It’s not uncommon for a beleaguered company to go back to its roots to reorient itself, and no product exemplifies that paradigm better than the Blackberry Classic. This is vintage stuff, harkening back to an era where QWERTY keyboards were the norm and the tech world zealously got high on Crackberry handsets, thumbs flapping away.
BlackBerry hasn’t been shy in suggesting that the Classic can bring those users back, but is the inclusion of an old-school trackpad — one few things that separates the Classic from a Q10 — that much of a draw? We took a short trip through a time warp to find out.
A quick glance at the Classic elicits memories of devices past. This is a BlackBerry hardware cocktail, with the key ingredients coming from the Bold 9900, Q10, and various other Bolds and Curves from the past. In spite of the throwback design, the build quality is superb. A stainless steel ring lines the edges of the phone, fusing together a rubberized and textured back with a 3.5-inch, 720 × 720 IPS display, a toolbar, and a QWERTY keyboard.
On the right side, you have the volume rockers and BlackBerry Assistant button. The 3.5mm headphone jack is at the top, and the nanoSIM and microSD slots are on the left. The speaker grills and microUSB port are at the bottom, while the camera and LED flash are on the back.
One of the more obvious design cues here is the weight. This phone is slightly heavier than the iPhone 6 Plus and practically the same as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 — both considerably larger than the Classic. This heft adds to the nostalgic tone of the device (remember how heavy your handset used to be?), but seems a bit out of place in a time where going lighter is preferable.
And yet, this phone feels more premium than mid-range, despite what turns out to be restrained specs. Not that you would, but an accidental drop of this phone would probably turn out better than a comparable mid-range handset. Diehard BlackBerry users might lament the lack of a removable battery, but could be more than a little forgiving of the additional weight.
WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN?
If BlackBerry has even a whiff of confidence in the Classic’s launch, it’s because of the (mostly) positive reception to the Passport. Though true sales figures won’t be known until Q4 results are announced, that phone was praised for sticking to the company’s roots in a different way, through a focus on business. The Classic is a different beast.
Take away the toolbar, paint it white, and you’re not far off from a Blackberry Q10. The Classic was originally going to be the successor Q20, but its given name actually makes more sense. Everything about the device is subtle, even though the nostalgic context behind its existence is patently obvious.