BlackBerry has been the subject of a lot of scrutiny over the past few years. What was once a great empire in the mobile industry has become little more than news filler on many occasions as of late. The last time the BlackBerry name really rung strong throughout news and editorials was probably when the BlackBerry Z30, BlackBerry’s first attempt at a phablet, was announced. Since then, most releases could have easily been looked over.
Once you see a once powerful company fall this far, it’s hard to remain optimistic that things will turn around for the better. I know that after BlackBerry 10 struggled to really take off I myself have been less than interested in splurging on a new BlackBerry device. After all, if BlackBerry was too late to jump on the typical “slab” design bandwagon that we see in flagship smartphones these days, how far can they really get at this point? But maybe for BlackBerry, the answer to success wasn’t found by following the herd; maybe they had their key all along, by sticking to the basics: the "classic" BlackBerry design.
A “classic” BlackBerry design in today’s world offers something that most smartphones don’t offer anymore: a physical keyboard. Physical keyboards were practically a necessity when smartphones first started booming, as people just couldn’t completely grasp the concept of being able to type without physical keys being present. Virtual keyboards were a risky jump, and physical keyboards offered a familiar comfort. As time went on and more people grew to love the versatility and speed that virtual keyboards brought (not only in response time, but also due to third party keyboards like Swype, Minuum, Fleksy, etc.) people started to lose interest in their physical keyboards. Physical keyboards are, in a sense, the training wheels to the modern-day smartphone.
But not for everybody. For many, physical keyboards still remain a comfort. I’ll admit that I even have my days where I find myself missing the physical click. Even haptic feedback (the tiny vibration that many smartphones send off when a virtual key is pressed) doesn’t do the trick. There is something satisfying about pressing down on an actual key and feeling that tiny click. Maybe it’s a sensory thing, I don’t know; I just know that I miss it sometimes.
It’s a feature that is often overlooked, but BlackBerry has been dedicated to it for years. Even when BlackBerry introduced the new gesture-based BlackBerry 10 software, one of the first BlackBerry 10 devices, the BlackBerry Q10, took on that same, nearly-traditional BlackBerry form. It was a welcome constant for people who were nervous that BlackBerry would abandon its roots in favor of what seemed to be more profitable form factors. That being said, none of the BlackBerry 10 devices did phenomenally.
That was then, this is now. BlackBerry seems more keen on sticking to the physical keyboard with their newer devices, the BlackBerry Passport and the BlackBerry Classic (the BlackBerry Z3 is the physical keyboard-less model). But can either of these devices, which both dote on the designs of BlackBerry’s past, bring back the attention that BlackBerry needs to stick around? They say that history has a way of repeating itself, so perhaps with such an emphasis on what made BlackBerry such a big deal in the first place, they’ll be able to retain or bring back more BlackBerry users. Honestly, as long as the specs are decent enough and the price isn’t too outrageous, I wouldn’t be opposed to picking up a BlackBerry Classic. With BlackBerry 10’s ability to work with many of Android’s own applications, the “lack of applications” issue is not as imperative of a problem. However, given that the option to download Android applications on a BlackBerry 10 device isn’t a super well-known feature (and also not that easy of a concept to grasp) it really depends on how well the mass public responds to this recycled design.
I would say that it’s possible for BlackBerry to pick up more users with the BlackBerry Classic and the BlackBerry Passport, but I don’t think it will bring people in droves. I think the days of BlackBerry’s super empire are long gone at this point, and until I see some hard evidence in the future of some crazy super innovative changes, I don’t see that changing too much anytime soon.
Images via CrackBerry