BlackBerry Classic Keyboard Works Well for Users Who Live in Email

REVIEW: The BlackBerry Classic provides everything that fans of the company's smartphones want in a larger handset, including the familiar physical keyboard.

At first glance, the BlackBerry Classic seems to be just like its much-loved predecessor, the BlackBerry Bold 9900. But, of course, it's not. Held side-by-side, the Classic is larger in every dimension except thickness.

But the larger dimensions improves what BlackBerry already does best, which is to handle text-intensive tasks such as email. The Classic brings back the carefully sculpted physical keyboard that worked so well for creating text as well as the physical navigation keys that complete the keyboard experience.

While there's a lot more to the BlackBerry Classic beyond the keyboard, it's the traditional BlackBerry keyboard that's its raison d'être. Likely this is why BlackBerry made only a few minor changes to the keyboard design.

The biggest is the addition of a microphone key next to the space bar, which is shared with the zero. The other big change is that the optical touch-pad in the center of the navigation keys is smaller than on the Bold. Like the Bold and other recent BlackBerry devices, the Classic also has a touch-screen.

The keyboard itself is larger, which makes thumb-typing easier and slightly more accurate, but it avoids the change in shape that BlackBerry's Passport presented which (at least for me) slowed down typing. Overall, the Classic is very similar in size to the BlackBerry Z30, and it runs the same BlackBerry 10 operating system.

I didn't find the 3.5-inch square screen to be at all limiting when it came to using it for things like email, which is still the BlackBerry's strong suit. The company points out that the screen is about the same size as the one on the iPhone 6 when it has the keyboard open on the screen. When I look at the two phones together, that seems like an accurate statement.

Beyond using the phone for text creation, the relatively small square screen can be limiting. While the BlackBerry Web browser is quite fast, you don't have the option of holding the phone horizontally to get a bigger image as you do with the iPhone or the Z30. While you can make Web pages bigger by spreading them out with your fingers, that only helps so much.

BlackBerry is in the process of updating the apps in its BlackBerry World app store to work properly with the square screen, something that was already being done with the Q10, which also had a physical keyboard. But there are a lot of apps that haven't been updated, especially the Android apps that you can download via access to the Amazon Android App Store.

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...