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BlackBerry going back to basics to woo its former fans

In an open letter to its current and former smartphone users, CEO John Chen promises that a new handset, the BlackBerry Classic, will reignite their love of the brand.

gadgets Updated: Oct 31, 2014 11:17 IST
John Chen

In an open letter to its current and former smartphone users, CEO John Chen promises that a new handset, the BlackBerry Classic, will reignite their love of the brand.

Once upon a time the words BlackBerry and smartphone were interchangeable. It was the must-have handset for anyone that wanted to stay connected and seem relevant on the go. Owning one was so addictive that it earned the nickname CrackBerry. Then something called the iPhone happened and everything changed.

In its attempts to keep up with a host of new competitors, BlackBerry attempted to mimic what others were doing -- such as adopting multi-touch screens -- and forgot what it was that had made their handsets so indispensable in the first place: a physical keyboard.

As Chen himself admits in an open letter to the BlackBerry community published this week. "It's tempting in a rapidly changing, rapidly growing mobile market to change for the sake of change -- to mimic what's trendy and match the industry-standard, kitchen-sink approach of trying to be all things to all people," he writes, before countering with: "But there's also something to be said for the classic adage, if it ain't broke don't fix it."

BlackBerry still has a surprisingly strong following as Kim Kardashian's recent appearance at the Re/Code Code/Mobile conference demonstrated (she maintains a stock of three BlackBerry Bold handsets just for emailing because of their keyboards), and Chen believes that going back to basics and launching a new phone built around a QWERTY keyboard will be the key to keeping fans happy and bringing consumers back to the fold too.

"We are committed to earning your business -- or earning it back, if that's the case. In the weeks ahead, BlackBerry will be sharing more details about Classic that we think you'll like," said Chen.

The company has set up a special microsite for registering interest in the handset and making pro orders and will be releasing further information about the phone in the coming weeks.