BlackBerry Classic Harks Back to Bold 9900 to Lure Business Loyalists

NEWS ANALYSIS: The BlackBerry Classic will have the look and feel of the Bold, but will run BlackBerry OS 10 and can handle Android apps as the company moves back to its core business market.

BlackBerry Classic

BlackBerry on Dec. 17 formally released its latest hopeful attempt to stem the flow of customers to rival devices makers by introducing a thoroughly new phone that looks very much the company's last successful mobile phone model, the much-loved BlackBerry Bold 9900. While the new BlackBerry Classic isn’t a copy of the Bold 9900, it looks and is said to feel a lot like one.

The goal, according to CEO John Chen, is to bring back a totally business focused device designed specifically for the needs of its most loyal users. The BlackBerry Classic includes a keyboard, physical navigation keys and long battery life. Deep down inside, however, the new BlackBerry runs the QNX-based BBOS10, which among other things, can run many Android apps.

After introducing the phone, Chen also said to a Bloomberg reporter that he’d welcome another effort to return to the way things were done in the past by getting back together with former partner T-Mobile.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said during a media Q&A session on Dec. 16 that he was very interested in reestablishing relations with BlackBerry as part of his company’s nascent effort to focus on small- and medium-sized business as part of a future “Uncarrier” announcement. Previously, BlackBerry had dumped T-Mobileafter the carrier had sent its users a pitch in favor of the iPhone.

Things have changed since the T-Mobile debacle, however. Now T-Mobile needs to bring in more business users so that it can continue its rapid growth and BlackBerry needs to attract all the potential buyers it can find, including T-Mobile business users.

To accomplish this, BlackBerry needed to determine what loyal users liked best about their phones, and then find a way to deliver that. By doing so, the company hoped to keep its existing user base, while also drawing back users who had shifted to other makers' phones after BlackBerry released its touch screen-only Z10 and Z30 smartphones.

While the BlackBerry lineup included the slow-selling Q10 phone, that device did not include the physical navigation keys that users loved. For that matter neither did the more recently announced BlackBerry Passport.

The Classic might bring feelings of nostalgia to the BlackBerry faithful. The new phone has the sculpted physical keyboard that users remember and the virtual navigation keys on the Q10 and Passport are back to being physical keys. Like the keyboard on the Bold 9900, each row of keys is separated by a stainless steel fret that's designed to ease typing.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...