I’m always wary when marketers use the word “style.” Homestyle biscuits are rarely as flaky and buttery as grandma’s were and family-style meals at Italian restaurants ignore the fact that I am usually there eating an entire lasagna alone. So what am I supposed to think about the Blackberry Style? That it is in the style of a Blackberry? Or that it adds a little style and panache to the Blackberry line? I’d say both of these are true, but I’d also say that the odd flip-up screen is a bit too much for die-hard Blackberry users.
Think about the standard Blackberry. It is a monolith, something so iconic and classic that it cannot be improved upon. There is a keyboard under a large screen and a text-rich interface dedicated to reading email. Millions of “job workers” use them every day to email their “reports” to their “bosses” and IT departments love them because they can quickly and easily set up a mail conduit and send out a fleet of them to their entire organization. There is no room for sentimentality in the Blackberry stable.
Enter the Style, a direct successor to the Torch in that it attempts to change the Blackberry paradigm through an update to the standard BB design language. It is, in short, a flip phone with a full keyboard, something I believe the average BB consumer will fail to cotton to in great numbers.
The Style isn’t RIM’s first flip phone. If you cast your mind back to the Pearl Flip you’ll recall that the Canadians once, a long time ago, tried to turn the BB into a more friendly-looking phone.
Closed, the phone is about four inches long by two and a half inches wide. It is about half an inch thick. Open, it is a full seven inches long. It has a 360×440 internal display and a 240×320 internal display and a standby time rated at 10 days although I saw about three days of heavy email use. The external display shows the current time, incoming calls, and allows you to preview messages.
OS 6 adds a few features to the phone including integration with RSS feeds and social networks as well as a faster, Webkit-based browser and universal search that also connects to the Interwebs for data. The phone has a 624MHz processor that allows for a performance boost when it comes to common tasks including video playback.
It has 512MB onboard memory and includes an 8GB memory card. It supports GPS as well as Blackberry Messenger and, because OS 6 is touch-oriented, it depends on a touch sensitive “trackpad” on the front to interact with the icons and browser.
The keyboard, as I mentioned above, is flat. Really flat. Users of traditional Blackberries will notice this right away. Instead of bulbous little Chiclets, these things look more like little teeth, all in a row. This reduces the space between keys and will upset most die-hard BB users, at least initially.
Who Is This For?
I honestly don’t know. At $99 it can be perceived as an entry-level BB for folks with small pockets, but when you fold this thing out to its full 7-inch glory it’s like holding a Hershey’s bar up to your head. This thing is big and weird.
That said, it’s very well built and exudes what I can only describe as class (or style!). Although I’m outwardly hard on the appearance, this is one of the nicer BB phones I’ve seen in a while.
It is clear that this isn’t for the average BB user. First, the fact that you need to flip it open points to a user less intent on reading email. The value of the standard BB line is that your email is always available. There is no muss, no fuss, nothing to open or close. With the Style you’re adding a step to the process.
Therefore the Style is clearly for someone who wants a BB without the old-fashioned “lump of keyboard” look and feel.
Why Is This Phone Different?
Why should you look into this phone instead of a similarly priced messaging or smartphone? Well, the primary reason would be that this phone runs on Sprint’s CDMA network and is loaded with BB OS 6. Barring those two differentiators, I’m loathe to recommend this phone over a similarly appointed smartphone, be it in the BB stable or even an Android phone. It is, simply put, a phone you have to love at first sight. Closed it is lumpen and squat and open it is comically large. If you can overlook the “style,” you can probably get used to the rest of the improvements.
The Style has its own specific style, not unlike a homestyle TV dinner. Many of us love TV dinners – the brownie, the little lump of mashed potatoes, the Salisbury steak. And many of us don’t. The Blackberry Style can be just as good – and just as polarizing.