BlackBerry Classic reviews: will 'retro' phone save BlackBerry?

BlackBerry Classic reviews: will 'retro' phone save BlackBerry?

BlackBerry Classic

Analysts sceptical whether BlackBerry's return to a physical keyboard will be enough to entice new customers

LAST UPDATED AT 15:29 ON THU 18 DEC 2014

BlackBerry hopes to claw back some of its lost market share with the launch of the new BlackBerry Classic – a phone that harks back to a bygone era of mobile devices when phones had physical keyboards.

The once-mighty manufacturer badly needs the new model to be a success after years of declining sales and John Chen, the company's CEO, adopted a back to basic message. "It's tempting in a rapidly changing, rapidly growing mobile market to change for the sake of change," he wrote on a blog. "But there's also something to be said for the classic adage, if it ain't broke don't fix it.

"We are committed to earning your business – or earning it back, if that's the case. It took us a lot of pain and suffering and hard work to get to this point."

Early reviewers praise the phone for what it is, but many say that it may just be too little too late for the faded smartphone icon.

So what does the BlackBerry Classic get right, and what does it get wrong?

Design and keyboard

One of the main elements of the BlackBerry Classic's design is that it reintroduces a physical keyboard. Many BlackBerry enthusiasts argue that typing on a physical keyboard is significantly easier than using a touchscreen.

"Typing on the Classic is like meeting an old friend," says the Financial Times. "After using the iPhone for so many years, I had forgotten just how good the BlackBerry keyboard was. The grooves, the raised bevel on each key and the springy mechanism mean that touch-typing emails is effortless". 

The phone "feels fabulously solid in the hand", says Matt Warman in the Daily Telegraph. At 131 x 72.5 x 10.2mm, the Classic is bigger than some of the BlackBerrys it succeeds, and at 178g it is noticeably heavier too. In fact, it is 25 per cent heavier than the Q10, the most recent phone the company produced, which emulated the design of its last real hit, the BlackBerry Bold.

Still, the latest generation of mobiles have grown bigger, rather than smaller, so many reviewers believe that the larger scale may not dissuade customers.

Camera

The BlackBerry Classic features an 8MP rear camera with an LED flash and a 2MP front-facing "selfie" lens as well. The main camera will take "beautiful wide panoramic photos" and has a burst mode, a timer and an offline time shift mode. One new feature that some reviewers found interesting is that the camera will let users divide their photos into work and personal modes, so they can end up keeping their home and professional lives separate. "It's useful, but few will bother finding the right icon when all they want to do is take a picture, even if it is for work," says Warman.

Processor and memory

The Classic's Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 chipset with dual-core Krait architecture at 1.5GHz is decent, but, as Know Your Mobile points out, already this setup is "getting a little old". The device comes with 16GB of in-built storage, which doesn't compare terribly favourably against the latest iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models which have capacities of 16, 64 and 128GB. However, the Classic does have microSD support of up to 128GB, meaning that with a little extra investment it could outperform Apple.

Operating system and apps

One of the enduring problems for BlackBerry is that it is not nearly as well supported by third-party app developers as Android and iOS. Fortunately, out of the box, it already has "a lot going for it" says PC Mag's Sascha Segan. "It's easy to set up with almost any e-mail system, delivering email, Facebook, Twitter and text alerts with alacrity".

DocumentsToGo "makes excellent work of attachments", and the operating system BlackBerry 10.3.1 "adds a lot of thoughtful little features, extending things like out-of-office message support, PDF form support, and calendar snooze options", Segan says.

The problems arrive when trying to get new apps. The stores that the phone connects with, BlackBerry World and the Amazon Appstore, "tend to lack or have underfeatured versions of critical, important apps" Segan notes. That counts as a "major minus".

Price

The Classic went on sale in the US and Canada yesterday priced at $499 and $449 respectively. This would suggest that the phone will cost between £272 and £285 when it arrives in the UK, but so far, no official launch date has been given.

Verdict

There is plenty to like about BlackBerry's return to its roots, says The Verge: "For those who miss tapping on the physical keyboard made famous by BlackBerry in the mid 2000s, it doesn't get much better than this."

Matt Warman of the Telegraph agrees, noting that the phone looks good, "feels serious" and could actually help to make you more productive. But it also feels like "a conspicuous last throw of the dice" aimed squarely at an ever shrinking band of loyalists.

The question is, can an old style of phone featuring a less developed app ecosystem convert smartphone users who have either converted to or been raised on touchscreens? CNet has its doubts. "With a new generation of users weaned on touchscreen iPhones and Android devices, it's unlikely that many will take a chance on a platform that still lags behind on games and other personal apps." · 

For further concise, balanced comment


BlackBerry Classic reviews: will 'retro' phone save BlackBerry?

BlackBerry Classic

Analysts sceptical whether BlackBerry's return to a physical keyboard will be enough to entice new customers

LAST UPDATED AT 15:29 ON THU 18 DEC 2014

BlackBerry hopes to claw back some of its lost market share with the launch of the new BlackBerry Classic – a phone that harks back to a bygone era of mobile devices when phones had physical keyboards.

The once-mighty manufacturer badly needs the new model to be a success after years of declining sales and John Chen, the company's CEO, adopted a back to basic message. "It's tempting in a rapidly changing, rapidly growing mobile market to change for the sake of change," he wrote on a blog. "But there's also something to be said for the classic adage, if it ain't broke don't fix it.

"We are committed to earning your business – or earning it back, if that's the case. It took us a lot of pain and suffering and hard work to get to this point."

Early reviewers praise the phone for what it is, but many say that it may just be too little too late for the faded smartphone icon.

So what does the BlackBerry Classic get right, and what does it get wrong?

Design and keyboard

One of the main elements of the BlackBerry Classic's design is that it reintroduces a physical keyboard. Many BlackBerry enthusiasts argue that typing on a physical keyboard is significantly easier than using a touchscreen.

"Typing on the Classic is like meeting an old friend," says the Financial Times. "After using the iPhone for so many years, I had forgotten just how good the BlackBerry keyboard was. The grooves, the raised bevel on each key and the springy mechanism mean that touch-typing emails is effortless". 

The phone "feels fabulously solid in the hand", says Matt Warman in the Daily Telegraph. At 131 x 72.5 x 10.2mm, the Classic is bigger than some of the BlackBerrys it succeeds, and at 178g it is noticeably heavier too. In fact, it is 25 per cent heavier than the Q10, the most recent phone the company produced, which emulated the design of its last real hit, the BlackBerry Bold.

Still, the latest generation of mobiles have grown bigger, rather than smaller, so many reviewers believe that the larger scale may not dissuade customers.

Camera

The BlackBerry Classic features an 8MP rear camera with an LED flash and a 2MP front-facing "selfie" lens as well. The main camera will take "beautiful wide panoramic photos" and has a burst mode, a timer and an offline time shift mode. One new feature that some reviewers found interesting is that the camera will let users divide their photos into work and personal modes, so they can end up keeping their home and professional lives separate. "It's useful, but few will bother finding the right icon when all they want to do is take a picture, even if it is for work," says Warman.

Processor and memory

The Classic's Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 chipset with dual-core Krait architecture at 1.5GHz is decent, but, as Know Your Mobile points out, already this setup is "getting a little old". The device comes with 16GB of in-built storage, which doesn't compare terribly favourably against the latest iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models which have capacities of 16, 64 and 128GB. However, the Classic does have microSD support of up to 128GB, meaning that with a little extra investment it could outperform Apple.

Operating system and apps

One of the enduring problems for BlackBerry is that it is not nearly as well supported by third-party app developers as Android and iOS. Fortunately, out of the box, it already has "a lot going for it" says PC Mag's Sascha Segan. "It's easy to set up with almost any e-mail system, delivering email, Facebook, Twitter and text alerts with alacrity".

DocumentsToGo "makes excellent work of attachments", and the operating system BlackBerry 10.3.1 "adds a lot of thoughtful little features, extending things like out-of-office message support, PDF form support, and calendar snooze options", Segan says.

The problems arrive when trying to get new apps. The stores that the phone connects with, BlackBerry World and the Amazon Appstore, "tend to lack or have underfeatured versions of critical, important apps" Segan notes. That counts as a "major minus".

Price

The Classic went on sale in the US and Canada yesterday priced at $499 and $449 respectively. This would suggest that the phone will cost between £272 and £285 when it arrives in the UK, but so far, no official launch date has been given.

Verdict

There is plenty to like about BlackBerry's return to its roots, says The Verge: "For those who miss tapping on the physical keyboard made famous by BlackBerry in the mid 2000s, it doesn't get much better than this."

Matt Warman of the Telegraph agrees, noting that the phone looks good, "feels serious" and could actually help to make you more productive. But it also feels like "a conspicuous last throw of the dice" aimed squarely at an ever shrinking band of loyalists.

The question is, can an old style of phone featuring a less developed app ecosystem convert smartphone users who have either converted to or been raised on touchscreens? CNet has its doubts. "With a new generation of users weaned on touchscreen iPhones and Android devices, it's unlikely that many will take a chance on a platform that still lags behind on games and other personal apps." · 

For further concise, balanced comment

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