Review: BlackBerry Classic
Tech journalist NAFISA AKABOR reviews the BlackBerry Classic, a device aimed squarely at old-school BlackBerry fans.
You can be certain the BlackBerry Classic is a standout smartphone – it looks nothing like any other smartphone we’ve become accustomed to over the last couple of years.
The Classic is characterised by its half-size screen combined with a four-row physical keyboard beneath it. First glance takes you back several years to when keyboards were still a thing.
The Classic is the ideal upgrade for existing BlackBerry users who’ve been holding out for something with a keyboard.
Look and feel
The Classic has a very 'BlackBerry' look about it, so design wise, it hasn’t really evolved. The Classic is the follow-up handset to the Bold 9900, and was created based on feedback received from customers. The handset has curved edges, is slightly heavier than most current smartphones, it takes a nanoSIM card and the back cover isn’t removable. This means that unlike before, you can't 'fix' issues by removing and reinserting the battery. This was a quick solution for several problems.
Above the keyboard is a 'toolbelt' that houses the Send, BlackBerry, Back, and End keys, along with a trackpad in the centre. It’s easy to forget the screen is a touchscreen when you browse websites using the trackpad as a mouse. When you do remember, it’s much easier to touch the screen to browse.
The 720x720 resolution display has been quite an adjustment for me. When I look at anything on the screen, I feel like the bottom half is missing. Going back to a 3.5-inch screen will do that to anybody. All images on Facebook appear cut off because of this. You’re not buying the handset for the screen though, or the camera, but we’ll get to that later.
The Classic is aimed at business users who use their phones predominately for responding to emails and tend to type a lot on their phones, which can be much quicker using a physical keyboard.
Having used a touch keypad for the last five years, I am extremely slow on the keyboard. It was frustrating trying to figure out how the keyboard works. After using it for a week, I am certain I won’t be winning any how-fast-can-you-tweet competitions. However, if you’ve been holding back on a completely touch smartphone and haven’t given up your older BlackBerry, this is the smartphone upgrade for you.
As a heavy business user – or if it’s your primary access to the internet – the BlackBerry Hub is where you will be spending most of your time. Admittedly, it’s quite impressive. It’s accessible via a single swipe and manages everything from email, messages, WhatsApps, tweets and Facebook notifications. The Hub learns your habits and prioritises notifications accordingly. Great-data saving tip: you can choose to download headers or part of the message instead of the full body. The new BB 10 OS also supports 'instant actions', which lets you respond immediately without launching another app.
When it comes to the selection of apps on BlackBerry World, we know it’s not as extensive as Android, Windows Phone or iOS. The basics are available, but a lot of key apps are missing. The good news is that the Classic comes preinstalled with the Amazon Appstore so you can access Android apps instantly. The selection of apps already pre-loaded was adequate.
The camera on the Classic is 8MP, with autofocus. I found that from a bunch of pictures I would take, only a few would have proper focus and appear sharp. There is no dedicated camera button, but it supports HDR mode, timer, burst mode and time shift. The 2MP front camera takes less than average selfies. But as I mentioned earlier, you’re not buying the handset for the camera.
The Classic has a very good battery life, with a capacity of 2 515mAh – double that of the Bold. BlackBerry claims up to 22 hours of battery but realistically with the amount of emails, WhatsApps, tweets and more you will go through in a day, it should take you into the night without dying on you. Standby time is very good: 15.2 days.
The Classic is the ideal upgrade for existing BlackBerry users who’ve been holding out for something with a keyboard. However, if you’ve had a full touchscreen handset at least 4 inches or bigger, you will find it difficult to adapt to.