Opinion Articles

Thursday, December 18, 2014

BlackBerry Classic isn't a blast from the past... it's a signpost to the Dark Ages

Mark Bridge writes:

If you listen to this week’s edition of The Fonecast - in which we predict what’ll be happening in the mobile telecoms industry during 2015 - you’ll hear James Rosewell say that BlackBerry’s handset business is doomed. Well, actually that’s not quite true. What he says is “BlackBerry, I think, will withdraw from the handset market. They’re going to become a software and a services company.”

And then, just hours after we’ve recorded the programme, BlackBerry announces a brand new smartphone. The BlackBerry Classic. How wrong could James be?

Based on my initial impression: not wrong at all.

I’d interpreted his doom-mongering as hyperbole; as a warning that BlackBerry could find itself in trouble after making a wrong turn or two. But having seen BlackBerry’s newest handset and read the nonsense it’s saying about it, I find myself viewing the BlackBerry Classic as a coffin-lid nail.

The press release says:

Although familiar in appearance, BlackBerry Classic upgrades the BlackBerry Bold 9900 experience with:

  • Three times faster browser
  • 60 percent more screen space
  • 50 percent longer battery life
  • Greater variety of applications through BlackBerry World and the Amazon Appstore

It also quotes BlackBerry CEO John Chen as saying “BlackBerry Classic is the powerful communications tool that many BlackBerry Bold and Curve users have been waiting for.”

Right. So this is a replacement for the BlackBerry Curve series of phones - released between 2007 and 2011 - and the BlackBerry Bold family of phones, which were released between 2008 and 2011. Surprise, surprise. BlackBerry’s newest phone is better than those it was making three years ago.

Alright, enough sarcasm. At least it’s progress, isn’t it?

Well, yes. Compared with the BlackBerry Bold 9900, the BlackBerry Classic is a better phone. But what’s that I hear? The clanking of chains… a shadowy figure emerging from the gloom… no, it’s not the ghost of Christmas Past. It’s a BlackBerry Q10 that’s escaped from the bargain bin. Curiously, it appears to be waving a spec sheet. Let’s take a look.

First, battery life. Well, the Q10 puts up a good show - being a dramatic improvement on the Bold 9900 - but the Classic has the edge: almost four extra hours of theoretical talk time.

Screen size? It’s 3.1 inches for the Q10 but 3.5 inches for the Classic. Except… hang on. Both are 720 pixels by 720 pixels. And there are plenty more similarities elsewhere. Internal storage - both 16GB. Rear camera - both 8 megapixel. Processor - both 1.5GHz. OS - both BlackBerry 10.

So it seems that BlackBerry has made some minor improvements to a two-year-old phone and is trying to sell it as a replacement to owners of even older phones. Selling it to people who didn’t buy the Q10 when it first came out - but hoping they’ll buy it two years later.

Sorry, BlackBerry. That doesn’t seem a great way to assure your future.

You can listen to the 2015 predictions programme on our website audio player, via iTunes, on our RSS feed, by listening on the Stitcher.com mobile app or by downloading the mp3 file directly.

Author: The Fonecast
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