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"We aren't saying there's anything different about our customers," said Sprint spokesperson Mark J Elliott in an interview with Bloomberg. "We think our customers will be happy with the QWERTY keyboard and touch screen on the Q10."
The two devices share most specs and features, which include dual-core 1.5-GHz processors with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of built-in storage. They each include an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture. The camera application includes a new feature called TimeShift, which lets users select from a range of photos to get the best one. The Z10 and Q10 also include user-facing 2-megapixel cameras that can record 720p HD video. The devices support NFC, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS.
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Here's what defines the two phones: The Z10 has a 4.2-inch LCD screen with 1280 x 768 pixels, making it capable of displaying HD content. The Q10 has a physical QWERTY keyboard and a smaller touchscreen that has 720 x 720 pixels. The Q10 resembles the BlackBerries of old, such as the Bold or the Curve.
Sprint may not be selling the Z10, but its competitors sure are. AT&T, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless have all committed to launching the Z10 this month. Pricing is expected to be $199. AT&T is the only other carrier that has committed to offering the Q10.
Sprint's move betrays its cautious approach to new platforms and devices. It is clearly favoring Android and iOS hardware to BlackBerry and Windows Phone.
Consider, Sprint has not sold a new Windows Phone device since January 2011. The launch of Windows Phone 8 last fall did not convince the nation's third-largest carrier that it can sell smartphones with Microsoft's platform on board. During the same period, Sprint committed $20 billion (yes, with a "B") on the Apple iPhone. A similar financial figure isn't available for Sprint's commitment to the Google Android platform, but given that the bulk of its devices run Android it is sure to be sizable.
Sprint's prudence here could backfire -- or save its skin. It's three biggest competitors are launching the Z10 in mere weeks. Analysts and investors are looking to the Z10's launch in the U.S. to provide a better gauge for the platform's long-term success. To-date, it is only available in a few markets, and sales figures aren't reliable. If the Z10 is a roaring success with U.S. buyers, then perhaps Sprint can look forward to good sales of the Q10 when it goes on sale. If the Z10 tanks, however, Sprint may have time to scale back orders and trim any potential losses.
Sprint has not said when the Q10 will go on sale, only to say it will be available "later this year."