BlackBerry’s Classic: Yesterday’s phone today

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“For people who like physical keyboards.” That ought to be the slogan for the BlackBerry Classic, the latest device from the embattled Canadian mobile device manufacturer. With its physical keyboard and navigation keys the Classic looks like a BlackBerry Bold, the company’s quintessential (if somewhat aspirational) device in its heyday. The Bold was like the overdressed version of the wildly successful Curve. It’s what Curve owners who came into money bought, and there were plenty of Curve owners.

The Classic runs BlackBerry’s current OS, BlackBerry 10, and has a touch display (with a middling resolution of 720×720 pixels) that’s square instead of rectangular – like those on the Bold and the Curve – all of which makes it a more modern device than its forbearers, but one that’s still betting on loyalty from the same people who bought them.

The mobile sector is breakneck and unforgiving, and BlackBerry’s been working out its comeback strategy for years. Some people just won’t come back, but maybe it can win over newcomers with its no nonsense approach to courting business users.

If you owned and loved a Curve or a Bold and want a physical keyboard and BlackBerry’s legendary security, your trouser pocket is the Classic’s target. It’ll feel familiar, while letting you do more of the things you expect to be able to in 2014. But there are still lots of things you may’ve come to expect from other devices that the Classic won’t deliver.

BlackBerry-ClassicThat keyboard takes up a lot of space. So it’s no surprise that BlackBerry isn’t trying to sell the Classic to mobile photographers or gamers. Instead, it’s after people who mean business. Email, BBM, WhatsApp, anything with lots of typing, if that’s what you do the Classic wants you, but you, like so many former BlackBerry fans, might have moved on.

Maybe your peers pressured you to abandon your beloved BlackBerry. Perhaps you just got tired of waiting for a new device that seemed worthy of your money. Or maybe you felt adventurous when renewing a contract and picked an Android device for a change. If you did, by now you’ve probably adapted to touch-everything, or you’re used to watching video and looking at pictures on a high-res, big display. But maybe, just maybe, you loved your Bold and you want it back.

BlackBerry’s support for Amazon’s App Store means you can use Android apps to fill most gaps in BlackBerry App World’s lineup, but consider that many apps are made for rectangular displays, not square ones. They’ll work, but they may not look fantastic. But then, you didn’t buy the Classic to spend your life updating Instagram, did you? You got it to get stuff done.

And for getting stuff done – like replying to hundreds of emails – the Classic will be fantastic. Its processor is a little old, but there’s 2GB or RAM, a microSD slot that supports cards up to 128GB and it’ll just get out of the way while your fingers fly across its keys. If keys are your thing, that is.

The Classic will sell for $449 in the US, so expect it to cost closer to R6 000 when it lands in South Africa some time next year.

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