But that smaller screen hasn't been a drawback to some qwerty faithful who have used the physical keyboards from BlackBerry for years and have tried the touchscreens, but haven't liked them.
One random BlackBerry qwerty user in Harrisonburg, Va., who gave her name only as Mary, pulled out an old Curve device for a reporter and showed how fast she could type with two thumbs on the physical keyboard. She was curious to know when the Q10 would be available and said she hasn't liked touchscreens.
"I really like the keyboard," she said.
Several analysts said they hear the woman's sentiment all the time, mainly from BlackBerry users, although there is also a core group of younger qwerty users on other platforms, such as the now-rare Sidekick, a horizontal slider with a physical keyboard that is especially useful for texting -- especially among young smartphone users.
BlackBerry originally made its reputation with various qwerty keyboard handhelds. It also largely failed with the BlackBerry Storm, a full touchscreen device introduced in late 2008, analysts said.
"The Z10 has only had moderate success so far, and there is still a large base of BlackBerry users who want to upgrade to BlackBerry 10 OS and have been waiting for a qwerty version in the Q10," said Kevin Burden, an analyst at Strategy Analytics.
Of the 76 million BlackBerry users worldwide, Burden said he'd be surprised if many are using the Storm. He said the vast majority of the BlackBerry users are indeed using older qwerty devices.
Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group, said it was a "huge mistake" for BlackBerry to produce the touchscreen Storm device to imitate the iPhone "because BlackBerry's own unique design had been so successful and the text-centric behaviors driving that design really hadn't changed that much, certainly not for loyal BlackBerry users anyway."
In fact, Enderle said touchscreen phones require more of a user's attention and have contributed to texting-while-driving safety problems. "Physical keyboards are still preferred for mobile computers and are perceived to be faster than screen keyboards," Enderle said. "Even iPads have a very high keyboard-attach rate."
The Q10 is the kind of product that BlackBerry had to produce, Enderle said. "For BlackBerry, physical keyboard users represent BlackBerry's most loyal segment of users, and keeping that group happy is core to BlackBerry's survival as a company," he said.
When asked if the Q10 might catch on with non-BlackBerry customers on other smartphone platforms, the analysts were doubtful.