A week ago on Instagram, I posted the photo above with the caption:
Spotted: BlackBerry Q30! Oh wait, no, that's a black iPhone in a Typo. #gettingsued #ces2014 #ripoff
In the moment I was just being silly for my social followers, but if you look at image above, it looks a lot like the dozens of "dream BlackBerry concepts" we have seen mocked up over the years. A good chunk of CrackBerry Nation has been wanting a bigger and taller screen on their physical qwerty devices for years now.
With the BlackBerry Q10, we did get a BIGGER 3.1" high resolution display (thanks BB!), but it came to us with a 1:1 aspect ratio. In other words, it's a big square. There are two big drawbacks to the square display design.
First, you see a lot less than you do as compared to full touchscreen devices. Less rows of icons, less of a webpage you're browsing through, and there's less real estate for apps to make use of. Apps that feature a lot of streaming content feel especially shortchanged by this aspect ratio.
Second, the 1:1 display introduces fragmentation into the BlackBerry 10 app platform for developers. Depending on the types of apps you're creating, it's a pain in the ass to support this second resolution - especially if your app uses a lot of fixed-size graphics. In practice, some devs simply won't put in the time and effort to make their "tall apps" work for the 1:1 ratio. It means going for the physical keyboard is not just a compromise over screen size, but also a compromise on apps.
Over the years, I've always justified having a smaller screen on my phone as the acceptable trade off to always having a physical keyboard there under my fingertips. In other words, you can't have your cake and eat it too.
What's ironic, is that my recent use of the Typo keyboard for iPhone has made me realize you actually can have your cake and eat it too. With the BlackBerry-like Typo strapped on to the iPhone, I actually have that tall aspect ratio display, and a physical keyboard.
The more I've played with the Typo, the more it's made me realize that BlackBerry should come out with a physical qwerty phone that takes this design form factor to heart. I think BlackBerry could give me a Z10-like display with a Q10 like keyboard, and make it a friendly-to-use device. The Typo is a band-aid solution that works pretty damn well. As a band-aid solution it looks a little janky, with a harsh edge at the top of the keyboard dropping down to the display. But there is some cleverness to the design too. If you flip the Typo over, the "chin" on the phone is hollowed out. This keeps the weight of the unit down, while allowing access to the iPhone's original ports.
A lot of people have asked me about the balance of the Typo / iPhone combination, thinking that the phone would feel to bottom heavy. To that say, yes, it's a little bit heavier on the bottom, but I actually think that's a good thing. Top heaviness is actually more of a problem on a cell phone than being bottom heavy. Think back to the BlackBerry Torch 9800/9810, which was a top heavy phone when the keyboard was pulled out. If you lied flat on your back in bed with your arms above you typing, you had to really grip the phone or else it would fall down forward down on you (I bumped myself on the head with my Torch countless times). Being a littl bottom heavy doesn't have that same effect. Considering you're normally typing with your phone at 45 degree angle in front of you, a little extra weight lower down feels natural. And if you are lying in bed typing with arms outstretched, it actually helps keep the phone from bonking you in the face.
So there you have it. I want to have my BlackBerry cake and eat it too. Thinking along BlackBerry's naming conventions of late, I figure like the Z30, the Q30 would be a slightly bigger and beefier Q10. Q50 sounds alright for the first stretch qwerty BB.
What do you all think? Go big or go home? Or do you love your 1:1 qwerty as it? Be sure to sound off in the comments!