Finding an old phone in a drawer and turning it on to see if it still works is one of life’s great pleasures (we never said we’re exciting folk here at Nerdshala).
But if said phone is a Blackberry, save yourself the trouble – it stopped working on January 4. BlackBerry hasn’t made a new non-Android phone since 2016. It has not released an operating system yet. And now that service has been discontinued, which means no phone calls, no emails, no messages… nada.
In fairness, most BB owners have moved to iOS or Android over the years – with the absence of Windows Phone, it’s pretty much a binary option these days.
Even die-hard BlackBerry fans had to migrate to Android: in later years, a licensing deal with China’s TCL kept the brand name alive, with Google empowering the backend with the OS.
But now, the Life Support machine has been discontinued and older BlackBerry devices “will no longer function reliably,” Blackberry says. So let’s get nostalgic for a minute and look at five things BlackBerry got fantastically right — and five things it went horribly wrong.
5 things BlackBerry phones get right
1. ‘Look at Me’ Light
Sometimes the little things have the biggest impact. This was never more true than a blinking notification light – something we still crave for today. Android phones may serve up an always-on display, but nothing comes close to our retro rose-tinted eyes.
ignore it? no chance. You couldn’t ignore it. Itching that was itchy. who wanted us? Was it important? Only one way to find out..
Flashing green means ‘Relax – you’re online’, blue for Bluetooth (obviously) or “Oi!” Red to say.
And you can also customize it. In the days when anything beyond polyphonic ringtones was a luxury, this was the gold standard in personalization.
2. Best Keyboard
“They all have these keyboards that are out there whether you need them or not,” the Apple watcher unveils the iPhone, crushing competitors and raising the first nail in Blackberry’s metaphorical coffin. “How do you solve this?”
Key point: Blackberry users didn’t want to solve this.
The keys were tactile, with a satisfying click. Small, but not too small. We could use a hand or two and he always seemed to know what we wanted to say. Even in later years, after the touchscreen was tinkered with and failed, the keyboard returned to the Blackberry because it was exactly what users wanted. Welcome back, old friend.
Tried other devices – Motorola’s Q go, HTC’s unfortunate Facebook uncle phone and a few others too. But they were always lousy copycats. Rumor had it that the keys resembled the seeds of a Blackberry – hence the company’s name. And once some people got used to the sweet taste of this fruit, it became difficult for them to give up.
3. On Message
A proprietary messaging service to lock down users. Where have we heard this before? No Apple, you are off the hook. Because the rim came first.
For many of us, BBM was Reasons to get Blackberry. A locked down ultra-secure messaging service that allows users to DM friends or groups and send files securely. Business users love it – teens and millennials, even more. Suddenly, ‘what’s your pin’ was the teenage greeting of choice from people other than just thugs.
And if you don’t get a reply to your message right away, you can ping (basically annoy the person who was ignoring you with the digital equivalent of constantly poking you in the face.)
But time waits for no one. BlackBerry’s refusal to open up to other platforms eventually helped propel it into irrelevance. With cross platform alternatives like WhatsApp, by the time BBM decided to make itself available elsewhere, it was too late. There’s a lesson there: don’t wait.
4. Case in point
These days, you are lucky to get a charger in the box of your smartphone. For all the company’s corporate faults, generosity was not one.
Unboxing gave us a wealth of goodies: from a classy leather holster engraved with the BlackBerry logo to a belt clip (because the naughty) to a few more mundane extras like sync cables and CD ROMs.
Few markets really pushed the metaphorical boat out there—including an official chrome rim charging stand and a polishing cloth.
Blackberries were premium devices and by the standards of the day they were well priced. There was no expectation that customers should be nickel and dim on top. The market of 2022 could learn a thing or two.
5. Maximum Exposure
There are some things that money cannot buy: eternal life, true love, real class. And an endorsement from Oprah. One of the richest stars in the world, she doesn’t say she likes something unless she wants to.
And she couldn’t keep quiet about her Blackberry.
In fact, Oprah included the BlackBerry 7105T as one of 2005’s ‘favourite things’ in bags of gifts she gave to her audience as part of the annual Thanksgiving show. Some CEOs will sell a kidney for this exposure.
This was arguably the beginning of RIM (Blackberry’s parent company) moving from corporate to consumer in a big way, with RIM devices appearing in the hands of everyone from Kim Kardashian to President Obama (who has The custom ultra-secure version was designed.) Not to mention the demand among Joe and the Jane public.
This was before the days of the ‘gram, before impressing as we know it – and the Blackberry making the biggest impact of them all – on primetime US TV.
5 things BlackBerry phones went wrong
1. App- Totally Sad
BlackBerry App World was the wettest and craziest app store you’ll find on a phone. What a lethargy
Ironically, BlackBerry has always been open-ended – allowing external apps to be installed with relative ease. But Apple and Android gave us a curated, managed storefront. Rim followed suit and failed, breaking our hearts in the process.
Some apps — like Screen Muncher (a fun screenshot app and a particular favorite of ours) — provided additional functionality to the BlackBerry. But it was like walking through the banks of a filthy river to find a diamond—and not even the shiny plastic coming through.
Still, as we wrote, apps sell phones just like phones. You lose developers, you lose markets. It wasn’t worth the devs’ time – and it wasn’t worth ours either.
2. Tactile Trauma
It’s not the winning, it’s the participating that matters, isn’t it? Wrong. If you don’t have a good idea – stay away. But the rear sight is a wonderful thing.
With increasing pressure from iPhone sales on powerful carriers in the US (these were the days when the iPhone was exclusive to Cingular, now AT&T), Verizon was putting pressure on BlackBerry to come up with a competitor.
If in doubt, just say no. Blackberry’s response: “Sure, there’s a storm in here.” And never was a phone name more appropriate. We hate to say that this was one of the worst phones ever. But it was one of the worst phones ever.
The idea was simple – a slab like the iPhone. But built in a hurry and with a fraction of the R&D investment. The keyboard preferred by BlackBerry users was gone and replaced with an on-screen version, which required the entire screen to be pressed for every touch. Yes, it was as painful as it sounded.
It was a disaster from a user interface perspective, and a disaster for RIM’s bottom line when phones broke into the thousands and Verizon demanded RIM pay to repair them.
An unfortunate Storm 2 followed, but it didn’t go wrong, and things got worse with BlackBerry’s later PlayBook getting into the tablet space. Launching a device that initially couldn’t play BlackBerry staples like email, contacts, and calendars properly without a BlackBerry phone was a universe away from the all-in-one convenience of the iPad, which by then was well established. It was over In the minds of many people the impression that the rim has been lost has been confirmed.
3. Crack Attack
Blackberries were fun – but they were also addictive. The term ‘crackberry’ was coined as a joke term, implying that these devices hooked users up like a Class A drug. But the compulsion was real for many. They just couldn’t put them down.
In fairness, before the arrival of the Blackberry, all phones could actually play Snake and send an SMS. Creating a ringtone by systematically typing in a bunch of numbers didn’t elicit a dopamine response in the brain like getting a quick reply to your email, which you were incredibly able to send while riding on the bus.
So it would not be fair to put all the blame here on the feet of the rim. We found something new and exciting and we loved it. But the user could barely switch off. And that lure of the flashing red notification light fueled the desire to constantly check notifications—something that’s still prevalent today with both iOS and Android offering options and suggestions to reduce screen time. Crackberry’s legacy lives on, if not for the right reasons.
Pride comes before fall, as they say. And Blackberry learned it the hard way. To stay on top, you can’t stand still but Rim found itself doing just that.
When the iPhone launched, it couldn’t give us push email (it couldn’t even let us copy and paste!) The Microsoft-powered Exchange Server (a favorite of the corporate world) was thought to be available on an iOS device. There were no external apps, while the Blackberry allowed users to easily install programs downloaded from the web. And the keyboard felt harder to use than the tested and liked Blackberry board.
“We’ll be fine,” co-owner Mike Lazaridis reportedly said at the time. famous last Words. By that time Apple and Google were pinching the heels of Blackberry.
And as soon as Steve Jobs opened the iPhone…