Bringing a heavy dose of nostalgia into the modern mobile market.
With CES and MWC in the done pile, there is an obvious theme to the smartphone market in 2017: Nostalgia. Nokia announced a new phone that hearkens back to an old design, while BlackBerry has created some old school buzz with a strong first impression of the KEYone. Even everyone here at UTB has gotten nostalgic remembering their BlackBerry stories (more on that another time).
It’s not that surprising that people have reverted back to their old ways. I remember hearing several times in 2016 that smartphone designs have gone about as far as they can go. The tech (memory, radios, camera specs) may improve, get smaller, or even expand functionality. But the design has pretty much all been relegated to slab phones. In fact the most “innovative” design to come out of Apple recently was the removal of the headphone jack. Smartphones have all essentially become slightly different variations of the same.
Except BlackBerry of course.
Media is buzzing with the “iconic keyboard design” of BlackBerry’s heyday. But we know that the PKB (physical keyboard) never disappeared. In fact, one could argue that BlackBerry innovated this nostalgic trend by releasing their aptly named “Classic” at the end of 2014, which pulled their signature keyboard and “toolbelt” design from legacy devices. BlackBerry (and now BlackBerry Mobile) have always offered a PKB option. And the PKBs have always dominated the BlackBerry fanbase. The Passport is still a user favorite, much like the Bolds were during their generation. The Priv, BlackBerry’s first Android smartphone, offered both a physical and virtual keyboard. BlackBerry knows its core demographic loves that keyboard, and have always prioritized it’s continuation.
Nostalgia is great. It will hopefully get the attention of users who have moved on to different, less distinct, designs; and encourage them back to the fold. But don’t be mistaken in thinking BlackBerry’s latching onto a trend. They’ve been here the entire time.