MWC 2014 BlackBerry has admitted that its made its some of its traditional users who stayed loyal to the company very fed up when it dropped some of its best-loved features.
At Mobile World Congress today, the company formerly known as RIM said it would bring back the classic trackpad as well as Call ("Send"), End and Menu keys to a QWERTY phone running BB10. The Q20 will be out in the second half of the year - and will probably look something like this.
The first popular BlackBerry included a scroll wheel (or "track wheel"), but as its popularity grew, a trackball (and later an optical trackpad) was introduced, which allowed the user to edit text very accurately and quickly. But this was chucked out in the uneasy transition to BB10.
As a result, although the more modern Q10 looked like older BlackBerry, anyone expecting it to work just like one was disappointed. Text was manipulated on the touchscreen instead, which required the user to juggle the device around in the hand. It also made task switching and accessing features one-handed a lot easier. So gone was the speed that made a QWERTY BlackBerry so productive.
BlackBerry didn't announce much more about the Q20 other than that it would feature a 3.5-inch screen, larger than the Q10's 3.1-inch screen. Here's hoping BlackBerry puts more effort into the design and materials than it did with the Q5, reviewed here.
At CES earlier this year, the company said it would defend its keyboard IP against knock-offs.
BlackBerry also announced its fourth BB10 device, a low-cost 5-inch full-touchscreen phone for growth markets like Indonesia, which it had hinted about earlier. The Z3 will be the first device manufactured by Foxconn, will sell for under $200, and will be available in April. Specs haven't officially been confirmed yet. BlackBerry has "a plan to take that phone out globally with LTE sometime in the future before I die," said the very quotable CEO John Chen today.
Newer BlackBerrys running the latest version of the OS can install Android apps directly and run them with a high degree of compatibility – unlike Nokia's Android, revealed here yesterday. Although BlackBerry doesn't even mention it - its news release didn't refer to the new Android runtime at all. That's probably because you need to sideload an app like Snap first, which is fairly trivial for technical users but perhaps not for the mass market.
BlackBerry also announced new version of its enterprise MDM software, BES12, and said BBM messenger would come to Windows Phone as well as to the mutant "Nokiadroid" open-source Android in the new cheap Nokia devices. ®