Random Impressions of the BlackBerry Classic

"Tools of the trade."
“Tools of the trade.”

When BB10 was announced, I was using a Bold 9900 on Verizon. I was happy with it, but partly disillusioned with the lack of a few apps and with the performance of the web browser, and began anticipating the arrival of the Q10. When Verizon announced they were carrying the Z10, there was no indication about their intentions regarding the Q10. My contract had come due and for several weeks, I visited the store, inquiring about the Q10 availability until finally I relented and bought the Z10. Of course, a few weeks later Verizon stocked the Q10 so I got one of those off contract. Then people were talking about how awesome the Z30 was (except on one site where it was proclaimed it would be the last BlackBerry device and lambasted for various specifications-reasons) so I got one of them off contract as well. After a couple years, BlackBerry finally introduced the device I had been anticipating from the beginning, the one that would truly replace my beloved Bold, the BlackBerry Classic!

Gorgeous hunk of secure productivity and messaging.
Gorgeous hunk of secure productivity and messaging.

I picked up my Classic about three weeks ago, as soon as my contract was due, and a couple months after Verizon started carrying it. When I first saw it in the store, I was overwhelmed with excitement. I felt like a kid at Christmas and couldn’t stop smiling. I was all alone, off to the side of the store where the lonely Classic sat by itself. You would hope there would be a Passport, Q10 and Z30 there but I suppose that only happens in dreams. The moment I got the Classic in my hand, it felt like I was seeing an old friend. I was so excited. The toolbelt, keyboard, screen, build quality and materials were all outstanding and left the impression of a serious, business tool for productivity-oriented users. I began playing with the trackpad and the menu button, created a note in Remember and hit save. Three weeks later, my contract was due and I visited the store again and found the note I had made in Remember. After about an hour of shenanigans with Verizon, where they put me on the Edge program and practically force fed me an Android tablet, a Nokia wireless charger and an Incipio case, I walked out proudly with my new precious. Frankly, I don’t know if their Edge program is a good choice, but the cost of my monthly service actually went down a little and I didn’t have to put anything down on the Classic, so I took it; no doubt I’m getting hosed somehow.

Today I passed a threshold with my Classic and felt it was time to share some impressions. In lieu of offering a little background, I am known amongst the UTB illuminati as a “SIM swapper,” or something like that. They always make fun of me for changing what device I’m using, and I suppose they’re accurate since I typically change once a week and sometimes more. I used to rotate back and forth between the Q10 (my daily driver) and Z30, but with the Classic, my swapping habits have died down somewhat. In my defense, I love all my Berries and am not a proponent of the idea of a “flagship” device; in fact, I believe all my Berries have advantages and disadvantages. For instance, the Z10’s small size makes it a legitimate choice over the Z30 for people who want easy one handed use. It also has a nicer color pallet to the screen and the replaceable battery can be an advantage if you stock a couple BlackBerry Charger Bundles. In any event, what happens to me is I’ll be using a phone and see one of the others sitting somewhere, and it will say “Use me James,” (Wish I heard that from more girls, but that’s a different story) and I’ll pick it up and suddenly will want to sync my data over to it and begin using it. The threshold I passed today was that I saw my Q10, picked it up and began typing on it, expecting that I would want to give it a go for a few days, only this time, I realized the Classic had displaced it. What happened was I wanted to delete my text and began to use shift and the trackpad to select the text only there was no trackpad. Damn! “I’m sorry beloved Q10, but I think our relationship has run its course.”

Size relative to Z30 and Q10. "This one is just right."
Size relative to Z30 and Q10. “This one is just right.”

Back to the Classic; the device I have been waiting for since BB10 was announced. Here are some random ruminations:

I love the toolbelt. I love the feeling of having hard keys for the features I use so often. I love using the trackpad to position my cursor within text fields or to select buttons on the web, etc. I love hitting the end key and always going back to the home screen. I love making and disconnecting calls with the call and end keys. I like using the back button to delete minimized apps. I have been playing with the toolbelt and watching for the most efficient way to get things done, which is what I think the toolbelt is all about. I think it’s an excellent innovation for productivity-oriented users who get frustrated when things are more difficult than they should be.

Leave the instant actions on in the HUB and get one touch mark read/unread, delete, respond, and flag. Trackpad eliminates chance of erroneous touches.
Leave the instant actions on in the HUB and get one touch mark read/unread, delete, respond, and flag. Trackpad eliminates chance of erroneous touches.

I love the keyboard. BlackBerry’s keyboard is world class; second to none. I think we all agree that even the virtual keyboard offers an outstanding typing experience. The Classic PKB is very similar to the Q10, only a bit wider. The keys feel similar on the surface and the pressure required is similar. I really don’t feel a difference between the keyboards except the width, but this is good for me since I loved the Q10 keyboard. The predictions are slightly farther away than on the Q10 due to the trackpad, but you get used to this quick.

I love the screen. Despite the Classic screen offering fewer PPI than the Q10, and being smaller than the Z30, the screen offers a great visual experience. The color pallet is reminiscent of my Z10 and I know it’s a different technology than the Z30. Due to this, using the dark theme does not offer power management advantages so I stopped using it. You’ll note that Remember uses the bright theme for the Classic and dark theme for the Z30 in keeping with the different screen techs. I have found the screen to work fine in various lighting conditions and keep the brightness at half setting. I love the 1 x 1 aspect ratio and love that I don’t have to resize pics I download from IGrann, which I am inclined to do and use for wallpapers.

The speaker is on the right only. Maybe the left side is the microphone?
The speaker is on the right only. Maybe the left side is the microphone?

The speaker is ample. My Berries are very important to my work. I am starting a business and working from home and do not have a home line. I conduct conference calls from my desk and must feel confident in my ability to have a clear signal and nice reception and for the person I’m speaking with to hear me clearly. These are not sexy features you will see advertised on TV, but they are BASIC to my needs. I understand the Classic has more than one mike, but I’m under the impression that the Z30 tech is superior in this regard. While I love the stereo speakers, volume level, and multiple microphones of my Z30, I think the Classic does well in this regard and have no complaints. I typically leave the notification volume to about 80% and have no problem hearing people on the speaker. The Classic speaker is notably louder than the Q10’s. I should mention that there are two speakers at the bottom of the Classic but only the right speaker works, I believe the one on the left is actually a microphone.

The micro USB (SlimPort) is at the bottom. This makes it easy to use the device while having a cord connected. For instance, right now, I’m typing this on my Windows PC into a file that is stored on my Classic. I keep all my userdata on my Berries now because they are more secure than my Windows PC. I can pick up my Classic and do pretty much anything with it while the USB cable is connected and it never really gets in the way.

The wireless charging (Verizon/ATT versions) is awesome. I love sitting my Classic on top of the wireless charger and getting some juice. It is 100% different and more convenient than having a cord connected. This method allows you to keep a decent charge on your precious whenever you are sitting at a desk or table. I put my wireless charger in my kitchen when I’m cooking and respond to BBMs or SMS messages whenever I want and whenever I sit my phone down, it begins charging again. It’s a great feature.

Great style, solid grip. Too bad I have to advertise for Verizon.
Great style, solid grip. Too bad I have to advertise for Verizon.

The styling of the Classic is awesome. I love the stainless steel band around the phone that matches the keyboard frets. I love the weight of the phone; it is very solid and really feels like a tank. I think the glass oval on the back of the phone that says “Classic” is a nice feature. Of course, I like the BlackBerry bullets on the back. The battery cover is reminiscent of the Z10’s and if I had my druthers, it would be like the Q10’s or Z30’s (glass weave), but it’s acceptable and provides solid grip.

The form factor is perfect. As a guy who’s typically “on the go,” I love being able to use my Classic with one hand. I often read the news while eating breakfast, catch up on social media notifications while walking around, and play games while in line, etc., all things that are more readily done with one hand. If the Classic were any bigger, it wouldn’t be practical to use this way. I thought the Z30 was too big and would often use my Z10 at work for this reason. I know people use the Z30 and even Passport and claim to use it one handed, but this is only accomplished by adjusting your grip on the phone which for me is a pain. The Q10 is even easier, but I recall wishing the Q10 was just a bit bigger and now I have that with the Classic.

Ensconced in my current favorite prophylactic.
Ensconced in my current favorite prophylactic.

The specs are fine. I wrote a piece here on specs a while back so if you care to, you can see how I feel about specs. Clearly they matter to some degree, but only if they make the user experience better. Many of our UTB contributors have commented on some of the Android devices that are spec’d-out with unbelievable Gigs, Pixels, Hert’s and Cores and are still laggy and suck, never mind being about as secure as a $100 bill sitting on the ground at Grand Central Station. I understand the Classic has the same model processor as the Z30 but one that is slightly slower. I know the specs are not sexy but the user experience is excellent and I would argue with anyone who can tell me what my Classic doesn’t do well that I need it to do.

Supports USB OTG. I’m so psyched BlackBerry seems to have decided to offer this feature standard on devices beginning with the Z30. It’s an excellent feature for productivity-oriented use as you can connect external drives to your Classic and use the powerful BB10 file manager to see the data on those drives. You need a USB OTG adaptor, which has a micro USB end that plugs into the Classic and a USB end for attaching to other drives. The Classic will give you a message that a “USB device [has been] inserted,” and you’re good to go.

The micro USB is a SlimPort. This means you can share HDMI through the same port as your USB connections. I have been using my Q10 and Z30 as a workstation, which I wrote about here, via HDMI out to a nice monitor and using a BlackBerry Bluetooth Mini Keyboard with them. As a result of the Classic’s configuration, I need to pick up an adaptor to go from SlimPort to HDMI-out so I can continue to use my devices in this way.

Sim port and SD card trays neatly tucked away and require "key" for access.
SIM port and SD card trays neatly tucked away and require “key” for access.

The Classic uses a nano SIM. The Classic has a nano SIM, so if you want to swap your SIM into various devices like me, you have to either get an adaptor, or go about it a different way and activate your device with a different SIM.

SD card and SIM tray are hidden. There is a bay on the side of the phone where your SD card is stored. To get to it, you need a small key provided with the device. I carry mine around on my keychain, but you might be able to use a paper clip. The nano SIM is accessed in the same manner.

Sometimes the cursor gets in the way. Since you have a trackpad, there is a cursor on whatever screen you’re looking at. So if you’re looking at pictures, one of them is “blued-out” a little to indicate that’s where your cursor is. On Twitter, if you try and scroll with the trackpad, you will have to scroll through all the selectable areas, including links, Twitter accounts, pictures, and action buttons like share, reply, etc. This can get cumbersome. You will likely get into the habit of positioning your cursor somewhere, depending on what you’re looking at. For instance, when I’m on my home screen, I like my cursor at the top of my screen such that, if I hit the trackpad, I will select the quick settings. You will just need to get accustomed to how the trackpad and cursor work on different apps and decide for yourself the most efficient way to get things done.

Blue line at the top indicates where my cursor is.
Blue line at the top indicates where my cursor is.

You cannot replace the battery. I really enjoyed the BlackBerry Charger Bundles, those little credit card sized accessories you could put a replacement battery in and keep one charged at the ready. I used them to great effect with my Z10 and Q10 and still believe it’s the best power management strategy going. The Classic, along with the Z30, and the Passport, do not have replaceable batteries and I understand this is BlackBerry’s intention going forward. I have a portable charger I wrote about here and a wireless charger that I use to keep my battery charged and have not had any issues, but I wish I could pop in a fully charged battery whenever I wanted.

In conclusion, the Classic is an excellent device and I believe it is the quintessential BlackBerry. If you are willing to give up some screen real estate for a best in class physical keyboard and outstanding productivity-oriented toolbelt with trackpad, you should get this device immediately. It feels great in the hand, is adequately spec’d, has very professional styling, and is built like a tank. Most of all, it runs the most secure and efficient OS on the market. It will not let you down. Way to go BlackBerry!!!

james pisano

RIM/BB fan since 2009. Wouldn't consider entrusting my career, life or privacy to another platform. Foremost, I am a student of life. Some likes: longboarding, nature, Baltimore Orioles, technology, driving, music, reading and Taoism. Politically independent.

  • Anthony

    Both speakers at the bottom are speakers. If only one is working perhaps try a hardware reset (press volume up and down keys until it restarts). locco_smiley_32

    • I don’t think that’s true Anthony. I’ve reset my phone many times. I’m also not the only one who has noticed this.

      • Anthony

        You’re right. The user manual for the Classic on BlackBerry’s website shows one is a speaker and the other is a microphone.

        When you play music does sound come out from one speaker?

        • Correct. The sound comes out only from the right hand side. You can hear it and feel it with your finger.

          • Anthony

            What about music?

            • Correct. Music also. I was disappointed at first, but frankly, it’s not that big of a deal. My biggest concern is getting good sound quality and volume for conference calls.

    • Blackjack

      Anthony is wrong about something?
      Wow. I have a Classic – James is correct. :P

      • Anthony

        I’m right because I have a Passport. You’re wrong because you have a Classic. locco_smiley_33

        • Blackjack


  • BB Racer !!

    Great Post James ! My sister a Bold 9900 user with a crappy Lenovo PC, has graduated to Classic, + a high spec Dell Note book and Samsung Tablet and is now a Blend App junkie and a BBM power user….all her team must be on BBM and must have Blend App installed . She said the Classic caused all this Geekness in her and she is now Qwerty productive power user !!!

    • Blackjack

      That’s great to hear BB Racer.
      I love hearing about converts who were left out in the cold when the Q10 came with no toolbelt – all those who LOVED the 9900 left out to dry? No where to go but to iDroid? Bad move, and the market responded.

      I believe this device will be responsible for bringing hordes of professionals #BacktoBlack

      • I think you’re right BJ. My local Verizon store just told me yesterday that the Classic was selling well. Chen was very smart to listen to his customers. Anyway, it’s a great device for all the same reasons the Bold was a great device or any other BB10 device is great.

    • That’s so cool BBRacer! I still don’t understand why the Z30 didn’t seem to get the love that the Classic seems to get. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but the Classic will eventually outsell the Z30 won’t it? I guess it’s going to the hardcore BBRY userbase? Shame the Z30 never got the uptake from the general public that it deserved.

  • Blackjack

    Awesome work James! I was riding right along with you going ..yep! yep! Classic does that right, yep! Classic has that – yep! Classic is pretty much the perfect mobile one handed productivity and communication device.

    I love my Classic!

    • Thanks buddy! We have to stick together cause the other UTB peeps are too chicken to use the MANLY Classic!!!

      This is for them!!! locco_smiley_6

      • Anthony

        This is from all the Passport users locco_smiley_6

        • Bwahahahahaha Anthony! That was funny. Thanks.

      • Blackjack

        Yep – too much effort for them to push the trackpad apparently. locco_smiley_5

        • Blackjack

          I need two hands to hold my phone its too heavy locco_smiley_13

          • Anthony

            You need one hand free to pick your nose. locco_smiley_2

        • Bwahahahahaha BJ! Hilarious!

  • Blackjack

    I do lament the non-removable battery it’s really the only flaw. But wireless charging makes up for it to some extent.

  • veeru789

    Great article. One tip for you. Now a days they have some thing called all in one sim. With this no need of an adaptor. Adaptors can spoil your sim tray if you change them too frequently.

    • Thanks Veers! I will look into the “all in one” SIM.

  • shanerredflag

    Great read James…I have all the BB10 devices and use the Classic as my daily driver…love it. Passport is great but too nice for my daily grinder, all glass is great, until it get cold, so…best work phone (for me) is the Classic. Thx again for the well written article.

    • Damn Bro! That’s awesome. I thought you were a Passport guy. Very cool. Thanks for the comments.

      Race weekend coming up!