When BlackBerry moved forward with their new gesture based operating system, the phones let go of its traditional four functional keys and navigation trackpad. The new BlackBerry Classic brings them back on demand; but is it worth? Let’s check it out in this BlackBerry Classic Review!
The designing team at BlackBerry has always done an outstanding job crafting the beautiful candy-bar phone with full qwerty keyboard. Similarly, the BlackBerry Classic possesses that elegant Bold look from the past – running down a solid stainless steel round the bezel holding a bigger picture screen. The 3.5″ LCD touch capacitive screen is shielded with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 making it hard to destruct and stay scratch-less forever. Below the screen, you have the returning strip of 4 back-lit physical functioning keys for Call, Menu, Back and End keys along with navigation trackpad that helps to control all areas making it easier to operate the phone single handed. Below you have the traditional BlackBerry four rows keyboard beautifully designed for the best typing experience. Each row of keys is divided by steel frets similar to the Bold 9900 but these are aligned in straight fashion as seen on BlackBerry Q10 and Q5 last year. The keys on the BlackBerry Classic smartphone are now bigger and perform better than ever. Typing on this keyboard brings the joy of Bold with the goodness of Q10 resulting in a feel you have never experienced before. It’s solid, very responsive, and is just what any physical keyboard user dreams of. In short, this is the best BlackBerry keyboard till date.
The rear of the Classic continues the plain elegant look with its dot-textured rubberized panel which gives a great grip in the user’s hands. A long rectangular glass on top holds an 8MP camera with LED flash on one end and the ‘Classic’ title on the other.
A 3.5mm headphones jack along with 2 microphones either side of Power/Unlock button is placed at the top of the phone.
On the right, you have the volume rocker up and down keys along with the BlackBerry Assistant shortcut button which also serves as Play/Pause multimedia.
The bottom of the phone holds a micro-USB slot in between two speaker grills which unfortunately holds one speaker and another microphone beneath. This microUSB slot supports charging, data transfer and also video out via slimport adapter. You can also wirelessly mirror your phone by connecting it through Miracast or DLNA enabled devices.
And the left side, you have two slide-out trays for nanoSIM and microSD cards. You can load upto 128GB of memory card for excessive storage.
The screen holds a resolution of 720×720 pixels with 294ppi which is reasonably good for a phone with a screen size like this. The text or media isn’t pixelated at all unless you look at it closely beside the Passport or any other high-end devices out there. The screen is 60% larger than the Bold 9900 and almost half an inch larger than the Q10. The BlackBerry Classic weighs about 178g which may sound quite heavy on paper but feels perfectly balanced with the overall structure of itself.
The BlackBerry Classic is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM with 16GB of internal storage which is expandable up to 128GB by installing microSD card into the slot. It runs the latest BlackBerry 10.3.1 OS with enhanced features such as customizable notifications with LED colors, Miracast and WiFi Direct, and a lot more shared in software part in this review. The phone holds a large 2515mAh battery which keeps you away from the charger for a whole day easily. Unfortunately, the battery isn’t removable but luckily you don’t have to worry about it in the end.
This phone is purely for hardcore messaging users who can’t skip a reply, browse web to complete task and use a mobile phone as it should. Due to its 1:1 ratio and small screen, the video experience is obviously not as brilliant when compared to other large touch slabs out there. But again, this is not focused on that crowd. It’s for those who want to get things done, and no other phone can actually beat BlackBerry when it comes to communication. The single speaker at the bottom is similar to BlackBerry Q10 which is pretty decent for hands-free calls and listening to YouTube. Dual speakers as loud as BlackBerry Z30 would have been nice though.
BlackBerry never compromises with the sound quality and this time is no exception, with the speaker grill on top. It sounds premium – loud and clear. Easily beats other manufacturers out there.
The SIM and memory card trays can be pulled out by inserting a tool-pin (included in the box) into the hole. This mechanism is new to BlackBerry devices but has been seen in other smartphones for many years. Though it is not a daily setup routine, this could be the only thing we hate about the Classic.
The cameras on the Classic are what could be called above average. The 8MP rear facing features auto-focus with LED flash. The performance is great in sunny outdoors but may lose clarity as the day passes. The LED flash light does a decent job and takes some nice pictures. The BlackBerry 10 camera offers features like Time Shift, HDR and Panorama which work great and helps you capture some beautiful moments. The 2MP fixed focus front facing camera is dull but works for video chats. As expected, this phone is not selfie friendly. Overall, the camera on the BlackBerry Classic is far better than the Bold 9900 and slightly ahead of the Q10. It’s decent and does the job better than expected. With the return of the trackpad, you can click the pad to capture image, similar to taking photos on legacy BlackBerry devices. Press and hold will focus the picture and release will hit the shutter. You can also press the on-screen software icon, hit space-bar or volume rocker keys to snap an image.
BlackBerry Classic Camera Gallery
The Camera app also lets a user snap a picture while recording a video at upto 1080p, and switch between the front and back cameras from the main screen on a single tap. The camera also automatically detects and suggests users to change the conditions of the scene the user wants to take a picture of. Suggestions are interactive and appear at the top of the screen. To turn on the suggested setting, the user taps the suggestion.
|Low light||Night mode|
|Variations in lighting||HDR|
|Normal conditions||Auto or HDR off|
There are many options to choose from in the extended menu. The new Time Shift mode lets you you rewind real time for capturing perfect moment. You can now save the whole series of scene and choose the best later. Although the camera launches in 1:1 ratio by default, you can change the ratio anytime between 4:3 or 16:9. Video camera can record at 60fps on 720p settings and at 30fps on 1080p. The front facing camera can record videos at 30fps on 720p.
The BlackBerry Classic comes with the latest BlackBerry 10.3.1 OS which adds more to the current 10.3 OS found on The BlackBerry Passport. There are tons of new features in notification settings that let the user select custom notification light for specific apps and contacts. There are many added features that were incomplete on BlackBerry 10 in comparison to BBOS which are brought back for the Classic. One of the major add-ons is the return of hotkeys on the main homescreen that lets you switch profiles to vibrate/silent by press holding ‘Q’, locking the phone with press holding ‘K’, launching Browser with ‘B’ and so on. By default, you’re set with the hotkeys which can be customized by user with speed dials, app launch, quick compose with desired Email address or BBM and other various actions assignments.
Now that the phone has a trackpad, users can navigate and do all core actions by just using a thumb. The optical trackpad on the Classic is smaller in size but very responsive. Similar to Bold 9900, you get cursor in Browser app which we think is the best advantage while browsing the web. The BlackBerry 10 browser is top rated amongst all competitors in market and you should expect some solid experience overall.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t support Adobe flash anymore as BlackBerry dropped it as done by others in favor of growth of HTML5. The additional BlackBerry menu key also plays a vital role keeping your hands off the screen and make the complete UI one hand operational. The Back key, as expected, returns you to a page prior in apps and minimizes the app from the main screen. Moreover, the Back key also closes down the app hovered on the home multitasking screen. The Call and End keys have the same actions to answer/end calls and gives a pleasure of quick calling on one hit of a button. There’s even more to this shown in the following image.
With 10.3 OS, BlackBerry adds in Amazon Appstore for filling the app-gap the platform has. Now you have best of two worlds on one device. Amazon appstore offers more than 200,000 apps, offering one paid app for free every single day! This new store also misses a few big name titles but you can just download them from Browser & install directly.
BlackBerry introduces its all new voice command app making it more powerful than ever! It can be launched anytime from anywhere by holding the middle volume rocker key or just by typing on the homescreen for universal search. BlackBerry Assistant helps you do task over voice or by typing in words. A few examples of what users can do using the BlackBerry Assistant app include:
- Search for directions, weather forecasts, and information about restaurants or shopping
- Update or comment on a status in social networking apps, such as Facebook or LinkedIn
- Post a tweet on Twitter
- Search for music
- Set an alarm
- Make a phone call
- Search for an email by Subject
- Create a reminder in BlackBerry Remember
- Start a BBM chat
BlackBerry Assistant also keeps track and lists the most frequent used queries right on main screen.
But there’s more! Since BlackBerry Maps is now available in India, I tried looking out for movies around me saying “What’s playing tomorrow night?” and the BlackBerry Assistant showed up the list of movies playing in theaters near me. Clicking on search search item expands details with its summary, star cast, genre, theaters with movie timings & also offers trailer within.
The most incredible thing I find in BlackBerry Assistant is the natural way you can communicate. For example, I tried saying “I feel like eating pizza” and it gave me the list of restaurants offering pizza near me. I can simply select an option & hit go to launch BlackBerry Maps for directions. Like I said, there are many hidden possibilities in here. Just tap and ask “Who directed Titanic?” and the assistant gives you its detailed answer. “Did I get any new BBM messages about tonight’s plan?” and it searches for the ‘Plan’ in new BBM messages. This virtual assistant is really smart! You can do a lot more than what Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana & Google Now do but it has its own drawbacks. First of all, BlackBerry made this assistant very work-people oriented. So, everything that’s related to work is all there! “When did I get the last Email from Irfan?” – The date with last Email from Irfan shoot up! “How many Emails did i get from Ali this month?” – You’ll get the whole list. You can also shift appointments just like you would say to your assistant – “Move my Doctor’s appointment to 2:00 PM” and its done! No need to go into calendar app and check. Similarly, you can say “turn on WiFi” or “Bluetooth” or “Flashlight” etc. to switch it on for you.
Android App Support
BlackBerry Classic supports more than 85% Android apps. Every app available in Amazon Appstore works and others downloaded separately from web browser do as well. With BlackBerry 10.3 OS, BlackBerry adds app support upto Android 4.3 and some of these apps work as good as native. You will hardly notice any lags whatsoever. Similar to the Passport, you can switch Android apps view from mobile to tablet, and also full landscape interface which actually makes Android app experience better for all conditional apps. Unfortunately, the trackpad won’t be functional in all areas due to Android workflow. There are few Google Play service dependent apps which Classic fails to run. Hopefully, we’ll find some way in future updates to close this gap as well.
Apps like Instagram, Chrome and Google apps work flawlessly on the Classic. There are some tweaks made by BlackBerry community which even enables sync with Google ID.
To keep the phone secure, BlackBerry OS uses a newly built BlackBerry Guardian to check the integrity of Android app APK files that the user downloads to the device. Before the user installs the app on the device, BlackBerry Guardian searches for metadata for the app in the malware knowledge base. This scanning of apps is switched on by default.
BlackBerry adds in some neat features into BlackBerry 10.3 OS. To improve the battery life of a BlackBerry device and to help users do tasks faster, the following features have been introduced:
Lift to Wake: To wake the device from standby mode, lift the device from a flat surface.
Flip to Save Power: To turn off the screen and put the device in standby mode, place the device face down on a flat surface. By default, Flip to Save Power is turned on.
Flip to Mute: To silence the device, place the device face down on a flat surface. By default, Flip to Mute is turned off.
To turn on or turn off an advanced interaction, swipe down from the top of the home screen.
Hold to Stay awake: When turned on, while you hold the device in your hand the screen stays on longer.
One of the highly reputed features of Blackberry 10 is the BlackBerry Hub where all your communication modes pile up. With the use of trackpad, you can hover on messages and delete them easily by hitting the delete key on the keyboard. You can also highlight several messages by holding down the Alt key and trackpad slide to select multiple to mark read or delete. In 10.3 OS, BlackBerry adds Instant Actions feature which helps you quickly, with a single tap, sort and manage messages in the list view of the BlackBerry Hub. Just tap the icon on top-right hand & you can delete contents faster than before. You can also quick reply to messages without even going into it by clicking the left arrow icon. And lastly, you can tap on Email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. icons one the left to mark it as read/unread.
BlackBerry Classic offers many rich features when it comes to multimedia. There are 4 tremendous out of the box apps – Pictures, Videos, Music & Story Maker featuring list of features eliminating the need for any third party app for anything media. The music and video players take the advantage of those superb speakers by offering equalizer presets. Story Maker app is the one solid app in my view. It creates story compiling user selected videos and pictures automatically within 5 seconds with desired background music. With BlackBerry 10 OS version 10.3, the BlackBerry Story Maker takes the work out of making picture and video collections by grouping the pictures and videos on a user’s BlackBerry device by date, time, or location. BlackBerry Story Maker presents a list of stories to the user in the Pictures app. BlackBerry Story Maker can also suggest stories based on pictures and videos that are favorites, most viewed, recently viewed, or recently added. You can checkout our BBin Quickies series which are all created using this app.
BlackBerry 10.3 OS also brings all new device monitor settings displaying the total amount of data used by the device, which includes data usage while roaming, and the total amount of data used by apps on the device. This feature helps users track which apps use high volumes of data. To help control the amount of data used by your BlackBerry, you can set limits and configure notifications that appear on the device. This works accurately & helps me keeping track on my data usage. Device monitor also shows network usage & battery consumption for each apps installed and running.
BlackBerry launches a new software along BlackBerry Passport that blends your BlackBerry phone to desktop PC, Mac, Apple iPad & Android tablets. With BlackBerry Blend, users can access email messages, files, and certain apps on a computer or tablet the same way they’d use them on a BlackBerry device. I really enjoy using Blend whenever I am doing some work on PC. The performance initial run wasn’t so good but became seamless later. BlackBerry Blend also brings your Work side of the phone over to other device under secured connectivity. Say ‘Good Bye’ to Outlook!
A few examples of what users can do using BlackBerry Blend on a computer or tablet include:
- View and respond to messages from a work email account and personal email accounts using the BlackBerry Hub
- Access BBM chats, groups, and BBM Channels in a separate view
- Access SMS text messages in a separate view
- View calendar events from the user’s work calendar
- View contacts from the work contact list
- Copy and transfer files between the device and a computer or a tablet
- Open a secure browser to view private information on the user’s work intranet
- The BlackBerry Blend dashboard displays the user’s messages and agenda.
BlackBerry Classic is the best typical BlackBerry smartphone. The return of Tool-Belt with robust hardware and mega battery, it clearly leads the way for all those keyboard lovers. The quick access to Call and End which went missing on BlackBerry 10 is definitely something BlackBerry should never have left out in the first place and we hope it is spotted in future handsets. The optical trackpad is a solid option for getting things done accurately along with touch operations. For the price, the BlackBerry Classic is a sweet deal with no competition in the market. Overall, this phone, as BlackBerry states, is upgraded.
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Great article. Very detailed review, extremely useful and well worth bookmarking.
Thank you. Glad you like it 🙂
Shahriyar. You should have this review printed and sold as a book. It is the most comprehensive review I have yet seen anyway.
Thanks so much Frank. Appreciate it! Hope everyone else like it as well.
Referred your review to several ppl, very good one, Shahriyar.
Hi can you throw some light on the contents of the box all over the net i was able to find proper unboxing of the US retail units and UK only … so am a little curious about the type of headphones in the packaging ..
Need your help, please.
I’m a die-hard fan (so I presume) of qwerty-keypad phone, mainly BB. After Nokia E71 (a great phone for its time) I hv used BB Curve for 34 months now. My main need is emails. Whatsapp didnt work well on my Curve, not that I’m a fan of W’app. And, now – when I need to buy another phone – am scared to shift from BB. However – so much has happened in last 2 years for Android and apple phones, I’m advised by many well-wishers to wean away from BB and try MI4, or ASUS zenphone2, or iphone5S/6, or Motorola etc. I have read about BBpassport and can understand its a great phone. But I dont feel like spending INR 45k on a phone (it will be a crime!). So, next choice is BB Classic. Reviews say – its not that great a phone, compared to BBPP. My needs are business-email, texting, some need-based photography, some GPS navigation within cities. My wish list for my new phone: would like to watch live TV while commuting, a good GPS, video calling through the phone network etc.
Please help with your views. Would like to speak to those in Bombay / India. My cell 9840996251
Rajeev B Agarwal
Rajeev, just go to buy a Classic, don’t worry about it just do it
Thanks Ilker – for your response / suggestion. Somehow am unable to ..; and now we have the PRIV too as a contender..
Is it worthwhile to wait for PRIV to be released in India, and buy it?