The BlackBerry Classic, which will be available to Verizon Wireless customers on Thursday, suddenly looks like a really sweet deal.
Most people have forgotten about BlackBerry, the phone company that was left behind when Apple and Google introduced iPhone and Android and their touchscreens. BlackBerry bet that its keyboard would be better than typing on a screen — it bet wrong. BlackBerry now has only a 1.7% share of global phone sales.
But the new BlackBerry Classic does three things that might get a lot of attention:
- Android apps will now be available on the phone via Amazon's app store. Previously, BlackBerry offered only a skeletal number of BlackBerry apps to choose from. (Customers generally want the apps, not the specific phones that carry them.)
- It's incredibly cheap: The phone is being offered free or for as little as £30/$50 on some carriers.
- And it has the classic BlackBerry real keyboard, which heavy phone users — particularly those who carry them for work — still love and miss.
For some people this is going to be a winning combination: the BlackBerry Classic has all the best features of the old BlackBerry smartphones, it's cheap, and it's now also an Android (kinda).
BlackBerry Classic was first announced before Christmas and received largely positive reviews. Business Insider ranked it No. 16 on its list of the best smartphones. Some people have developed a crush on BlackBerry's big, weird, square-shaped Passport phone, too.
The model harks back to the smartphone's glory days, with a similar design to that of the Curve or Bold. It features the QWERTY keyboard from the original BlackBerry phones, which is great for anyone who misses pushing buttons on a keyboard.
The phone operates on a 4G network and allows users to access apps from BlackBerry World and Android apps from Amazon's app store.
"BlackBerry loyalists and keyboard fans will feel right at home with the new BlackBerry Classic," the company said in a press release. "The familiar design and iconic keyboard return for those who have 10 minutes to type 10 emails before moving onto their next task. QWERTY fans, this is for you,"
The Classic is a fresh take on the old BlackBerry phones. There are features such as BlackBerry Hub, which puts all conversations (such as BBM, email, and so on) in one place. And it has 16GB storage, so it can hold a lot more than work emails and a few snaps of the family dog. It includes an 8-megapixel camera and the BlackBerry 10 web browser.
In addition, it offers 22 hours of battery use through BlackBerry's "Power Optimization" function — 50% longer than the Bold — and is made of sturdier material than that of many of today's smartphones.
The Classic is available for $99.99 (£63) in the US with a two-year contract and a $50 rebate. In the UK it is already available on O2, Vodafone, and EE. On a lot of the contracts it is free, and plans start at under £30.
So far in the UK, the reviews are mostly positive. It has a five-star rating on O2 customer ratings.
"Classic is about productivity and getting things done," BlackBerry writes.