One of BlackBerry's biggest bets to turn around the beleaguered phone maker's future is finally here.
Dubbed the BlackBerry Classic, the Canadian tech giant is emphasizing an intentional return to the drawing board as one of the biggest selling points here, resting on elements such as the physical QWERTY keyboard and trackpad still synonymous with BlackBerry name.
BlackBerry is targeting its oldest and strongest customer bases in the enterprise and government sectors with a slew of work and security-minded functionality on both hardware and software.
The Classic is touted as an upgrade from the BlackBerry Bold 9900, promising 60 percent more screen space with a 3.5-inch Gorlilla Glass 3 touchscreen, 50 percent longer battery life (up to 22 hours), and three times the performance on browsing thanks to a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon Processor and 2GB RAM.
The Classic also sports 16GB of onboard space -- expandable by up to 128GB via external storage -- along with two cameras: two-megapixels up front and eight megapixels on a rear-facing camera with enhanced optics and upgraded imaging sensors.
But while the company formerly known as Research In Motion is hoping to catch the eyes of employees with a familiar packaging on the outside, the keys to getting IT administrators to deploy the Classic across organizations can be found in the software.
Running the BlackBerry 10.3.1 operating system, the Classic wants to champion productivity and collaboration with the inclusion of digital assistant and voice recognition software BlackBerry Assistant as well as BlackBerry Blend, a platform for syncing messaging and content (i.e. anything from BlackBerry Messenger to calendar events) on a BlackBerry smartphone with a user's computer and tablet.
The BlackBerry Classic is also promised to be "private by default" through encrypted email, web browsing and BBM.
Many of the mobile productivity and security solutions were unveiled in November as CEO John Chen outlined BlackBerry's "three-part strategy" to rebuild the company, centered around the following pillars: financial, enterprise and distribution.
The launch of the Classic falls within the enterprise segment of that journey.
The BlackBerry Classic is available now in North America for $449 in the United States and $499 in Canada.
Those prices are for unlocked devices - meaning without contracts - as BlackBerry stipulated it is still "working with carriers and partners" to distribute the smartphones worldwide.
So far, Bell Mobility and Rogers Wireless will offer the Classic for just over $49 on two-year contracts starting today followed by Telus later this week at $50 with a two-year contract. Stateside, AT&T and Verizon are on deck to sell the Classic in 2015.
Image via BlackBerry