Review: BlackBerry Classic (Q20)

Let’s talk about that screen, though, because it’s definitely worth a mention, BlackBerry bringing the unorthodox 3.5 inch display running a resolution of 720×720. It’s the first thing you’ll notice when you switch the phone on, and it will offer decent viewing angles and crisp colour with only a smidgen of wash-out at the extremes.

Touch is also offered through this display, welcome with the physical keyboard beneath, and you’ll even find a unique gesture system offered to get around BlackBerry’s operating system.

Bring the phone back from standby and you’ll see the time, your next event, and several numbers under notifications informing you how many new messages you have, how many Facebook messages you’ve missed, and how many times someone tried to call you.

This screen is clear, concise, and very informative, and you merely have to press each icon to get a preview of what the information is, though sometimes you might accidentally unlock the phone, so just be aware of that.

Otherwise, you can simply swipe your phone to unlock it, which starts off those gestures we mentioned before.

Swiping to unlock is very basic, though, so what else can you do?

In the phone, you’ll find the right most button above the keyboard will bring you back to the main BlackBerry multi-task system, and this really serves as the home button, since you’re jumping between applications.

Swipe from left to right here and you’ll get to your leftmost screen, the BlackBerry Hub.

This is where all the notifications go, and not just short messages, but everything your BlackBerry connects to: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Exchange, Google, Hotmail, whatever.

If your BlackBerry can access it, the information will go here, and while it will stay in the separate application as well, accessible in those places, you’ll find everything in the BlackBerry Hub, searchable and indexed by date and time, though also filtered if you need it by the account.

Easily, this is one of the best things about BlackBerry, and if you live and die by how many notifications, emails, alerts, messages, calls, and random digital buzzes you get, this will be of use.

Swipe right to left to get back to the home screen, and then right to left again to reach the app menu, and this will be pretty much what you’re used to on every phone, with several app shortcuts to anything and everything you’ve installed.

You can also swipe down to get menus and settings inside these menus, which the BlackBerry button will also do on the top row of the keyboard, a sort of settings button, if you will.

Two other buttons are obvious here, too, such as the left most button which will bring up the phone dealer, while the back button is pretty standard (if you guessed that it goes back, you win).

Once you’ve mastered this, you more or less have the BlackBerry Classic down, and you can jump between applications, open up the web browser — which isn’t connected to any other known browser and won’t have your passwords or favourites — do the social networking thing, get your emails done, play the odd game, and even listen to some music here and there.

While the Classic is a return to the days when BlackBerry felt like it was making quality devices, it has a severe problem with apps and a proper ecosystem.

Simply put, the pickings are slim, and while the BlackBerry Classic and its BlackBerry 10 OS can run Android apps, it’s not a great execution that you’ll be seeing on the Classic’s tiny square screen.

From the get go, you’ll find two app stores waiting for you, with one available from BlackBerry and one from Amazon. The first of these will deliver BlackBerry apps — made for the device — while the other, Amazon, will bring you Android apps that can run on the BlackBerry, but it’s important to see the difference, and that is the BlackBerry often work well, while the Android ones aren’t made for the small screen or the optical trackpad, and even show up with some glitches here and there.

Some times, the Android apps you find in APK are the only way to get apps for the phone. Instagram, for example, can only be installed via an Android APK that you need to go find, because it’s not on either platform.

Pandora exists on the Amazon store, but only from the Android point of view, and when you run it, you get three different ways of rendering it on screen thanks to the app being made for Android displays and not this rather unusual square BlackBerry one.

Android app appearance can be... interesting. Here's how Pandora can look in its different view options on the BlackBerry Classic.