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BlackBerry Classic review: A killer smartphone for keyboard lovers

Al Sacco | Dec. 19, 2014
The BlackBerry Classic is the best smartphone the company has ever released, according to CIO.com's Al Sacco. However, it's not going to lure away many iPhone or Android users, or significantly increase BlackBerry's market share. And that's just fine with BlackBerry. Here's why.

All of the keys built into the bezel seem firmly seated, which is notable because I had some issues with loose volume control keys on my Bold 9900. (The Classic does not have a customizable "convenience key," like the one found on the 9900 and other early BlackBerry models.)

Overall, the look and feel of the BlackBerry Classic is top notch, and it is one of BlackBerry's most handsome devices to date.

Another notable new feature is the optical trackpad, which is located in the center of the navigation tool belt. The Classic is the first BlackBerry 10 device with a trackpad, and it's similar to the trackpad on the Bold 9900 and other older models, but it's roughly 30 percent smaller. The smaller size doesn't make much of a difference, though.

The Classic runs the latest version of BlackBerry 10. More specifically, my Classic is running BlackBerry OS version 10.3.1.1154. I'm familiar with BlackBerry 10, having used it extensively on the BlackBerry Z10, Q10 and Passport, and the basic functionality is the same in the Classic. The most notable differences are navigation features related to the tool belt keys, many of which are designed to mimic functions in the old BlackBerry OS. For example, you can now close recent applications using the "Back" key, which is located directly to the right of the trackpad, instead of having to tap the on-screen "X" app icon. The "Call End" key, to the right of the Back button, minimizes apps and returns you to your home screen.

BlackBerry also introduced a number of new keyboard shortcuts, which have always been one of my favorite things about the BlackBerry OS. I was disappointed to see that BlackBerry hadn't built comparable shortcuts into the software for its Q10, so I am particularly pleased to see new shortcuts in BlackBerry 10.3.1 for the Classic. Many of the shortcuts will be familiar to longtime BlackBerry users, but there are also a few new ones, such as the ability to quickly unlock, or access your lock screen, when your device is "asleep" by tapping the "U" key followed by the "enter" button.

One of the best things about the BlackBerry OS, both old and new, is the system for notifications and alerts. No other mobile platforms handle alerts as efficiently, or give users more granular customization options for notifications. The company built on this legacy in BlackBerry 10.3.1 with new options to customize app alerts with specific LED colors. Apps that change LED colors for alerts have been around for a long time, but now the functionality is built into the OS. The ability to create custom notification profiles also gives you even more control over alerts.

 

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