BlackBerry never allowed itself a chance to make a market impression with its two flagship BlackBerry 10 phones.
The absurdly high retail prices of the touchscreen-driven Z10 and QWERTY-equipped Q10 were a gamble for the supposed, Apple iPhone-inhabited "premium" end of the market that didn't pay off for the Canadian phone maker. Nobody wanted to take a risk on an underpopulated app store with hit-or-miss developer support, or buy phones for the enterprise-focused BlackBerry Enterprise Server when few businesses were taking the gamble on installing it.
At around £400, the Z10 cost more than the iPhone 5, and various vendors were taking preorders for the Q10 at over £600. It was mere months until both handsets were being sold for vastly cut down deals both on their own and in contracts.
It's a huge surprise, then, that BlackBerry has only gone and done it again with the so-called "affordable" BlackBerry Q5. Dubbed "fun and youthful", it retails at around the £300 mark. What were they thinking?
A slightly pared-down phone supposedly aimed at the consumer market, the Q5 has a 1.2GHz dual core Snapdragon inside, where the other two sported 1.5GHz of processor, a slightly lower resolution 5 megapixel primary camera, but the same 2GB system RAM as its big brothers.
The main sacrifices are on build quality though, and upon opening the box, you'll be greeted with an unavoidable feeling of being slightly ripped off.
A cheap-feeling matte black (or "fun" red, or "youthful" white) plastic shell covers the back of the phone. Chunky and solid-feeling, yet smooth and featureless to the point of bland, the handset's appearance lacks the subtle, textured nuances of the Z10 and Q10's shells, which at least made them feel desirable.
Flip it over, and you're faced with the Q10's perfectly square 720x720 screen, and the typical old-school QWERTY BlackBerry keyboard.
The 3.1in, 328ppi [pixels per inch] feels just as high quality as the Q10's, despite its slight downgrading, coping nicely with off-centre viewing angles and being generally bright and clear. However, as with the Q10, it suffers just as much from its weird sizing when displaying apps from an already imperfect operating platform.
On several occasions on-screen touch buttons were obscured by BB10's contextual overlays and we found ourselves having to press the tops of buttons with a fingernail, and viewing iPlayer or YouTube is a fairly harrowing experience when you instinctively turn the phone to landscape and remember there's no point; it's black borders all the way on this tiny, square screen.
The keyboard, meanwhile, is a good performer, but the keys could do with being raised a little higher.
Still, there's one area where the phone's pared-down specs shine, and that's the battery life. The Q5's a bit of a warrior, ably coping with an afternoon of Wi-Fi app downloading, YouTube watching and phone calls while dropping only 30 per cent of a full 2180mAh battery. Overnight, it barely discharged three per cent, which is a far cry from the 20 per cent nighttime dispersals of the bitterly disappointing Z10 and its lightweight 1800mAh power source.
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