BlackBerry Q10 (T-Mobile) review

The BlackBerry Q10 smartphone is a laser-focused niche product for messaging enthusiasts, and T-Mobile offers it for the lowest price of any major carrier.
Photo of BlackBerry Q10 (T-Mobile)
579.99

BlackBerry’s new Q10 smartphone is almost exactly the same across the big four wireless carriers, but T-Mobile has a compelling argument to put forth: the lowest up-front and ongoing prices for BlackBerry service. T-Mobile’s version also adds HD Voice calling, although it lacks T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi calling tricks.

Physically and functionally, the T-Mobile Q10 is nearly identical to the Verizon Wireless model we reviewed earlier this week. Take a look at our Verizon Wireless BlackBerry Q10 review and our BlackBerry 10 OS review for more details. Here we’ll focus on the differences with the T-Mobile model.

To summarize, it’s difficult to compare the Q10 to any other smartphone on the market. T-Mobile doesn’t have any other keyboarded smartphones we’d recommend, just the bulky, so-so Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G and the laughably basic BlackBerry Curve 9315. So that makes the Q10 the only choice for people wanting a classy phone in a pocketable size, with a high-quality keyboard and a tight focus on messaging.

But that doesn’t mean the Q10 is the best choice overall. The price of a physical keyboard is a smaller screen for Web browsing, and more importantly, BlackBerry 10 lacks many of the popular apps and third-party experiences enjoyed on other platforms. 

Call Quality, Networking and Service Plans
T-Mobile’s BlackBerry Q10 runs on T-Mobile’s and foreign HSPA+ 42 networks as well as T-Mobile’s budding LTE network. It’ll work on AT&T’s HSPA+ network, but it doesn’t have all of AT&T’s LTE bands, so really, just buy the AT&T model if you intend to use it with AT&T.

I got very good speeds on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 42 network in New York City, up to 12Mbps down and 1.3Mbps up. That was measured through the Flash-based Ookla Speedtest.net Web site, by the way. That’s a good thing and a bad thing: It’s great that the complex Flash site works on the Q10, and sad that there are no reliable, native speed testing apps for the device.

Call quality, like on the Verizon Q10, is decent but not extraordinary. T-Mobile’s HD Voice pulls in another variable. When I called non-HD Voice phones from the Q10, the earpiece was a bit quieter than I’d prefer. But with an HD Voice call to another T-Mobile phone, volume jumped up a few notches, as did the entire treble side of the audio. The bottom-ported speakerphone was about the same volume as the Verizon Q10′s—good for indoor use, not quite loud enough for a noisy outdoor area.

Unfortunately, the Q10 doesn’t have T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi calling solution (at least for now). That’s a pity, as being able to make clear calls over Wi-Fi is a strong differentiator for T-Mobile. While BlackBerry’s built in BBM has audio and video integrated into the platform, it doesn’t work with your T-Mobile phone number to call anyone with a telephone.

One of the joys of the BlackBerry Q10 is the almost total lack of bloatware. T-Mobile has only added one app, an account manager which is a badly laid-out port from Android. There’s a “T-Mobile” section in the BlackBerry World app store, but it doesn’t have any exclusive apps in it.

Battery life was pretty good. I got 12 hours, 5 minutes of talk time from the 2,100mAh battery on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network, in the same league as the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4 and much better than on the BlackBerry Z10. LTE video streaming time fell short of the One, though; tested on the very similar AT&T unit, I got 4 hours, 14 minutes.

T-Mobile’s Q10 costs either $99.99 plus $20/month for 24 months, or $579.99 total. That first price is $100 less than AT&T’s or Verizon’s subsidized prices, and the full price is $5 less than AT&T and $20 less than Verizon. T-Mobile’s plans are less expensive, too. One line with 2GB data and unlimited voice and text is $60 on T-Mobile (or $80 if you’re paying off the phone by installments). A similar deal would be $100 on Verizon or $90-110 on AT&T. Of course, both Verizon’s and AT&T’s LTE networks are more responsive than T-Mobile’s HSPA+, although I’d call all three 4G and broadband.

Sprint, right now, is claiming to match T-Mobile’s price with a $99.99 up-front phone and a $79.99 “Everything Data” plan, which includes unlimited data, messaging, and 450 minutes of voice. But Sprint also isn’t selling the Q10 quite yet, and its network has its own issues: Outside of Sprint’s LTE coverage areas, it’s much, much slower than T-Mobile.

Conclusions
There are two things to ask here: If I’m with T-Mobile, should I buy the Q10? And: If I’m shopping for a Q10, should I consider T-Mobile?

The BlackBerry Q10 is a niche product. It’s for people who want the best possible Microsoft Exchange messaging and Web access, and don’t care much about popular third-party apps from other platforms. These people probably wouldn’t be satisfied with any other smartphone on the market, and mainstream smartphone buyers probably wouldn’t be satisfied with the Q10.

T-Mobile offers the most affordable nationwide Q10 plan for heavy voice callers, so if that describes you, take a very close look at whether T-Mobile’s coverage area works for you. You could save up to $600 per year over the larger carriers.

Specifications
Service Provider T-Mobile
Phone Capability / Network GSM, UMTS, LTE
Total Integrated Storage 16 GB
Screen Resolution 720 x 720 pixels
High-Speed Data EDGE, LTE, HSPA+ 42
Screen Type Super AMOLED HD
Operating System as Tested BlackBerry OS
Physical Keyboard Yes
Camera Resolution 8 MP Rear
microSD Slot Yes
Screen Pixels Per Inch 330 ppi
Battery Life (As Tested) 12 hours 05 minutes
802.11x/Band(s) 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bands 850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100, 1700
Video Camera Resolution 1080p
Processor Speed 1.5 GHz
GPS Yes
Screen Size 3.1 inches
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
Form Factor Candy Bar

Verdict
The BlackBerry Q10 smartphone is a laser-focused niche product for messaging enthusiasts, and T-Mobile offers it for the lowest price of any major carrier.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc