BlackBerry Classic Review: Diary Of A Silicon Suit Part 2

The BlackBerry Classic is available on Vodafone or in Selfridges for £329.

Key Features:

  • 3.5-inch touchscreen
  • Full physical QWERTY Keyboard
  • Optical trackpad
  • 22 hour battery life
  • 16GB Storage
  • 8MP Camera

The Pitch:

"Get the performance driven results of BlackBerry 10, with the classic navigation keys and physical keyboard you know and love. It’s the business phone you trust with the power you couldn’t imagine."

With the BlackBerry Passport now firmly in our Room 101 of technological bad decisions, the baton has been passed to the more traditional BlackBerry Classic with its conventional physical keyboard, large touchscreen and optical trackpad. To see if BlackBerry's 'back to basics' approach is the way forward, we spent five days becoming numb-thumbed. So is this finally the phone to bring you back to BlackBerry?

Day 1: The First Impression

The BlackBerry Classic has arrived and despite all the sensible parts of my brain warning me otherwise, I'm actually quite excited. Ever since the crushing disappointment of the BlackBerry Passport I've been hoping that BlackBerry's refocused approach would result in a smartphone ready to bring the joy back into productivity.

It certainly looks the part. The Classic is backwards looking in every single way, from the old-style 'clicky' slanted keyboard to the physical action buttons and optical trackpad. It's all glorious.

Then... DISASTER STRIKES. I had entirely forgotten about BlackBerry's Frankenstein's monster of an operating system.

BlackBerry OS 10 started as a beautiful clean running petrol engine. It'd use no fuel, take you for miles and make you feel like you were going places. Since that point however BlackBerry has been listening to consumer feedback and rather than simply tinker its been bolting bits and bobs on to the carcass, in an attempt to try and appease everyone. This was a mistake. It took me nearly two hours post-inserting the SIM card to have my accounts set up and make sure the phone didn't blink every colour of the rainbow when a message came in.

A crystal maze of settings were only mildly appeased by the progress thats been made in the app store. Minus Instagram (which nobody should use anymore anyway because it's just full of food), the Classic was able to run all the apps I'd need to be productive.

Day 2: Heavy Going

Hmm it is quite heavy. I know this because I've just dropped it on my face. If you read my Passport review you'll know this isn't the first time. I did it with the Passport because it was built stupidly, I've done it with the Classic because a) I must love dropping phones on my face and b) It genuinely just slipped out of my hand as I was lying on the sofa.

I'll assume that's mostly the battery's fault, and rightly so as the battery is non-removable. One of the things I loved about the Q10 was the fact that it was a real workhorse, so that you could get nearly a week's worth of power just by having one spare.

I'm not expecting that level of superhuman performance here but at the very least I'll be disappointed if there's less than two days.

Also I've noticed something odd: I'm not checking social media anymore. There's two reasons for that, firstly the BlackBerry-made Twitter application is terrible and secondly the Facebook app will hit you with every notification imaginable until you turn it off. Once off you'll be treated to relative calm until you open it up... upon which the world's most irritating chorus of beeps will continue ad nauseum.

Needless to say, this is annoying.

I'm finding myself using the trackpad more and more, it's just quicker. It's great for scrolling through emails and notifications and it's actually really good for reading web articles as well.

Day 3: Absent Friends

Really starting to miss the aesthetics of well-made apps. It's all very well being productive and time-saving but I see no reason why it can't look good too.

Battery life held out, I wasn't sure it'd make it but it clung to life like you wouldn't believe. I'm changing my car metaphor to a diesel to better show the longevity.

The camera is OK. It's astronomically slow, but once it does actually take something then the results are good. It's hard to cater for two markets - you've got the business sector who'll give Classics to their employees so they won't need a camera, and then there's the die-hards, celebrities and media junkies who'll happily go to Selfridges and fork out for one. And they're going to be let down on quality again.

Day 4: The BlackBerry Mafia

AT LAST. In much the same way that Land Rover Defender drivers continue to wave at each other like some dying breed, I got my first nod of approval for using the Classic.

An exceedingly well-dressed man with horn-rimmed specs was sat across the aisle from me on the bus and caught me furiously typing an email. Looked up, caught his eye and he observed that he hadn't seen a BlackBerry like that, I responded by informing him that this was new. He nodded and remarked that he should probably get one.

Devastated, however, I realised that the email which exceedingly well-dressed bus man must have seen was not me cooly writing out a thesis on the future of wearable technology but in fact an email to my mother about this year's village panto.

While my social media use is down I'm talking to people I know more, whether it's through text or on the phone. This is good. Also the keyboard is excellent, which the Passport mystifyingly was not.

Just a thought though: Would it not have been better to blend their normal actually well-thought out keyboard with the same trackpad sensor technology that's found on their stupidly thought-out Passport keyboard? That was probably the single thing about the phone I actually liked, it managed to counter the lack of an optical trackpad by turning the keyboard into one. It worked, too.

Day 5: Passport Control

It's the last day and I'm left with the resounding feeling that while I probably wouldn't go out and buy the Classic myself, I can absolutely see another side to the argument that BlackBerry made - and lost - for its own survival, all those years ago.

This argument roughly goes that for some, productivity and communication are still the two things a phone should do flawlessly. This is an unashamed communications device. That is what it does.

While the iPhone can fulfil those functions, Blackberry-ers say, it's so busy doing everything else that actually it doesn't offer the best typing experience, nor the best email experience. And yes, this one can claim at least a subjective victory on those scores.

Which brings us back to the audience for this phone: (a) the worker and (b) the incredibly wealthy, neither of which need to worry about any of the BlackBerry's shortcomings. An employee isn't going to need Instagram and a rich person probably already has three other phones anyway. The reason they both use the BlackBerry is because much like a Land Rover Defender it does a very specific job, and it does it extremely well.