Mobiles & Tablets

BB’s re-return to form and function

R Dinakaran | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on January 28, 2015

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BlackBerry has gone back to its roots with the Classic’s design. Can it win back customers?

Classic design never dies. It remains evergreen in our minds and it becomes the benchmark against which everything else gets judged. The Mini in the automotive world, the Concorde in Aviation, and the Apple iPhone and the original Blackberry in the world of personal tech are perfect examples. Classic designs’ practicality, ability to capture the essence of purpose, and yet remain futuristic after every cycle makes them pure.

But, companies are often led astray by confusing interim trends and the fear of obsolescence. And the sector that this is most true for is personal technology, where obsolescence is measured in months not years. So, sometimes when changes don’t work out according to plan, it is a good idea to pause, look back and seek the familiar embrace of original design.

After years of walking in the smartphone woods, BlackBerry has gone back to the future in style with its ‘new’ Classic. This new BB is more than just a case of putting ‘new wine in an old bottle’, it has done a great job of merging the old with the new. Here’s why.

Back is back

Amongst the examples we’ve mentioned, iPhones and BlackBerrys are a study in contrast in that the former’s minimalist design is best known for its lack of keys or buttons and the latter’s is best known for its keypad. So, it isn’t anachronistic that the latest BB has got its buttons back.

The ‘back’ button has been ubiquitous in all phones, including BlackBerrys - till the BB10 came about. One main feature of BB 10 was the doing away of the button - leaving many users annoyed. Though we could go ‘back’, it was not as easy as pressing a button - physical or touch.

The re-emergence of the back button is one of the main features of the BlackBerry Classic and with the other usual keys also making a comeback, the device has the stamp of a retro/ vintage BlackBerry. There also seems to be little doubt about whom the device is aimed at - professionals.

For those who had switched from the older BBs to BB10 devices such as the Q10 or Q5, the first problem, if one can call it that, in the Classic is that of plenty. You have all the BB10 touch screen swipe actions (gesture-based UI) plus the four buttons, which can be pretty confusing. But it doesn’t take much time for one to get back to using the buttons, since they are intuitive - like they used to be before BB10 came along. The new trackpad makes scrolling and browsing easier and one wonders why BlackBerry got rid of it in the first place.

Heavyweight

The Classic’s build quality is solid; there is nothing plasticky about it. The steel trim that runs around the sides seems to add much to the 177 gram weight. The 3.5-inch screen is one of the largest in a BlackBerry with a keypad and the proportions of the phone seem to be just right going by today’s standards.

But, the Classic’s chunkiness will be in contrast to the current craze for slim smartphones. The new BB Classic is, however, focused more on productivity and not meant to be a show-off device. It looks and feels like a business phone and even it’s bulk is reassuring.

The keyboard has the BlackBerry stamp. It has the same design of BlackBerry Bolds of the past and offers the same ease of use. BlackBerry is one of the few handset makers that still (thankfully) comes out with a physical QWERTY keyboard, and does a really great job of it.

Performance

The Classic is powered by a dual-core, 1.5 GHz Qualcomm 8960 processor, which is a slightly older class of processor. This could have been listed as a negative, but since it is a phone that is going to be used by professionals and executives and not much for heavy applications like gaming, the processor should be more than enough.

In terms of the Classic’s form factor and placement of other controls, the only difference from the older BBs is that the SIM card slot (this device supports only nano SIM) and micro SD slots are on the left-hand side and you will require a pin to access them. The textured back cover has a certain premium feel to it and offers a great grip. But the rear cover cannot be removed.

One irritant is that it is not possible to swipe between the dial pad, contacts and call history screens, though they can be accessed from a single screen. Though the contacts tab looks like the phone book, they are not the same. There is no way to add contacts from the contacts tab. You have to either use the phone book or the call history option to add contacts.

One great piece of software in the Classic is BlackBerry Blend that brings messaging and other content from the phone to your computer or/and tablet through a common WiFi. It is possible to get notifications, access messages, documents, calendar, contacts and media in the other device.

The 8MP rear camera is pretty decent for a device which is essentially a business phone. There are the usual features such as Time Shift, Burst and Panorama modes available with the addition of scenes such as night or action. You can also choose between 16:9, 4:3 or 1:1 ratio while shooting pictures. Pictures are crisp with very little noise and with the right exposure levels thanks to some assistance from in-built HDR. The camera can shoot HD video too (1028 or 720p).

The Classic’s browser does a great job. It is fast and the zoom options - pinch and double tap - leave no room for disappointments. The Reader option in the browser gives an uncluttered experience - it removes the website navigation and other buttons to offer a great reading platform. What’s better is that there is no lag when we switch between the reader and the normal browser interfaces.

Verdict

The Docs To Go completes the BlackBerry experience with a complete office suite and the interface is several levels better than the Docs To Go in Q5. The only drawback is that though PPTs can be viewed and edited, it is not possible to create new ones from the app. For executives who survive on PPTs, this could be a serious drawback.

This is one device executives and businessmen can blindly invest in - if the price is acceptable. With BYOD catching on, it will be interesting to see how many companies will actually give this out to their employees.

₹31,990

Love: The Keypad!; BB10.3 OS; Good 8 MP camera

Hate: Heavy device; Can’t create new PPTs

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Published on January 28, 2015
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