NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- After 13 years of using all previous BlackBerry ( BBRY) models every day, and now one month with the all-new Q10, I'm going back to the previous BlackBerry. The new Q10 simply failed me in a couple of critical areas where compromise is not an option.In brief, to spare you the suspense, the most critical failing in my experience with the BlackBerry Q10 was that it was unable to synchronize my Gmail address book with accuracy and/or reasonable speed. There are a couple of other big problems, too, but I'll get to those later. Before you start penning your hate mail, let me say this: My situation may vary from yours, for multiple reasons. I'm speaking from the perspective of someone who uses only Gmail accounts for contacts sync. My address book is also large, not too far away from Gmail's 25,000 contacts limit. If you are on a corporate server, or your contacts synchronize over USB, or you're with Yahoo! ( YHOO) email or Microsoft's ( MSFT) Outlook.com -- or perhaps even if you have only very few contacts in your Gmail account -- who knows, you may not experience what I experienced, and therefore be just fine. I wouldn't know. This review is from the perspective of a regular individual who only uses only Gmail for contacts sync. What do I mean by the Q10 being unable to synchronize with the Gmail address book? The problem manifested in three stages: Stage 1: The initial address book sync took at least in the ballpark of 24 hours. That said, one doesn't know exactly, because the Q10 doesn't provide a count of how many contacts you have. You sample some number of contacts, and see if they made it to the device. In comparison to a relatively new high-end Android phone, a category of which I have tested several recently, the Androids appear to have almost no latency in this initial availability of the Gmail address book. I haven't measured exactly, perhaps because it appears synched instantly after you input your Google ( GOOG) credentials into the Android. Stage 2: Once you believe the initial sync is done, it's time to make some additions and changes on each side -- Q10 and Gmail. Long story short, some changes appear on the other end, eventually. Others don't.
This is the critical point beyond which I cannot look. If you have a car, it absolutely needs to do two things: Start and stop. Everything else can be compromised at least to some degree. Starting and stopping cannot. The equivalent of a car starting and stopping is for a smartphone that the address book synchronization must reflect 100% fidelity. All changes and additions must appear on the other side, hopefully within a few short minutes. Not hours or days, let alone forever. If a smartphone cannot pass this test, it's the end of the argument. Full stop. In my month with the Q10, it failed this test -- again, based on Gmail only, and a large address book. Stage 3: After you reboot the device, or just shut it down -- say, overnight -- it takes a long time for the address book to return to life once you fire up the Q10. Initially it tells you that you don't have an address book. Imagine my panic the first time I saw this! But then, just wait perhaps a few minutes, and it has started rebuilding. When has it finished rebuilding? Again, with no number to track, it's impossible to say. This leads me to the other problem with the Q10, and that's the less quantifiable issue of general slowness in accomplishing things. BlackBerry's chief hallmark had always been how quickly you "got stuff done." For example, answer an email, edit an email, add someone to the address book, look up someone in the address book, and similar basic needs that you perform constantly. A key problem of the Q10 is that almost all of those things now take more time to accomplish. Just try to copy/paste a piece of text, say in an email or in a contacts record. It was ultra-fast on the old BlackBerry; much slower on the new one. It is nice that the Q10 solved many of the old BlackBerry's shortcomings, such as the basic strength of the operating system. The Q10 has a stable OS, and all the apps seem stable. It now can handle a key app such as Skype. However, fixing many of the old BlackBerry's shortcomings is not a step forward if it also kills some of the old BlackBerry's key advantages. You have to be able to move at lightning speed to answer emails, edit text and handle the address book. The new Q10 has lost some of these key legacy BlackBerry advantages.
While the BlackBerry is laying down, let me pile on and kick it in the gut one more time: It sometimes runs hot, literally. I have no idea why, but it's sometimes so hot you are afraid it might explode. I thought of frying an egg on the Q10 and filming it, but that would have voided the warranty, and there was no way I was going to keep it beyond the 30 day return period. In either case, you know what happens when a smartphone runs hot? Yes, the battery life is significantly reduced. A hallmark of BlackBerrys of yore had been superior battery life. Not so with the Q10. As it prepared itself for egg-frying duty, battery life fell like a rock. This happened almost every day. So is there nothing positive to say about the BlackBerry Q10? Yes, there is. For starters, the basic form factor, choice of materials and ergonomics are fantastic. The device feels just right in the hand. The legendary keyboard is better than ever. In the OS, the "hub" which shows all of your email and other accounts, is a great way to quickly scan all your correspondence. The fact that Box and Dropbox are baked right into the device, is neat. The new interface paradigm is a mixed blessing. On the upside, the fact that you wake it up from sleep simply by swiping up is better than the competition's solution of a button-press. On the downside, once you have made that swipe, you have to keep swiping to get to where you want to go. BlackBerry is up to something here, but in the end I don't think that the total solution is necessarily ahead of the competition. If the BlackBerry Q10 isn't the right choice, what do I propose to people who want to type on a keyboard? I have two main branches: 1. As the title of this article states, you can return to the old BlackBerry. Perhaps your previous old BlackBerry was even older, and you need to keep the apps on a BlackBerry 7.1 device to the absolute minimum -- email, address book, perhaps calendar and WhatsApp. This scenario basically implies that you are likely to augment the previous-generation BlackBerry with an Android or Windows Phone, or perhaps an iPad. It's already been the solution for many people, and it may continue to be the best one going forward.
2. A creative solution for some people could be to replace the BlackBerry with a Chromebook! No, I have not gone crazy. Hear me out on this: Let's say your primary phone is a Samsung Galaxy S4, which in my opinion is the first all-touchscreen smartphone with a good keyboard. You can respond to emails with a sentence or two on that one. For longer emails, a laptop didn't use to be an option. It took a minute or more to boot up, and then you needed to connect it to WiFi. For swift action, it was a non-starter. Now, however, Google's Chromebooks have changed this equation. You can carry a 2.4 lbs Chromebook, and you can have a Chromebook with integrated cellular data connectivity. You fire it up in 10 seconds or less, and then you're connected without any time-consuming bureaucracy. So you now have an awesome laptop, up and running -- including connected positively everywhere -- almost instantly. In an unexpected way, it has replaced much of my BlackBerry needs. Google needs to advertise this! It's a shame that the new BlackBerry Q10, which has so many great things going for it, misses some of the necessary basics -- at least in my testing. Why doesn't BlackBerry make an Android version of this wonderful hardware? At the time of publication the author was long GOOG and AAPL, and short MSFT. Follow @antonwahlman This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.