Could backpedaling actually help BlackBerry?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| April 10, 2014


So, BlackBerry. A lot of words come to mind when it comes to discussing BlackBerry: innovative, business, QWERTY, cool, high school, and dead. That’s quite the mix of words, but those are the real mix of words that pop into my head when I think of BlackBerry. Once upon a time the QWERTY-clad devices were spotted just about anywhere, meaning they were cool - in high school. And now? A dying breed among a sea of iPhones, Androids, and dare I say it Windows Phones. Around these parts, I hardly ever see anybody carry a BlackBerry anymore.


Things have been rough for BlackBerry lately, despite their efforts to push through the muck and win back the hearts of people with the unveiling of BlackBerry 10 last year. Things were looking up for BlackBerry, but things aren’t always as they appear; something didn’t click between BlackBerry 10 and smartphone users. Perhaps it was that BlackBerry 10 didn’t offer enough, or bring anything that exciting or different to the table, and maybe it was just a case of the revamped platform hitting shelves when it was already too late. Whatever it was, it’s clear today that BlackBerry is struggling to win people over and keep people on board. BlackBerry needs more change.


But in order to work things out, should they keep going forward, or should they try and... backpedal?


The introduction of the first two BlackBerry 10 devices last year was actually a little refreshing. We were able to see that BlackBerry was able to go with the modern “slab” designed phone with the Z10, and yet was still able to keep their usual QWERTY-like design with the Q10 as well. Honestly, when it comes to design it seems like BlackBerry did everything right. You can keep your fanbase happy, and you can pique the interest of those who have gotten used to (and prefer) virtual keyboards compared to the physical. The Q10 in particular actually, in my opinion, offered a great combination of touchscreen space and physical keyboard. The device was comfortable for me to use.


Despite having the physical QWERTY, though, the Q10 was still lacking some features that many BlackBerry users got used to in BlackBerrys of old; namely, you have the trackpad (or trackball), the physical back button, answer button, and the physical BlackBerry menu button. The Q10 ommitted these buttons, and instead opted for a couple of on-screen buttons. So when it comes to the new BlackBerry Q20, or “BlackBerry Classic”, as it has been dubbed, it seems that BlackBerry sees a light in bringing those physical buttons back in to the picture.


In BlackBerry’s defense, the only reason those buttons were there was because of the way BlackBerry’s OS worked. Physical buttons were the better option then, and in many cases the only option as not all BlackBerry 7 and earlier devices did not feature a touch screen. This was also the reason that a trackpad was used, and while at the time the trackpad was rather innovative in navigating a PDA-turned-smartphone, when touchscreens are involved their point becomes moot. I mean, just look around. Where are all the Androids that used optional trackpads or trackballs? They’re gone. Nobody really uses them anymore. At the point where a touchscreen is available, a trackpad is no longer the hero we need. It is troublesome, and takes a lot more time to use.


That’s just my opinion on it, though. In all honestly, it seems like BlackBerry is at the end of the line. So why not go backwards? Personally, a BlackBerry 10 device with the traditional fixings and a QWERTY keyboard isn’t going to be enough to sway me to use one. I don’t think BlackBerry’s problem is with the design of the hardware, I think it very much has to do with the software and, as cliche as it is to say it, their app store. But I suppose only time can tell. It will be interesting to see if the Q20 will bring the company more profits once it is released.


Image via TechRadar

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