The BlackBerry Classic has been known about for a long time, but finally it has been officially launched in what must surely be one of the final product announcements of 2014. Aimed at keeping existing BlackBerry fans onboard rather than trying to win back defectors to other rivals, the Classic forms part of BlackBerry's new business plan to be more smaller but more focussed and to stem the huge losses of recent years.
BlackBerry are touting this as the replacement for 2011's BlackBerry Bold 9900, which neatly ignores the BlackBerry Q10 launched early in 2013. The reason for this? The Q10 was never very popular, and one of the things that was missing were the classic navigation keys that BlackBerry users were used to.
So, the Classic goes back to the 9900 and adds those features that customers felt were missing, and then it adds the BlackBerry 10 operating system on top to finally bring these devices kicking and screaming into the second decade of the twenty-first century.
The software is really the key issue - even with several layers of polish to improve usability, it isn't anything like the BlackBerry operating systems that came before, so it is likely to be a bit of a shock for new users. But the old BlackBerry 8 OS was really just a reheated version of something that had been knocking around since the late 1990s, and for all of its oddities at least BlackBerry 10 is a modern OS. The Classic can do everything the new BlackBerry Passport can do, so we won't go over everything again.
BlackBerry Classic Physically, this is much bigger that the Q10 and 9900 but a lot smaller than the Passport. There is a 3.5" 720 x 720 pixel touchscreen, a 1.5GHz dual-core processor with 2GB of RAM, there is 16GB of onboard flash storage plus a microSD slot with an 8 megapixel primary camera and 2 megapixel secondary one. Of course, there is a physical QWERTY keyboard too with the classic buttons on plus an optical trackpad.
BlackBerry are hoping to differentiate the Classic with the battery life. The 2515 mAh battery is quoted as giving up to 22 hours of mixed use, hoping to please loyal customers who like the legendary battery life of older devices.
This is an LTE-capable device, and the Classic also comes with NFC support and an FM radio on top of all those usual features such as GPS, GLONASS, WiFi and everything else. It weighs a fairly hefty 178 grams and measures 131 x 72 x 10.2mm.
In Europe the BlackBerry Classic will be available for around £349 or €429 SIM-free, and it is available now in France and Germany with the UK shipping in mid-January. In the US the classic is US$449 and in Canada it is CA$499, also available now.
While the Classic is unlikely to win back users who have moved to other smartphone platforms, it does offer a useful migration path for users who still have older devices. Whether this will be enough to safeguard BlackBerry's future remains to be seen, but by reconnecting with their core customers they have a much better chance than they did in the recent past.
GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
UMTS (bands vary)
LTE (bands vary)
GPRS + EDGE + UMTS (3G) + HSPA+ + LTE + WiFi
3.5" 720 x 720 pixels
8 megapixels (main)
2 megapixels (sub)
131 x 74 x 10.2mm / 178 grams
Yes (plus GLONASS)
11 hours talk / 14 days standby (3G)
2515 mAh cell