Key Tales – The QWERTY Story: Four BlackBerry Iconic Keyboards Compared!
“So just how good is the keyboard in the BlackBerry Classic? How different is it from the Passport/ Bold 9900/ Q10?”
We wish we had a Dollar for every time someone asked us that pair of questions after seeing our first impressions of the BlackBerry Classic, the standard bearer of the ‘proper’ QWERTY keyboard brigade (Hint: we would have made enough to purchase an iPhone 6 Plus 128 GB!)
Well, to be able to answer your question properly, we decided to place the last four BB devices that have sported QWERTY keyboards side by side – the Bold 9900 (2011), the Q10 (2013), the Passport (2014) and the Classic (2015). We took a few pictures too, as you can see, trying to highlight and compare the key arrangement of the four devices (do forgive the dust on some of them – we had to beg, borrow some of them and no, we are not confessing to stealing any of them)
And well, a few interesting facts do pop out:
- BlackBerry for reasons best known to it, has not gone back to the curved key arrangement that we saw in the Bold 9900. This is a bit odd, as a LOT of users have told us they loved it.
- As is utterly apparent, of the four, the 9900 is the most single-hand-friendly device. The Passport is as two-handed as a Rafa Nadal backhand.
- In terms of sheer key size, the Passport seems to boast the biggest keys of the four QWERTY BlackBerry devices. However, these are spread over three rows, rather four or five.
- The Passport might have the biggest alphabet keys, but by some very quaint logic, it has a spacebar that is as big as two of its alphabet keys. In the other BlackBerry QWERTY devices, the space bar is the size of three to four alphabet characters. Perhaps this is why a number of users have found the spacebar of the Passport “too small.”
- The touchpad/D-Pad of the 9900 is actually bigger than that of the Classic. Oh the irony.
- The ‘ridged’ feel (where one corner of the keys is slightly raised) is consistent across the smaller QWERTY devices, but the keys of the Passport feel slightly flatter.
- So call us nitpickers but we love the fact that the 9900 carried clear indications of which keys needed to be pressed to capitalise letters, and which was the delete key. Small touch, but neat touch.
- The alphabet key arrangement is EXACTLY the same on all four devices with Q, A and Z being the first alphabets on the left and P, L and M being the last alphabets on the right. The Passport’s keyboard looks different because it comes with no shortcuts or symbol keys at all, and because its keyboard is bang in the middle of the alphabets, rather than being just below them on the symbols and alt key row.
- You have numbers clearly marked on the keys of the 9900, the Q10 and the Classic. The Passport sticks to letters.
- There are clear metal bars/accents between the rows of alphabets on all keyboards, but the ones on the 9900 are slightly curved, because hey, so is the keyboard
So, well, that’s our summary of the QWERTY keyboards of the last four prominent BlackBerry devices. Which of course leads on to the question that seems to concern most users:
“Which of these is the most comfortable to use?”
Well, we wish we had a simple answer to that one. Going by our own experience, we would say that in the long run, we found the Passport the best of the lot when it came to flat out typing. There is a learning curve there, but once you get the hang of it, you will be banging out really long messages and even writing articles on it (the big display helps of course!). But when it comes to single handed use, we think it is a close finish between the 9900 and the Classic – we were not too impressed by the Q10 making us use the touchscreen again and again, to be honest. Call it habit or maybe sentimentalism but at the moment of writing (and we are working on our Classic review even as you read this), we think that the 9900 has just the edge – or should we call it the curve – over the Classic. That curved layout actually helped.