BlackBerry today officially pulled the covers off the BlackBerry Classic, a device looking to recapture the glory days of BlackBerry’s past.
It harks back to the very popular BlackBerry Bold with BlackBerry claiming that the Classic is a “upgrade” to the Bold 9900. Talking to John Sims, president of global enterprise services atBlackBerry, the company believes there is a big potential user base for this type of device: there are tens of millions of BlackBerry devices out there that could be upgraded.
Following tough times for BlackBerry, the new handset arrives hot on the heels of the BlackBerry Passport, a device that to some, is a little too radical in its approach. The same can’t be said of theBlackBerry Classic, which looks to stick to the formula that once worked so well for BlackBerry.
You have a large 3.5-inch 720 x 720 pixel display up top, a middle waistband of controls and that classic BlackBerry keyboard. The layout brings memories of the Bold rushing back and for theBlackBerry faithful, that can only be a good thing.
Whether you like or loathe the Passport, the Classic slips into the space behind it as a more manageable device. It’s more compact, more conventional, entirely classic. In some regards, there’s the feeling that BlackBerry has realised that what people really want is the last BB device they loved.
The metal edging feels instantly familiar, but this is a sealed unit, so there’s no accessing the battery. The plastic back perhaps doesn’t bring with it the excitement that leather or glassfibre has in the past, but it feels solidly built.
It measures 131 x 72.4 x 10.2mm and feels a little on the weighty side. We don’t have the exact figure on the weight, but it feels heavier than our Nexus 6.
But first impressions of this device are good: it’s what you expect the BlackBerry Classic to be. For those who haven’t been able to get on with an all-touch BlackBerry, or have been desperately waiting for a new BlackBerry with keyboard, this is it.
That keyboard offers sculpted keys with that wonderfully familiar action. The size is just about right to let you deploy two thumbs for rapid entry, or use it one-handed, which is great for those working on the move. It incorporates traditional BB shortcuts, candidly “reintroduced” for the Classic.
The keyboard is straight rather than curved, but still has those distinctive frets and lovely typing action so there’s plenty of positive feedback. We found it instantly familiar and that’s exactly the emotionBlackBerry wants to evoke with the Classic. That’s how it wants to win people back.
That central waistband of controls gives you calling keys, access to the menu through the BlackBerrylogo button and back. Where you once had to swipe, you’ll now be able to hit back, or end call, just as you did before BlackBerry introduced touch.
There’s also the optical navigation key, meaning you don’t have to use the touchscreen if you don’t really want to and it’s handy for things like selecting text.
The BlackBerry Classic launches with BB 10.3.1, meaning you have the latest goodies on the software front. That means, for example, cleaner navigation around the homescreen, active frames that stay where they are, quick access to settings, better camera performance and more.
Previous iterations of BB 10.3 have appeared on the BlackBerry Passport and the Porsche Design P’9983 and it’s a little early to form any judgement from the short time we’ve spent with the Classic so far, but we will be subjecting it to a full review as soon as we can.
READ: BlackBerry 10.3 tips and tricks: New features examined
At the launch event, the Classic was heavily compared to the Bold, with BlackBerry pointing out that it’s faster in the browser, 60 per cent larger on the display and with 50 per cent battery life over 2011’s Bold 9900.
Internally you have a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, there’s 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. This can be expanded via microSD, up to 128GB. During the short time we’ve had with the new handset it’s difficult to gauge the performance, but we’ll be examining it in detail in the coming weeks.
There’s an 8-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera.
The BlackBerry Classic may well be the BlackBerry device that many have been waiting for. It avoids the radical move made by the Passport, but offers that sturdy keyboard experience that BlackBerryis renowned for.
For those who spend a lot of time working on messaging, fused through the BlackBerry Hub, the nice fast keyboard in a manageable package makes for a much more appealing device than some of BlackBerry’s recent keyboard ventures.
It does feel a little like the company turning the clock back, however. To call it a regression might be a disservice, but many outsiders will see that being the case: this isn’t BlackBerry trying to disrupt through innovation, it’s BlackBerry doing what it has always done best.
For those waiting for a keyboard device, we think the Classic will be popular. In the enterprise world, where the Classic is pitched, it could come as a welcome relief for those with an aging Bold, Curve, or who don’t like touch. For “professional consumers” here’s a device that’s business focused, designed to keep you communicating.
For those consumers who loved their Bold, this is the closest you’ll get to a second coming. But is this throwback a safe bet? Time will tell.