Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we're using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.

IRL BlackBerry Q10 and the Chevy Volt

Fun fact: IRL was inspired by long-term car reviews -- the sort of detailed write-ups you can't expect after just a week of testing. Appropriately enough, then, we've got some impressions of the Chevy Volt from Engadget Spanish editor Jose Andrade, who's already on his second model. Meanwhile, you'll also find some thoughts on the BlackBerry Q10 from who else but Canadian editor Jon Fingas.

BlackBerry Q10

IRL BlackBerry Q10 and the Chevy VoltTo me, the real litmus test of BlackBerry's revival was always going to come with the launch of the Q10 in Canada: if a higher-end QWERTY BlackBerry can succeed on the company's home turf, it just might stand a chance elsewhere. It's for that reason that I've been trying the Q10 for myself -- and I've even managed to use it on BlackBerry's original carrier, Rogers. Would a few weeks of Q10 use feel like a homecoming, or remind me how far the mighty have fallen?

I'm quite happy with the basic experience, which gives me some confidence in BlackBerry's future. While I believe that it's faster to type on a good touchscreen keyboard than the hardware variety -- it's easier to glide from letter to letter -- I've become quite comfortable with the Q10's keys and compact body. BlackBerry 10 feels tailor-made for a blend of keyboard and touch input: the instant type-to-search is convenient, and the (relatively) small space of a 3.1-inch screen makes it easy to perform swipe gestures with one hand. I find myself enjoying the rear camera, too. It took a while to settle in with BlackBerry's odd drag-to-focus interface, but the Q10's 8MP primary shooter produces the right amounts of sharpness and color accuracy to please a mobile shutterbug like myself, at least in typical daylight conditions.

When Rogers' Q10 model has the rare advantage of an extra LTE band (2600MHz) at its disposal, you'd expect a better-than-usual cellular experience. I haven't noticed the difference around Ottawa, however. Speeds are similar to other devices at an average of 14 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up, and the coverage hasn't noticeably improved -- not that this was a problem to start with, as the network is usually strong in the areas I visit. As for preloaded apps? Examples like Anytime TV exist, but they're rarer and less intrusive than they can be on Rogers' Android and Windows Phone devices.

With all these positives in mind, I'd still have a hard time making the leap to the Q10 due to the terrible battery life I've seen under heavy loads. While Tim got through a full day of strenuous use on AT&T, my Rogers example keels over in four hours of frequent (though not constant) internet and camera activity. This is despite keeping the number of running apps down to three or four at most. When even the power-hungry Sony Xperia ZL can last longer, you know there's a problem. It's difficult to tell whether the short runtime is the result of switching Canadian LTE frequencies or just my particular usage patterns, but either way, it sours an otherwise solid phone.

-- Jon Fingas

Chevy Volt

IRL BlackBerry Q10 and the Chevy VoltWhen my wife told me the company she works for was going to replace her Impala with a Chevy Volt, I couldn't contain my excitement. Finally, an EV in my life! When we went to pick up the car, she expressed concern about driving something so different. I tried to calm her down by saying, "This is just a gadget. The biggest gadget you will ever have, but a gadget nonetheless." She laughed and nodded.

The new Volt had plenty of new features compared to the Impala. It had a touchscreen, capacitive controls, animations, iPod integration, but more importantly: a power plug. We started charging the car nightly and learning to drive carefully to extend the mileage obtained per charge. Being power-efficient became a fun game.

Then the problems started. One day my wife came home with a rental. "What happened?" I asked. Well, the radiator had cracked. That was not a big deal, as the dealer replaced the component and off we went. Then the second issue: the back window broke when closing the door, leaving tiny pieces of glass behind. It took several weeks to get that replaced, because the part was not even available. Then we lost power in the house. The electric company came and realized the power meter had melted (luckily, it didn't cause a fire). The plug we had been using for the car had been wired incorrectly and melted half of the meter. We had an electrician fix that problem and then a Level 2 Watt Station was installed.

Recently, my wife returned her Volt, because she's required to exchange her car after she reaches a certain mileage. Once again, she picked the Volt. We like to think many of those problems we had with the first Volt were just a learning experience. Part of a process. We believe we are helping the environment by using this car, that we are promoting the development of this important technology. And besides all the issues we have had, we love driving a Volt, trying to get the most out of the battery, seeing the animations on the screens and talking to strangers who approach us just because we have an electric car and they also want to learn about it.

-- Jose Andrade

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