Review: BlackBerry Classic (Q20)

There’s also a camera here, with an 8 megapixel shooter that takes half decent photos and can be activated by holding down the camera icon from the standby screen.

In the camera, you can touch to focus, fire a shot, and play with a few settings, such as shooting 1:1 for square images, 4:3 for standard screen, and 16:9 for widescreen, though the square is ready to go by default. High-dynamic range images can also be shot, as can a burst mode, panoramas, and you have a very small amount of scene modes comprising of auto, action, whiteboard, night, and beach or snow.

That’s not a lot, but most of the time, auto is sufficient, though the quality could easily have been notched up a bit.

Eight megapixels isn’t particularly high, and while we can get away with it on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus because of all the extra work Apple has thrown into its camera, this is one module that doesn’t feel like it’s producing amazing results.

They’re certainly acceptable, but we’ve seen better, and given the flagship status, expect a little more from BlackBerry here.

Image sample from the BlackBerry Classic

Front-side you’ll find a 2 megapixel camera, again for acceptable but not amazing results. This isn’t going to be the best shooter ever, so don’t retire that proper camera any time soon.

Connections here include 4G, which is great to have, but our speeds tests weren’t showing download speeds as high as we’re used to, toping out around 55Mbps for download and around 7Mbps for upload. These speeds suggest Category 4 4G LTE might be here, at least for the download, though we’re surprised the upload speeds are as low as they are.

While these will be fast enough for most, they are by no means the best in terms of mobile internet speeds we’ve seen.

The performance is a bit of a let down, as well, with lag easily noticed as you make your way across apps, pressing a button only to have it respond half a second to a full second later. Slowdowns are relatively frequent, and while the multitasking offered here makes it easy to jump between apps, doing it in a speedy fashion isn’t always something you’ll see.

Battery life is also affected, and we saw performance for the Classic really hit only a full day of use.

This was a phone connected to Exchange, Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, and used as a phone, a web surfer, reading and writing emails, social networking, camera, and music player, as you do, with battery life hitting barely over a day, and if we’re honest, that was just for a regular run down.

Use your phone consistently every day and power users will want to charge it before day’s end, a result that isn’t all that stellar when it is competing against smartphones that can nab a full day more in comparison.

Our battery test comes straight from the lock screen. You'll see a full 24 hours here, but just barely.

Also something that needs work is the app eco system. We mentioned it earlier, and sure, it’s great that BlackBerry supports both Android apps and those made for BlackBerry, but it needs more access to the former and more made on the latter.

Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough apps made for BlackBerry, missing staples for other phones that even feature on Windows Phone, which is arguably one of the ecosystems that also needs more work and more larger app releases.

As such, there’s no Instagram, and no official Pandora or Spotify app for the BlackBerry operating system, and we’re sure if you look, you’ll find other apps that you use on a regular basis are missing in action.

Another point we feel we need to touch upon is the keyboard, and frankly, it won’t be for everyone.

We can remember reviewing BlackBerry handsets earlier on and liking the keyboard, and knowing full well that the tactile QWERTY keypad was one of the best ways to get messages out, to respond to emails on the go without having to get the laptop out and draft emails ready to be sent as soon as WiFi could be found.

But not this time, not several years after the on-screen keyboard has been improved dramatically and gesture typing now makes writing as speedy as running your fingers over letters to trace a line.

These days, we’re writing more quickly using a touchscreen, and typing letter by letter on a hardware keyboard just doesn’t cut it anymore. We actually felt slower with the BlackBerry Classic’s keyboard, drafting emails and Twitter responses in a more sluggish time frame than we’d have normally liked, our fingers feeling positively lethargic as we pushed each letter instead of quickly typing words in.

This isn’t helped by how cramped the keyboard is, and knowing that if you want to type quickly, you seriously need to hold the phone with two hands, which isn’t terribly comfortable experience, especially when you’re constantly trying to press the “alt” or shift (arrow) key to add punctuation or capitalise letters.

Give us a touchscreen any day over this thing. We’re converted.


It’s hard to recommend the Classic to anyone but the most diehard BlackBerry fanatics, and in fairness, they’re a bunch of people who already know they’re in love even before they lay eyes on this product.

This is a phone, though, that really should have turned up a couple of years ago when Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 chip was new, in 2012 when it was recent, rather than early 2015 where it feels old and depreciated.

It’s a phone that needs more work paid to its application ecosystem, because while it’s nice to see that it can run Android apps as a sort of “in case of emergency” option, the “made for BlackBerry” ones are the apps you really want, and you need more.

And it’s a phone that really doesn’t give you a good reason to stick with it over the competition, because as good as a hardware keyboard is, and as good as BlackBerry Hub is, and as good as the design is, the competition the BlackBerry Classic plays against some seriously impressive players, and against these, it just doesn’t stack up.

Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Good looking square screen; One of only a few smartphones with a physical keyboard; Very, very well built; Textured back is easy to grip; Upgradeable with microSD card; BlackBerry Hub is a great way of showing all your messages from every network;
Even less apps than the Windows Phone ecosystem; Slow downs are easily noticed; Mediocre battery life; Heavy;