New York — BlackBerry is coming to Manhattan on Dec. 17 to launch its BlackBerry Classis smartphone, a productivity-first smartphone that combines the latest BlackBerry touchscreen 10.3.1 OS with the old BlackBerry Bold’s optical track pad, physical QWERTY keyboard, menu and back buttons, and dedicated answer/hang-up phone buttons.
The phone, promoted as “a new smartphone that builds upon the extremely successful and iconic BlackBerry heritage,” is already available on BlackBerry’s site for preorder at $449 unlocked, but the site mentions only a few features and a general expected availability date of mid-December and some key features. During the event, the company will reveal a ship date and additional product details.
The phone is promoted as being “designed from the ground up to meet the needs of productive people who appreciate the speed and accuracy that can only be found with a physical QWERTY keyboard,” the company said.
“We’ve got new BlackBerry devices that break the mold, including the BlackBerry Passport,” said executive chairman/CEO John Chen. “But we also recognize that a lot of you continue to hang on to your Bold devices because they get the job done, day in and day out — just like you.”
“It’s tempting in a rapidly changing, rapidly growing mobile market to change for the sake of change — to mimic what’s trendy and match the industry-standard, kitchen-sink approach of trying to be all things to all people. But there’s also something to be said for the classic adage, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
BlackBerry Classic features large square touchscreen, ability to install Android apps from the Amazon app store and BlackBerry apps, HSPA and LTE, and a nano SIM card. It’s designed for the T-Mobile and AT&T networks but not for the CDMA networks of Verizon, Sprint or U.S. Cellular.
In September, the company introduced the Passport, intended to replace laptops on the road with a large 4.5-inch-square screen, three-row physical keyboard, and fourth row of virtual on-screen keys that change according to function. The touch-enabled physical QWERTY keyboard lets users edit without a pop-up virtual keyboard covering up onscreen text, and the keyboard’s capacitive touch capability enhances typing speed and accuracy by “combining the accuracy of a physical keyboard with the fluidity of touch,” the company said at the time. The regular unlocked price is $699, and AT&T has said it would offer the phone.