According to market sources, the much awaited, mid-range, built-for-developing-markets BlackBerry Q5 will launch in India on 16 July and should come with a price tag of around Rs 25000, in line with pricing in markets like Malaysia where the smartphone will be available in stores from 15 July.
The Q5, which sports a physical QWERTY keyboard, has been eagerly awaited by BlackBerry fans in India since the premium full-touch BlackBerry Z10, and the recently launched premium QWERTY Q10, whose chassis is carved out of a block of cold-forged steel and where premium materials are used, were both priced at the highest end of the market in India. This left BlackBerry users who wanted to move to BlackBerry 10, but at an affordable price, with no options.
The BlackBerry Q5 may be a mid-range phone that feels solid though it is made primarily of plastic, unlike the metal-heavy Q10, but it shares many of its innards, especially the critical parts, with its premium sibling, the Q10. The display on both the BlackBerry QWERTY siblings are 3.1-inch screens with 720 x 720 resolution at 329 pixels per inch (PPI), though the Q5 being cheaper sports a LCD TFT panel as opposed to the Q10’s gorgeous Super AMOLED. The siblings also share the same processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 with 1.5 GHz dual-core CPUs.
To ensure that BlackBerry 10.1 runs smoothly, both also share the same 2 GB RAM, while internal Flash memory on the Q5 is only 8 GB, as opposed to 16 GB on the Q10. One important aspect of the Q5 is that the 2180 mAH battery is non-removable in order to keep manufacturing costs low, but a hot-swappable microSD slot is included to expand memory by up to 64 GB. Incidentally, that means the Q5 has a better capacity battery on paper than the Q10, and should deliver better battery life than the Q10, which in our tests lasted over a day on 3G networks with Wi-Fi usage .
The Q5 weighs in at 120 gms, and sports a 5 megapixel camera at the back with flash, and a 2 megapixel front shooter. Although the Q10 has a better camera with more features, the cool Time Shift feature which should be a hit with youth is on the Q5 too. And another thing young people will love is the Q5 in red and white and also a pink colour which is slated to come later this year. And for mid-level corporate types, there’s always the standard BlackBerry black.
The 3G smartphone is also being touted as 4G LTE ready, but it won’t work with Reliance’s awaited 4G LTE launch which is expected in this financial year, as the 2300 MHz LTE band that will be used in India is not supported. However, when you roam in the West, you should get blazing fast data speeds. Sensors on board include an accelerometer, a magnetometer, a proximity sensor, a gyroscope and an ambient light sensor, besides a built-in digital compass.
Also expect BlackBerry to provide goodies like the complete MapMyIndia suite for free like they did with the Z10 to make up for the lack of BlackBerry Maps in India and the lack of an official Google Maps app. Though to be honest, Google Maps works well on the great BlackBerry 10 browser and users can also side load the Android app quite easily, as also other popular Android apps (Instagram, Flipboard, etc) that are not yet available for the BlackBerry 10 platform. Incidentally, BlackBerry 10 today features over 120000 apps on offer officially through BlackBerry World.
For corporate security requirements, the Q5 will also feature the security enhancements available on BlackBerry 10, including BlackBerry Balance with secure work profiles, separated right at the OS layer. And on the office suite side, the full-featured Docs to Go, which works great with the latest versions of Microsoft Office should also be available for free.
The big question though would be whether the expected price tag of around Rs 25000 would be seen as too expensive for a very price-sensitive market like India where Android smartphones with far better specs on paper retail for lesser. Will BlackBerry be able to convince buyers about the holistic BlackBerry 10 solution that includes best-in-breed security and great productivity and Office tools, albeit with far, far lesser apps than Google Play boasts of?
Plus, at a time when QWERTY keyboards have gone out of fashion in developed markets and slowly seem to be going out of fashion in India as well as rich media consumption increases, would BlackBerry have been better off with launching a ‘Z5’ – a cheaper version of the all-touch Z10, rather than the Q5?
Whichever way it goes, and even if a ‘Z5’ is waiting in the wings, the Q5 will be key for BlackBerry’s fortunes in India. BlackBerry’s built-for-developing-markets BlackBerry 10 smartphone has to do well in India— among the largest developing markets in the world, if BlackBerry has to gets its mojo back.