TechWeekEurope goes hands-on with BlackBerry’s ambitious trip down memory lane
They say you should never look back in design or manufacturing, that innovation and invention are the key terms in helping your products stay fresh and relevant. BlackBerry has decided that this is a load of nonsense, and as part of its bid to recapture past glories, the company released its latest flagship handset, the BlackBerry Classic.
Harking back to BlackBerry’s golden age as the business smartphone of choice, can this nostalgic yet modern tribute help win back the company’s lost customer base?
There is no easy way of getting around it – the BlackBerry Classic is, ultimately a return to past glories. Both BlackBerry itself and the mobile industry have moved on immeasurably since the launch of what many would call its last high-end QWERTY device, the BlackBerry Bold 9780 all the way back in November 2010, and it’s clear that major steps need to have been taken to ensure this new BlackBerry stays relevant.
Luckily, it has.
The stainless steel-bodied device will immediately inspire nostalgia in those familiar with the older BlackBerry devices. The Classic fits easily into your grip, and unlike the slightly larger BlackBerry Passport, is easy to operate with one hand (although more on that later). The QWERTY keys are responsive and easy to use, and those of you who switched to touchscreen devices will soon be back up to full typing speed in no time.
Fortunately, BlackBerry hasn’t decided to stick with the hardware that powered its older handsets, with the Classic receiving a major upgrade.
Although it doesn’t feature top-end hardware, the Classic 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).
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, and also sporting a 2MP front- and 8MP rear-facing camera with enhanced optics and upgraded imaging sensors.
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 mentioned above, if you’ve spent any great length of time with the older Curve or Bold models, you’ll have no problem getting to grips with the BlackBerry Classic.
The QWERTY keyboard will be instantly recognisable to seasoned BlackBerry-ers, but the Classic also comes with touchscreen capabilities for when you need a more hands-on approach. Switching between the two is quick and easy, with the central toolbar button also acting as both a touch-sensitive and interactive input.
The screen is bright and easy to read, and it’s no trouble to navigate between various apps, including pre-installed services such as BBM, BlackBerry Hub and BlackBerry Blend.
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.
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.
These business-focused services are what really sells the BlackBerry Classic, and what makes it a really useful device for work use. Setting up is a simple and quick process, making it a good candidate to be used as either a main device or an ancillary handset perfect for BYOD schemes.
Unsurprisingly, the device isn’t made for a rich multimedia experience, and whilst the camera is functional enough for the odd photo or two, this really isn’t the device to buy if you’re looking to wow the social media world with your Instagram feed.
Not being a seasoned BlackBerry user, I must admit I was hesitant when picking up the Classic. However, having spent some time using it alongside my personal Android smartphone, as well as watching people who have experienced BlackBerry devices in the past, it has to be said that I can see why people fall in love with the company’s devices.
The Classic is the perfect device for those who never really let go of their older BlackBerry phones. You may have tried to replace your old battered Curve or Bold handset with an iPhone or an Android device, but if you always felt like something was missing, this could be the smartphone for you.
That’s because it truly is a smart phone – one geared towards business. This isn’t the device to buy if you’re looking for a great camera, or wanting to watch movies on the train, or while away your commute playing games. This is a phone for getting things done, and with the updated design and build, alongside some really useful software, BlackBerry has done exactly that.
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