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Revealed: BlackBerry Goes Back To The Future With New Classic

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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3.5in device comes with touch-enabled QWERTY keyboard and the return of the navigation bar

BlackBerry has decided to look to the past for inspiration to boost its flagging fortunes, as the company today revealed a new smartphone with a decidedly retro look.

The manufacturer took the wraps off its latest smartphone, the BlackBerry Classic, at an event in Frankfurt today, revealing a mix of old and new influences as the company looks to maintain its strong hold on the enterprise mobility market.

This includes the return of BlackBerry’s touch sensitive trackpad and navigation bar, features which hadn’t been seen since the company’s famous Bold devices which helped make it a household name.

blackberry classic hubMost wanted

“We spent a lot of time listening to our customers over the past year – the Classic is what happens when you really listen to your customers,” said Eric Johnson, BlackBerry’s president of global sales, who said the company poured over ‘tens of thousands’ of pieces of customer feedback in developing the device.

The famous BlackBerry keyboard, lacking in the company’s most recent smartphones, which eschewed the feature for a touchscreen-only interface, was by far the most popular feature requested, Johnson said.

Having been made available to pre-order from last week, the Classic will go on sale in the UK from January with O2 and EE supporting the device, and will also be available to buy SIM-free from all Selfridges stores for £329.99.

blackberry classic feature assistantLink to the past

The stainless steel-bodied Classic doesn’t feature top-end hardware, but should have everything needed for day to day business use. Powering the device is a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 8960 processor and 2GB RAM, but it also packs in 16GB of device storage (expandable by up to 128GB via uSD), and a 2MP front- and 8MP rear-facing camera with enhanced optics and upgraded imaging sensors.

All of this is packed in behind a 3.5in 720×720 screen with 294 dpi HD resolution – 60 percent larger than the screen of the Bold – built of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for greater durability.

Battery life is also a key consideration, and BlackBerry says that the Classic will provide up to 22 hours of power with its 2515mAh unit – over 50 percent more than the company’s previous smartphones. In order to eke out the last bits of juice, the company has included several battery optimisation tools.

As for software, the Classic comes pre-loaded with BlackBerry’s 10.3.1 operating system, which features the company’s most up-to-date productivity and security features, making the device 300 percent faster than the last Bold device.

“This is the most productive smartphone we’ve ever designed,” said Michael Clewley, BlackBerry’s director of handheld software product management.

Other pre-installed software includes the BlackBerry World and Amazon Appstore, alongside services such as the voice-controlled BlackBerry Assistant, which allows the establishment of separate work and personal profiles on the Classic, meaning there’s no risk of putting your data at risk.

blackberry classic launch“We listened closely to our customers’ feedback to ensure we are delivering the technologies to power them through their day – and that feedback led directly to the development of BlackBerry Classic,” said John Chen, BlackBerry executive chairman and CEO. “BlackBerry Classic is the powerful communications tool that many BlackBerry Bold and Curve users have been waiting for. It’s the secure device that feels familiar in their hands, with the added performance and agility they need to be competitive in today’s busy world.”

However some industry observers were unconvinced that the Classic would help to revive BlackBerry’s flagging fortunes.

“The release of the BlackBerry Classic is an attempt to return to the company’s former glory,” said ICT consultant Lawrence Lundy from analyst firm Frost & Sullivan. “With 0.7 percent global market share in Q3 2014, BlackBerry is almost an irrelevance in the current smartphone market. But with a strong global brand and support from enterprise and government, BlackBerry is hoping that the Classic will re-ignite support and lead to a turnaround in the company’s fortunes. This is unlikely to happen.”

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BlackBerry Classic

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BlackBerry Classic