BlackBerry will soon launch the Classic, which brings back the five button “toolbelt.” Users accustom to previous BlackBerrys will feel right at home with the send/menu/back/TrackPad/end keys, at least that’s what BlackBerry hopes.
One of the biggest gripes from BlackBerry consumers and enterprise customers with the shift to BlackBerry 10 was the swipe gestures. Many users could not get used to the (what seems like easy to learn) swipe gestures and ended up downgrading to an older device or switching to an Android or iPhone.
BlackBerry hopes to bridge this gap and begin migrating those stubborn users to BlackBerry 10. As we’ve seen, legacy BBOS is still garnering revenue for the company, but is obviously outdated and hardly supported.
Everything sounds like it should be great with the Classic and its shiny new toolbelt. However, longtime BlackBerry developer and creator of the popular Pixelated game, Eric Harty from Ebscer, doesn’t believe the toolbelt will be useful.
“The BlackBerry Classic is a device that many people are waiting for. It is the first new BlackBerry phone in over three years to include the ‘toolbelt’ row of buttons across the middle. For anyone looking forward to this phone, they are soon to be very disappointed,” said Harty.
BlackBerry 10 relies on swipe gestures, which some of the actions can be controlled via a physical toolbelt. Though, the actions between the toolbelt and swipe gestures might be redundant. Therein lies the dilemma.
“Having a physical menu key allows the screen to remain clear of any navigation, and makes it quick and easy for the menu to be accessed at any time. For most apps I expect this key to be equivalent to hitting the ‘more’ button on the action menu. However as both Cascades and Android based apps have had to exist for a few years now without any guarantee of a physical menu button, most apps will already be showing a virtual menu button on the screen anyhow,” Harty says.
This also applies to the other buttons. The on-screen back button will likely still remain, especially on Android apps. The end button will likely only command exiting an app, the same as swiping up to exit, with no additional functionality.
The saddest part sounds like the TrackPad functionality will be almost obsolete. “This is also going to be the phone’s largest disappointment. The TrackPad will be great at text selection, but anyone expecting to use the TrackPad for app navigation is going to be disappointed. BlackBerry will probably support the TrackPad well on the homescreen and in the Hub, but there will be next to no support when it comes to third party apps.
“Even back on BBOS having to support navigation via the TrackPad was always a pain for developers as opposed to using the touchscreen. Given the popularity of the Curve series of phones, developers relented because they had no other way to support these phones. The TrackPad was then often supported on the Torch 9800 and Bold 9900 series because the work had been done already. On BlackBerry 10 that is not the case. With every phone supporting a touchscreen, adding support for navigation via the TrackPad is not required and many developers (including myself) will have no interest in adding this. Developers have already spent two years writing Cascades apps that were not designed with the TrackPad in mind, and any Android-based apps are definitely not going to support TrackPad navigation.
“The most anticipated feature of the BlackBerry Classic, will be one that the users will mostly not have the opportunity to use,” said Harty. Though, we’ll hopefully see most BlackBerry-built BB10 apps (browser, contacts, BBM, etc) updated to support TrackPad functionality.
The recently launched BlackBerry Passport is selling above company expectations, and has seen two new color variations released. When polled, only 32 percent of our readers said they had pre-ordered the BlackBerry Classic.
It will certainly be interesting to see how BlackBerry handles the UI and UX for BlackBerry 10 with the toolbelt on the Classic. If the toolbelt is truly as useless as Harty claims it might be, will that impact your Classic adoption? Let us know in the comments.