BlackBerry has played underdog for nearly a decade since its heyday, but the manufacturer hopes its new BlackBerry Classic smartphone will remind the world what their thumbs once loved about physical keyboards.
BlackBerry tried to compete in a world of touch screens but now is focusing hard on the market that drove its adoption in the first place: business enterprise users. Many of its loyal customers include security-focused businesses that not only require software to protect their secrets but also have relied on devices like the BlackBerry Bold 990 for years.
“We’re returning to and building on the things that make tens of millions of people BlackBerry people,” Jeff Gadway, director of product marketing, said at the BlackBerry Classic launch event at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City on Wednesday.
The BlackBerry Classic brings a host of updated specifications to a device that should feel extremely familiar, especially to those that know BlackBerry. The new Classic has a 60 percent-larger screen, a 3.5-inch touch-screen display; a 50 percent more powerful battery, which provides up to 22 hours of batter life; and a completely revamped browser experience, which is three times faster than on the BlackBerry Bold 990.
Additionally, the Classic features a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB of internal storage with expandable storage up to 128GB, an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front camera.
The BlackBerry Classic maintains the same premium materials and high-quality finishes for which the company’s devices are known, but there are some physical changes on the new device. The Classic is larger, but its keyboard does not sacrifice screen real estate. Its display is approximately the same size as an iPhone screen with its virtual keyboard activated, Gadway noted.
The BlackBerry Classic keyboard has also been updated from its original curved design to one with straight rows of sculpted keys, which allow users to feel where one key ends and the next key begins, stainless steel frets in between each row of keys, which helps with typing precision and physical feedback, which helps users anticipate their next move. The keyboard, however, does maintain some old aspects, such as keyboard shortcuts for various actions like scrolling and selecting.
BlackBerry says the Classic keyboard is four times more accurate than the virtual keyboard on the touch-screen BlackBerry 10 smartphone, adding that the keyboard is a feature that fans have missed from BlackBerry.
Featuring the BlackBerry 10.3.1 operating system, the BlackBerry Classic also includes such software features as BlackBerry Hub, BlackBerry Blend and BlackBerry Assistant, as well as the BlackBerry World app store for business customers and the Amazon app store for general consumers. BlackBerry has also brought back its popular Brick Breaker game, which shows off the precision and ease of use of the BlackBerry Classic trackpad.
A BlackBerry would not be complete without its security features, and the Classic is designed around a new secure productivity bundle, which includes features like BBM Protected, a secure instant messenger client for business; Blend by Blackberry, a feature that allows users to transfer content from their BlackBerry securely to another device like a computer or tablet; and VPN Authentication by BlackBerry, which allows for easier VPN logins on BlackBerry without sacrificing security. The secure productivity bundle sells for $6 per user per month.
The BlackBerry Classic will sell for $449 in the U.S. and $499 in Canada, and it will be available at the BlackBerry Store and on Amazon.com. The BlackBerry Classic will be available on AT&T at launch and will also be available at carriers including Verizon and Bell, Rogers and Telus in Canada. BlackBerry says preorders have begun shipping today and should arrive by next week. Customers purchasing the device now should see it ship in the coming weeks, with the BlackBerry store currently estimating a Dec. 31 shipping date.