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BlackBerry launches Classic smartphone in hopes to win back die-hard users

BlackBerry says it'll pay iPhone customers up to $600 to switch phones
BlackBerry CEO John Chen holds up a Classic phone, which will be released Dec. 17, during the BlackBerry Enterprise Portfolio Launch event Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014, in San Francisco. AP Photo/Eric Risberg

TORONTO – BlackBerry is hoping to win over old and new users with the launch of a new smartphone that will resemble the company’s most beloved device. The Waterloo, Ont.-based company launched the new and improved BlackBerry Classic Wednesday morning during an event in New York City.

The Classic is designed to look like a new-and-improved version of the BlackBerry Bold 9900. First released in 2011, the Bold became the company’s best-selling device and earned the nickname “CrackBerry” for the company.

READ MORE: BlackBerry Classic designed with old Bold, Curve users in mind

The new device looks very similar to the Bold, with the company’s iconic QWERTY physical keyboard, trackpad and even an updated version of the classic “Brick Breaker” game. Though the company made many references to BlackBerry’s heritage during the event, BlackBerry CEO John Chen pointed out that the Classic is an improvement on its old technology.

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“Everything you know about BlackBerry has been upgraded,” said Chen during the event.

Chen, who joined the company over a year ago, has been focused on improving the company’s finances and sales of its ailing handset division.

In September, Chen unveiled the BlackBerry Passport – a large square-shaped smartphone aimed at business users that raised eyebrows for its unique design. But Chen has also been a supporter of resurrecting a phone for clients who said they wanted devices that weren’t so dramatically different from past BlackBerry models.

READ MORE: Can the Passport save BlackBerry?

“We could capture new markets and new users with the Classic,” Chen said at a roundtable with reporters earlier this fall.

Shares of BlackBerry rose 2.5 per cent, or 27 cents, to $11.31 on the Toronto Stock Exchange following the announcement.

A tribute to BlackBerry’s most-loved features

As mentioned, the BlackBerry Classic will include some of the company’s standout features including its physical QWERTY keyboard and the trackpad. The design resembles the Bold’s design with key navigation keys – including the call, menu and end call buttons – along the top of the keyboard.

But BlackBerry users will notice many improvements in the device. The phone’s touchscreen runs larger than the original BlackBerry Bold, measuring 3.5 inches diagonally, and it’s battery is said to last up to 22 hours. But at eight megapixels, the Classic’s camera lags behind the market average of 13 pixels.

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The new device will also allow users to browse the web up to three times faster than the Bold 9900.

Aimed at business and die-hard users

BlackBerry isn’t shying away from the fact that it’s releasing an updated version of its best-selling phone – in fact, the company is using it as a selling point.

“BlackBerry Classic is a new smartphone that builds upon the extremely successful and iconic BlackBerry heritage,” reads BlackBerry’s product page. “Our loyal customers asked us for a very specific phone and we answered with BlackBerry Classic.”

While BlackBerry is hoping that die-hard fans will buy into the old-school feel of the phone, the device is also aimed at business users – the company’s core demographic.

Price and shipping date

The Classic was available for pre-order weeks before officially launching Wednesday. According to the company, devices ordered before the launch date will begin shipping this week.

However, BlackBerry has already said demand is strong for the Classic, warning that new orders will be shipped “over the next several weeks.”

The device is priced at $499 without a contract through BlackBerry’s website and Amazon. Canadian carriers Bell, Rogers and Telus will be offering the phone for $50 with a two year contract.

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