BlackBerry's Most Important Phone Isn't Its Flagship

Illustration for article titled BlackBerry's Most Important Phone Isn't Its Flagship

BlackBerry announced two phones today, but it's clear which is the favorite son. The Z10 looks like a winner; it's got brains and body enough to face the iPhones and Galaxy S IIIs of the world head-on. It's got a release date and a price. It's a phone any company would be proud to call a flagship. In fact, its only downside is that it's totally irrelevant.

The Q10, though? That's the device that makes BlackBerry matter again. Or sends it squealing into oblivion.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with making a highly competent touchscreen phone these days. But when you're playing from behind—and BlackBerry would be the first to acknowledge its position—good enough just isn't good enough. You don't need to look much further than Windows Phone's dismal sales for proof of that. If you already left BlackBerry for the iPhone's embrace, there's nothing about the Z10 that would make you go back. They look the same, they cost the same. They have slightly different features and a giant app gap. Bottom line: The only reason to switch to a Z10 is because your IT manager forces you to.


That's not fair, but it's reality. BlackBerry today is RC Cola or Whataburger or Subaru any other company that makes a less popular version of a wonderful thing. The Z10 might help BlackBerry stay in the margins, but it's not going to pull company to center stage.

You know what could, though? The Q10 and its physical keyboard.

Quick, name one QWERTY smartphone you'd actually pay money to own today. Wait! Just kidding, it doesn't exist, not unless you're an HTC Status fetishist. There's a void there, and voids are opportunities. There are people in this world, business people especially, who miss their keyboard phones. There are corporate email freaks who would give up their 401k for something to accommodate their clumsy thumbs. And it's a need no one else is addressing.

And it's quintessentially BlackBerry, isn't it? A flawless typing experience—along with BBM—was the company's bread and butter for a decade. It's the siren call that might be enough to lure back old BlackBerry diehards, and differentiates the company enough that it might win a few converts. So far, it looks like it's good enough to live up to that potential.

Is QWERTY a niche market? Maybe. But it would be BlackBerry's niche to monopolize. There's money in that, and stability, and respect. All the things that have been missing in Waterloo since the iPhone came around.


Here's the bad news, though. There's no price for the Q10 yet, and no solid release date. It hasn't gotten much promotional love from the company that made it, and that desperately needs it to succeed. That needs to change. If BlackBerry's going to have any chance at all—and honestly, it may well not—it needs to stop shining such terrifically bright light on its also-ran, and point it at the hero that's waiting in the wings.

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Jesus Diaz

The BlackBerry's Q10 is a relic of a past that nobody wants anymore

People wanting a physical keyboard are a tiny niche, a dying breed of old executives and people with ridiculous long nails still afraid of trying a touchscreen keyboard. The Q10 will not be an opportunity for BlackBerry. It will be just a niche product, an insignificant souvenir from a quirky past, and most probably the last of its breed.

After so many years of touchscreen phones, people don't perceive physical keyboards with tiny cramped keys as an advantage anymore—especially at the cost of screen real estate.

I'm a good case scenario, but certainly not the only one, which is why BB has been bleeding to death during all these years. I was a BlackBerry diehard before the iPhone arrived. Back then, it was the only phone with good email. The rest were crap. I was afraid that the iPhone software keyboard was going to be poop. I was wrong.

The BB never stood a chance to the iPhone soft keyboard. A couple of days after taking it out of the box I was typing at the same speed than the BB. A week later, I actually was much faster. And I had all that screen all for my stuff. I quickly changed my idea from "physical keyboards are essential" to "physical keyboards are poop."

Every Crackberry I've met says the same—the latest one switched to an iPhone 4 after resisting for years. A couple days after trying, she said she couldn't care less about her old keyboard.

My real hope is the new software keyboard of the Z10. I found that it was great—although I don't know if it will be good enough to guarantee people switching to the new platform. I don't think that will work on is own.

But another physical keyboard attached to a half screen? Nah, that will never save them.