phone calls, an hour of listening to podcasts and an hour of web browsing, the battery had dropped to 50%.


The Q5 is excellent for messaging and comes with some competent built-in apps for services such as Facebook and Twitter, but the rest of the BlackBerry app selection doesn’t yet compare to those for Apple or Android.


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