BlackBerry Classic: Final nail in the coffin or sign of potential renaissance?
BlackBerry Classic review: what it is
The BlackBerry Classic is a smartphone that is, depending on your viewpoint, another sign of BlackBerry's renaissance, or the final nail in an already doomed BlackBerry's coffin. A sign of a company that knows its strengths, or one that is doomed to repeat its mistakes ad infinitum. I'll get on with it.
The Classic is a new handset from BlackBerry. But unlike the BlackBerry Passport that was the company's most recent headline grabber, the Classic is quite literally a classic BlackBerry. A smartphone with a hardware qwerty keyboard. A squat black slab with 'BlackBerry' at the top and a keyboard at the bottom.
Working on the basis that those who use BlackBerry tend to love BlackBerry, the company has created a smartphone so 'BlackBerry' that it is almost a pastiche. But is it any good? Let's find out.
BlackBerry Classic review: UK price, availability, value
The BlackBerry Classic is widely available, and costs £349 inc VAT when purchased direct from BlackBerry. Or you can save a few quid and buy it for £329 inc VAT from Carphone warehouse, with SIMs from EE, O2 and Vodafone.
Pay Monthly deals on the BlackBerry Classic start at £17 per month with an £109 upfront cost and 500GB data. If you want to pay nothing up front the cheapest deal seems to be £22 a month. Both deals are for 24 months.
Either way that puts the Classic in the lower middle class of modern smartphones, which means it offers reasonable value for its dual-core chip specification, and limited to the Amazon App Store feature set. You won't buy the Classic because it is staggeringly good value. But if you want a BlackBerry it offers a decent deal.
BlackBerry Classic review: design and build
No BlackBerry Passport or BlackBerry Z10, the Classic looks exactly like you remember every BlackBerry looking. It is both shorter, thicker, heavier and more rounded than you expect from a modern smartphone. We measured it at 131 x 72 x 10 mm, and it weighed in at 182 g. (BlackBerry claims 178 g, and we are not going to fall out about 4 measly grammes.)
Compared to flagships such as the Galaxy S6 Edge, the HTC One M9 or - yes - the iPhone 6, the BlackBerry Classic is not blessed with conventional good looks. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and those looking for a BlackBerry will have truly met their match.
In the hand this feels like a sturdy and well balanced device. You need the relative bulk to make use of the qwerty keyboard, and it has to be said that having never been a BlackBerry fan I quickly got to grips with typing on the BlackBerry Classic. If you type a lot of text, and you want to do so one-handed, the BlackBerry Classic will be good for you. That thick 10 mm mid-rift feels thicker than it ought, but it adds to the pleasing heft and solidity of the device. Around the side we see a silver metallic strip, which features volume and power buttons on the top righthand side, and speakers and a USB port at the bottom.
On the left as you look are SIM and SD Card slots, and at the very top is the 3.5mm audio jack and a power/home button. The back of the BlackBerry Classic has a curved and textured plastic finish. The centre is set a silver BlackBerry logo. At the top we find a thin reflective strip which features the word 'Classic', and to the left the camera lens and flash.
But the front of the Classic is what you will spend your time looking at. This features the classic BlackBerry fascia. The screen takes up around 60 percent of the front, the keyboard sits beneath it. Above the screen is a thick bezel which contains the word 'BlackBerry', a speaker grille, and the front-facing camera aperture.
Overall the effect is of black and silver - black, plastic and metallic finish. The Classic looks smart if a little staid. It feels sturdy if bulky, and will certainly stand up to a life on the road. And it is most recognisably a BlackBerry. And unlike the BlackBerry Passport it feels perfectly balanced in the hand. So much for looks and build: let's get into the important stuff.
Next section: BlackBerry Classic review - display and keyboard