The past few months the tech world has been abuzz with new phone releases from Apple and Samsung. Recently BlackBerry released a new phone that takes users back to the beloved original design. This design was strategic. Keep reading to find out why:
BlackBerry has gone retro.
The beleaguered mobile company launched a new smartphone on Monday, one that harkens back to BlackBerrys of a previous era, before the company’s focus was on competing directly with the iPhone and Android.
The BlackBerry Classic, which company CEO John Chen unveiled at an event in New York City, keeps the advancements of the company’s BlackBerry 10 phones, but brings back some aspects of the older models. They include the row of hardware navigation buttons above the trademark physical keyboard.
Chen said re-integrating those elements wasn’t easy. BlackBerry 10 seemingly made some features, such as the beloved thumb-controlled trackpad, obsolete. “It’s not as simple as you think,” he said, adding that combining the two presented a big engineering challenge for the company.
However, Chen had little choice. BlackBerry’s market share has been in free fall for the last few years, and its BlackBerry 10 phones didn’t do much to reverse that trend. Both current and former customers kept saying they preferred an interface closer to the company’s old phones.
Enter the BlackBerry Classic. The phone is engineered to appeal to the BlackBerry faithful — not just people who have stuck with the company, but also those who have switched to a new platform, and still long for the experience of typing on a physical keyboard.
“It was inspired by you, our loyal BlackBerry customers,” said Jeff Gadway, director of product marketing. “I’m not going to stand here blind to the fact that we’ve lost some of you. But with the BlackBerry Classic, we’re going to win you back.”
In addition to the keyboard and navigation items, the BlackBerry Classic, which sells for $449 unlocked ($499 in the company’s native Canada), has a 720 x 720 square display that’s 60% larger than the most recent BlackBerry Bold from 2011 — the most recent “classic” (i.e. BlackBerry 7) BlackBerry.
BlackBerry compares many of the Classic’s features to the Bold, clearly hoping some holdouts will upgrade to the new device. The phone runs BlackBerry 10.3.1, and the company claims its battery last 50% longer. It packs a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 2GB of RAM, which makes the web browsing experience up to 3x faster. The rear camera has 8 megapixels to the Bold’s 5.
Ultimately, though, what the Classic brings to the table is its old-school BlackBerry navigation, including Menu, Back, Send and End buttons as well as the trackpad. That may be enough to sway back some fans to the platform, especially now that the company’s devices have closed some of the “app gap” between it and other platforms by allowing BlackBerry 10 devices to run Android apps by way of Amazon’s Appstore.
The Classic closely follows the launch of the BlackBerry Passport, which also emphasized an upgraded physical keyboard meant to appeal to the company’s loyal customer base. It appears that in the case of BlackBerry, the best way to move forward is to take a step back.
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