June 5, 2013 at 11:56 AM ET
When BlackBerry launched its latest operating system — BlackBerry 10 — on an all-touch smartphone, we scratched our heads. Physical keyboards are a defining BlackBerry feature — why the heck would they be set aside during a critical time for the company? The blunder has made the latest BlackBerry, the Q10 — along with its physical keyboard — the smartphone maker's final hope.
Fortunately, the Q10 is getting good buzz at this point. Consumer Reports' Mike Gikas writes that it "exudes old-school charm" and that the physical keyboard is "a very good one." Kevin Michaluk of BlackBerry-centric site CrackBerry describes the Q10 as a combination of the "iconic form factor of older BlackBerry phones with a new, sleek design." If you're a fan of BlackBerry because of physical keyboards, he explains, "then the Q10 is for you — no questions asked."
The Verge's Chris Ziegler is a bit more restrained with the praise, mind you. "Yes, this is the best of a dying breed," he writes, referring to devices with physical QWERTY keyboards, "but for the life of me, I don't know why someone who's accustomed to a full-touch phone would come back to this."
The Q10 marks the start of Blackberry's "real recovery," writes tech analyst Jeff Kagan in an email. "Blackberry users love their keypad." He adds, "While the new Blackberry Q10 is not perfect, and while it still has more catching-up to do, it is good enough to start winning back long-time fans."
And BlackBerry desperately needs to win those fans back. Research released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project on Wednesday suggests that BlackBerry owners account for only 4 percent of cellphone users at this point — a significant drop from 10 percent in May 2011. In comparison Android owners make up 28 percent of all cellphone users and iPhone owners account for 25 percent of the cellphone population.
Kagan also expresses confusion as to why BlackBerry didn't offer the Q10 before the all-touch Z10, but keeps returning to the thought that this is BlackBerry's shot at survival. "The next big question however is whether this is a long-term recovery and if it is substantial enough to bring the company back to life," he concludes. "I hope so, but we’ll just have to wait and see."
Verizon will have the Q10 available for purchase online on June 6 and in stores on June 10 while T-Mobile will offer it online as well as in brick-and-mortar stores on June 5. AT&T will have the Q10 available for pre-order beginning on June 5. Sprint will make the device available this summer, but no specific date has been announced yet.
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