The BlackBerry 10 software made its debut a few months ago on the touch-only Z10. The new operating system is a welcome change, not just for BlackBerry users. It's very quick to get around the phone, and it seldom leaves me baffled the way many incarnations of Android do. It's laser-focused on giving you access to email, texts and other means of communication, as opposed to music, movies and games.
One of the coolest features is the "peek." From any application, you can swipe your thumb up from the bottom of the screen, then right, to slide the application slightly off the screen. That reveals the messaging "Hub," which gathers your communications. At a glance, you can see which accounts have new messages. If you want, you can slide the app farther to the right, getting you into the Hub to read and write. Swipe left, and you're back to where you were.
The interface takes time to get used to, and it doesn't have the simple immediacy of the iPhone. But once you learn it, you can positively zip between tasks.
The downside to the new operating system is its relative dearth of third-party software. There are applications for Facebook, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. A Skype app out will be out soon. But there isn't any app for Netflix, Amazon or eBay. There are no Google apps, either. The selection of games is particularly poor. There's only one incarnation of "Angry Birds," and that's "Star Wars."
I also encountered one glitch while using the Q10 for a few days: I was unable to type my response to one email. Leaving it and going back into it did not help until the next day. That's the kind of problem that's going to frustrate BlackBerry users, so I hope it's a rare one, and one the company fixes soon with a software update.
That aside, the Q10 is likely to be attractive to the BlackBerry faithful. It deserves to lure some people over from Androids and iPhones as well. The keyboard makes the Q10 a good complement to a tablet. Use the bigger screen for entertainment, surfing and gaming, and the BlackBerry for messaging.
When I reviewed the Z10 model in January, I found I couldn't point to anything about it that would make me say: "Forget those other phones: you have to buy this one." I can for the Q10. If you value a keyboard, this is the one to get.
Peter Svensson can be reached at http://twitter.com/petersvensson