If you are one of us who drooled over the Blackberry Curve, desperately desired the Touch, or daydreamed to be in the league of the Bold, then check out the Blackberry Classic and see your urges rekindle!
I have been using the Classic for several weeks now, and at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I’ve not had a better feel with a Blackberry device since the Bold 9000 and 9900. Both devices, popularly known in Nigeria as the Bold 1 and Bold 5, signified the accent of Blackberry to the top of the Nigerian smartphone ladder. The Classic can rebirth those past glories. With a stainless steel band around its frame, a Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3 touchscreen, and a non-slip textured backplate which ensures a firm grip, the Classic is the blend of ruggedness and style. Like its ancestor bolds, you need not look twice to know that it is a device built to last.
The Classic doesn’t just pack the best of the past, it is also loaded with state of the art features. Its 2 gigabyte (GB) of RAM, 16GB internal memory (extendable by up to 128GB in MicroSD), and 1.5 Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon Processor put it in the league of the best smartphones out there. Still, that’s not all that makes the Classic classic; I’ve picked out five particular things that do. Check them out.
The wide-set physical keyboard
The Classic is made for lovers of the physical keyboard, those who some mistakenly call old-fashioned, but who are really just Classic.
The Blackberry Classic brings back the treasure of the full wide set physical keyboard with the custom navigational buttons, affectionately named “tool belt,” intact. The tool belt includes the Call, End, Back, and Menu keys, as well as the optical trackpad; jewels which the blackberry disposed of for no just cause (how glad I am to have them back!). Below the navigation keys is the standard four-row keyboard. The letters, numbers and punctuation occupy the top three rows while the space bar and Symbol keys the fourth (classic blackberry style).
The keyboard was central to my love for the Bold Series, and in the Classic it brings back the comfort in typing that I have missed for so long. Virtual keyboards are pretty cool, but the physical keyboard of the Classic is far more satisfying. With it I could type in the popularly uncomfortable Lagos ‘danfo’ bus with minimal discomfort. The optical trackpad also ensures I can go from top to bottom in one scroll, and that I don’t need to draw all over the screen when I want to highlight and copy text.
I have already begun punching through articles (like this one) with the Classic; something I have not been able to do without stress since the Bold 9900. However, it would have been nicer if Blackberry had extended the sweet gesture-tracking tech of the Passport’s keyboard to the Classic. Nevertheless, the return of the trackpad is more than enough makeup.
Much of the fanfare for the Classic centred on its legendary keyboard, but atop it is a screen that looks gorgeous like that of the Bold 9900, only that it has 60 percent more space.
With a bright 720 x 720 LCD display and 3.5-Inches touchscreen, it effectively dealt with the lack of space that I felt with the Q-series. Its 294ppi High Definition (HD) also ensures a colour-full and amazingly bright resolution.
Walking under the sun, I did not need to strain my eyes while looking at the DPs of my BBM contacts. I also had the option of tweaking the screen’s white balance, something hardly any other phone maker allows. It gave me the option of a ‘cooler’ white or ‘warmer’ white, I stayed with cool, the weather is already warm enough.
The Camera, with 8 megapixels at the rear and 2MP in front, is smart, even if not wow. Still, its default settings of 1:1 aspect ratio is great for shooting photos for Instagram, BBM and Whatsapp (profile pictures). However if you want other display formats (like the regular landscape pics) you can easily switch to 4:3, 16:9 or a new panorama mode. The camera is also quite fast, it snaps in a flash, literally speaking. The space bar is also a snap button, a cool feature first I first noticed in the Passport. The Camera also comes with a semiautomatic High Definition Resolution (HDR) mode that drops down whenever the camera is pointed at a brightly lit scene. The video camera, which can be set to 720p or 1080p, is also smart. Interestingly, I can edit my video shots or any video at all in my phone, straight from the options, without needing any of those special effects applications. For an Instagram fan and multimedia journalist like me, that’s awesome.
If the external hardware of the Classic is a lovely throwback, the software is a beautiful forward roll.
The Classic comes with a preloaded Blackberry OS 10.3.1.1154, which is a generation upward from the OS7 of the Bold (and other older Blackberrys) and a lot more improved than the initially released Blackberry 10. However, a further update is available, the 10.3.1.1779, and installing updates is now as easy as downloading a song or music
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The shining light of the Classic (and indeed all Blackberry 10 devices) is the BlackBerry Hub. It is a unified inbox that packs in all of yours from whichever platform (Email, BBM, Facebook, Whatsapp, LinkedIn–just name it), and presents them to you in one swipe.
The Hub is not the only light though, there’s the Blend. It allows you to do several stuffs with your device like message or access files through other devices, like your PC or Tablet. All you need to do is connect your blackberry with your other devices via USB, Wifi or the Internet. To try this out, I connected by phone with my PC through the Blend using the internet, then I left the phone at home, took my PC to a neighbour’s house. And from my neighbour’s house, I was chatting on my phone’s BBM with my PC.
And then there are the headless apps–the ability to run apps in the background without an active frame. There is also the BlackBerry Assistant, which doubles as the search interface. It is the ask-me-for-anything app, and I did ask it some things like; “Where am I?” and it told me Isaac John Street, GRA Lagos (correct). “Tell Niyi on BBM I have you found fuel,” and it sent the message. “Read last mail from Ventures Africa,” it did just that. “Call Ehis colleague,” it asked me what number, I said work, and it called. Now, that’s classic.
However, I have to press and hold the play button to activate the assistant; I wish I could do so without touching my phone. That’s a little greedy from my side though.
Perhaps the weakest link of the software is its short supply of apps and games. There is still no Instagram in the Blackberry World, although there are able alternatives. That said, Blackberry makes up for the dearth of apps by enabling the OS10 to run android, and providing the Amazon Appstore for lovers of android apps. It would be perfect though if we can have Google Play, and with upgrades coming all the time, who is to bet against that. But I have to say, I don’t see the business-centric Classic user flirting all over apps, especially when he’s got the main Social Media apps and fantastic productivity tools.
The Browser of the Classic is so efficient; I haven’t bothered checking for other popular browsing apps like Chrome and Firefox.
It is fast (I learnt three times the speed of the bold), smooth ( I did not have to zoom in and zoom out), and adaptive (it displayed Desktop sites without any troubles). It smoothly opened the desktop version of Gmail, I pushed it further with Google Drive, and still it did not fail.
The browser also has a few other interesting features such as the reader mode which provides a better reading experience for articles (like this one). The reader mode allows you to adjust the font size, search for a word in the piece, or invert the display colours between white on black and black on white for easier reading. The search engine has three options: Bing, Google or Yahoo. There is also the Private browser option, which enables you to prevent the record of what sites you visit or files you download.
The browser’s downloads option is also cool, you can pause your downloads, close your browser, and come back to continue where you left off. Your download automatically pauses if your internet connection breaks or your phone shuts down due to low battery. However, I noticed that sometimes the download starts afresh instead of continuing from where it stopped, after a break in internet connection or unexpected shutdown. It is also fun to watch YouTube videos on the browser, they are quick to load and hardly buffer, except, of course, your internet connection is poor.
I suspect the Classic’s battery was built with Africa in mind; all it needs is about an hour of electricity and then you can count on it for the rest of the day.
The Classic comes with a non-removable 2,515mAh battery that lasts so long you only need to summon your charger once a day. After its first full charge, I used the Classic for whole day, playing around with all of its functions and apps, without needing a top-up. Since then I have found it unnecessary to carry my charger around, I just make sure the battery is full before I go to sleep at night, and my next charge time is when I return from the office the evening of the next day.
It is not as if the battery is completely drained by the next evening; in fact what’s left of it is often enough to get me into the next day thanks to a new battery saving mode built into the BlackBerry OS 10.3.1. However, this means I have to endure the sacrifice of reduced or disabled functions such as screen brightness, location services, data services, advanced interactions, and CPU performance. The power saver normally kicks in when the battery life drops to 20 percent, but you can customize that to whatever percentage you want, disable the saver entirely. Gladly, there’s no network going off when the battery is low, as was the case of the older Blackberrys. Once I was on a phone call until the phone shut down. One thing I would have loved though is if the battery was removable like the bolds of before. But there’s no real need for that, considering the fact that it is so reliable you’ll find little reason to check on it.
I have to say, the Blackberry Classic is worthy of its name. I wonder how the company would have been able to do a better synergy of the old and new. For the Blackberry faithful, the phone is a must have. For Business-centric smartphone users, it is a perfect work tool. A lot of other ‘new age’ smartphone fans may think of it as rather too old fashioned. To them I say, “Watch out for the leap!”
By Onyedimachukwu Obiukwu