Metro Weekly

BlackBerry’s Classic is retro and proud

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I was vocal in my criticism of BlackBerry’s Passport, the beleaguered company’s attempt at a modern, enterprise-focused smartphone. It was a gorgeous piece of hardware, wrapped around mediocre software. For BlackBerry die-hards, though, it committed a cardinal sin: it altered the keyboard.

For those who type out long emails, create and edit documents and generally hammer their keyboard for hours every day, there’s never been a better device than a BlackBerry. The company has honed its keyboard layout to the point of perfection, which is why the devices were once king of every office around the country. Many still cling to BlackBerry’s phones as the perfect companion to their busy work schedules, but for those who couldn’t adjust to the Passport’s 3-row keyboard (the space bar was in the middle of the letters! What were they thinking?!), something more traditional was necessary. A classic, perhaps.

Okay, bad puns aside, if you’ve been waiting for a traditional BlackBerry form factor with fresh internals, the company has finally launched a smartphone for you. Today, the Canadian firm revealed the final iteration of the BlackBerry Classic after months of teasing. It is, for all intents and purposes, a true relative of the Bold 9900. With a four-row keyboard, complete with function keys and shortcuts, physical keys for call answer and end, as well as a back button and optical trackpad, it screams “BlackBerry.”

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What’s more, if you’ve held onto the Bold 9900 because BlackBerry hasn’t offered a true replacement and you refuse to give up those clickable keys, you’ll see significant boosts if you upgrade to the Classic. Internet browsing is three times faster, that 3.5-inch screen — with a slightly pedestrian 720×720 resolution — offers 60 percent more screen space, while battery life jumps by 50 percent.

The Classic’s internals are to thank for this. A 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor is mated to 2GB of RAM, with storage at 16GB and the option to expand via microSD, and a 2MP front- and 8MP rear-camera for those all-important business selfies. Software comes in the form of BlackBerry 10.3.1, which is love or loathe. For older BlackBerry users, it’ll be a fantastic upgrade, offering Android apps via the Amazon App Store and greater security and usefulness from native apps. For those running Android or iOS? It’s a definite step down from their established, mature ecosystems.

BlackBerry’s CEO John Chen was enthusiastic about the Classic’s prospects at the launch. “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,” he said in a statement. As for the Classic’s, well, classic shape? “When I went to visit customers — and these are the CEOs of top banks in this town — a lot of them pulled out their BlackBerrys,” Bloomberg reports Chen as saying, with one executive producing his BlackBerry and saying, “Don’t mess around with this thing.”

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According to Engadget, BlackBerry has already sold most of the Classics it made available for pre-order, which means that there is obviously interest in the device from fans of the brand. For the average consumer, though? Unless you need its excellent physical keyboard, the Classic is yet another reason to choose Android, iOS or Windows Phone if you want a modern smartphone experience.

The Classic is available for $449 unlocked from BlackBerry and Amazon, with the device expected to ship starting December 31. If you’d rather buy from a carrier, it’s expected to come to AT&T and Verizon soon.

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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