The BlackBerry Classic Might Be The Last Real Messaging Phone Ever

Until recently I worked for a company that provided me cell phones for over 10 years: no small perk. I don’t remember all of them, but I do remember a Nokia with an FM radio, a BlackBerry Curve 8520, a BlackBerry Torch 9800, and an iPhone 4s.

The company’s move from BlackBerry to iPhone was an understandable one: people were writing apps for iOS that they weren’t for BlackBerry. The Java-based BlackBerry 7 OS wasn’t being replaced quickly enough by the more powerful and fault-tolerant BlackBerry 10 OS, and developers who didn’t receive a clear signal of which OS to write for decided instead to jump ship and write for Apple and Android.

Moving from the Torch, which had a physical keyboard, a trackpad, and real keys to start and stop calls, to the blank face of the 4S was a bit of an adjustment, one that I never made satisfactorily. As someone who learned to touch-type on typewriters in high school, the ideal way to compose a message was keeping my eyes on the result of my typing while letting my fingers tell me I was over the correct letters.

To compensate for typing on flat plastic, I tried Siri voice dictation. That didn’t last long because it required announcing my emails and messages to everyone in the room. I actually bought a physical keyboard overlay, which worked well until an unfortunate drop broke the overlay. I finally gave up and just suffered through the flat. To be fair, I’m banging this post on an iPad, which works slightly better because of the bigger keyboard, but I’m still fixing a ton of errors.

Thus, when given the opportunity to choose my own phone, I got the BlackBerry Classic.

My friend asked, “Why did you get a phone from 2012?” He’s not wrong. Had this Classic existed four years ago, BlackBerry President John Chen would be laughing at putting Android on new BlackBerry hardware. The evolution into 2016 would be remarkable. Many more users would choosing the physical keyboard and getting more work done. Communication wouldn’t be so full of LOL, cul8r, and barely readable contractions, because we wouldn’t be spending our time trying to figure out how to avoid the inconvenience of the flat screen.

Autocorrect just corrected “screen” to Schoenberg, so I’m not going to dovetail into that evil on an iPad. :)

The physical keyboard is killer feature number 1 for my Classic, but the BlackBerry Hub is quite nice too. Apple has Multiple Inbox, but the Hub also includes text messages, Twitter, LinkedIn, BBM, and other applications. I can tell my phone that if a message comes in from my wife, no matter what she used to send it, set the notification light so that I can know without the screen having to come on.

Oh yeah. No notification light on the Apple. But I digress.

The battery life is wonderful. The phone will easily last an entire day of calls, web browsing, and basic usage. When I store it in the holster, the Battery Saving mode kicks in, and I charge it only every other day.

Integration with my car was a pleasant surprise. In addition to playing music, the car will display text messages if I’m stopped, or it will use the BlackBerry Assistant to read them to me if I’m driving. BlackBerry Assistant also writes its own messages, telling me how many appointments I have and when the next one is.

The big issue with BlackBerry is the apps. There used to be a BlackBerry version of Facebook, but BlackBerry itself was supporting that app and decided not to continue supporting it. Twitter still works well. A couple of developers still put out their homegrown clients for Facebook and Instagram.

The Classic does run some Android apps. The phone comes with Amazon App Store standard, but the apps in there have been older than the ones in the Google Play store. It is possible to get the Google Play store to run on the Classic, but this requires some tinkering. Even with the Store installed, some apps such as Instagram and my JeFit workout logger function well, but Android Facebook and Medium do not. My Android Fitbit app does not handle auto-syncing with the Fitbit well. Some apps such as Google Maps require further integration tinkering with Google Play Services, and I’m not sure I want my phone to get that cozy with the great and powerful Google.

Normally I would not need to write about a new phone, as if I would be so insecure about it that I need to justify it to others. The way the industry is going, though, with BlackBerry putting Android on its newest phones, Apple still showing that dead flat screen with that magic finger button at the bottom, and Samsung bragging that you can pour champagne on their phones (a solution in search of a problem? ;) ), a little bit of documentation seems to be order, that we don’t forget what makes a smartphone a first-rate messaging tool.

If only this existed four years ago.

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