In the wake of the iPhone and all the smartphones that followed, BlackBerry was pretty much left for dead. While it once ruled the mobile universe, by 2010 its physical QWERTY keyboard seemed almost quaint.
Is it too early for BlackBerry nostalgia?
Maybe not. The company seems to be counting on those fond memories with the release of its latest phone, the BlackBerry Classic.
The Classic looks a lot like your old BlackBerry that's probably collecting dust in a drawer somewhere. The company calls it “a no-nonsense smartphone built to meet the needs of productive people who appreciate the speed and accuracy that can be found with a physical QWERTY keyboard.”
In truth a lot of business users loved their BlackBerries for the rock-solid email platform and the ease of use. And while it was possible to access the web with these phones, it wasn't really what the phone was designed for.
Inside and out
So the Classic looks like the old Blackberry on the outside, but not on the inside. According to the company its browser is 3 times faster, it has 60% more screen space, 50% longer battery life and a plethora of apps through BlackBerry World and the Amazon Appstore.
“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, Executive Chairman and CEO at BlackBerry. “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.”
Another reason the BlackBerry was prized in the business world was its famously secure operating system, with built-in protection against viruses, tampering and data leaks. Today those attributes may be prized even more in light of increasingly aggressive hackers.
The company says the Classic is “private by default,” protecting users with encrypted email and web browsing.
“This device underscores our commitment to helping BlackBerry users be at their most productive and respond to the demands of business from anywhere, at any time,” said Chen. “By bringing back the trusted functionalities, incorporating our latest operating system and building a speedier browser, our users can feel confident they are using the best communications tool out there.”
So far, the reviews are somewhat mixed. Marketwatch.com surveyed industry analysts who, while not dwelling on the technical merits, expressed doubts the Classic, and the previous Passport, would be enough to turn around the company's fortunes.
Technical reviewers have been kinder. One reviewer says that “after more than three years tinkering with its technology, the new device is sure to surprise a lot of followers and nonfollowers.”
In its review, technology site CNET liked the keyboard but said it results in a cramped, small screen.
“If you're willing to trade screen size for a superior physical keyboard, the BlackBerry Classic is a fantastic productivity phone for old-school QWERTY junkies,” it concludes.