BlackBerry came back strong in 2014 with two new handsets that have both impressed critics, but can the Passport and Classic revitalize the BlackBerry name? We take a look at the two new Blackberries in a head-to-head comparison.
In November of 2013, BlackBerry was recovering from a massive layoff after plummetting sales for several years, and the Canadian company promoted John S. Chen to the position of CEO. Chen represented a new lease on life for the struggling company and announced on November 13 that the company is "committed to reclaiming" their success.
Since then, BlackBerry's stock has risen 50 percent and the September release of the Passport blew everyone away. When the company announced that it would release another new phone that would refocus on its iconic QWERTY keyboard, consumer confidence went even higher.
The Passport is a squared-up touchscreen smartphone with a 4.5-inch display, 2.26 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core processor, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and a 13 megapixel camera. It boasts microSD expansion support, SlimPort Bluetooth, dual-band Wi-Fi, and a large 3,450mAh battery.
While the Passport looks similar to 2013's BlackBerry Q10, it's a much beefier piece of hardware than its predecessor. As Engadget writes in its October review of the Passport, "there's more to the Passport than just its odd shape and the company's desire to resurrect a now-antiquated smartphone feature." The tech review site called the Passport the "best BlackBerry 10 device you can buy," but said that its "odd shape and size, as well as its weird keyboard, may be a turnoff for many."
The Verge's own review took a solid look at the phone's ergonomics and design, noting that the reviewer "never felt comfortable with the Passport in my hands." The large 128mm x 90mm frame has been quite an obstacle for many reviewers, often overshadowing the device's performance.
"The Passport is a shrine to everything BlackBerry has done over the last 15 years, but none of that is very relevant in today's world," the reviewer states. "It's apparently the best that BlackBerry can do, but that's not enough."
The BlackBerry Classic, on the other hand, is doing a great job of impressing critics already, with the Wall Street Journal even calling it "the best BlackBerry ever made."
"The Classic is a throwback to everything that made a BlackBerry a BlackBerry," WSJ's Joanna Stern said in the review. "Instead of a big and awkward square-shaped design like the recent BlackBerry Passport, the Classic has the fantastic physical keyboard, the pleasantly nagging red notification light-and even a trackpad."
The Classic is meant to be a throwback to those early BlackBerry phones that made the company what it once was, but some might wonder why consumers would want to go back to that old style, even with improved hardware and software under the hood.
"If you make your purchasing decisions based off nostalgia, there's much to commend the Classic to you," The Verge's Dieter Bohn says in his review of the Classic. "Anybody over 30 has the BlackBerry deeply seated in their lizard brain as the de facto image of what a smartphone is, and so simply looking at the Classic evokes a kind of primal sympathy. If I were stricken with aphasia after a horrific brain injury and somebody asked me to draw a smartphone, I would draw the BlackBerry Classic."
But the phone is much more than that nostalgic design. The 3.46-inch 294 ppi display may project much fewer pixels than the Passport's 453 ppi, but it doesn't do too badly with a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960, 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. Still, it's not going to blow away the highest of the high end devices any time soon.
"From a performance perspective, the Classic is a massively infuriating mix of crazy fast and insanely slow," Bohn continues. "You can pound through gobs of email with an impressive array of keyboard shortcuts and quickly scrolling lists. But when you launch an Android app, you'll usually find yourself waiting a shockingly long time."
You can grab the unlocked BlackBerry Passport for $549 during a special deal at Amazon, or the unlocked Classic for only $449. AT&T will be the exclusive carrier for the Passport in the U.S. while the Classic will be available for both AT&T and Verizon.