RIP Blackberry – The Curiously Cool Smartphones That Went Off The Rails
There was a time when Blackberry was relevant. Today, unfortunately, is not one of those times as CEO John Chen announced plans for the company to stop making their own phones.
It’s unfortunate really… Chances are many of you still know your old BBM pins off by heart – the ultimate sign of social exclusivity. And hell, even Tinie Tempah made a reference to the “Bold BB” in his rap – that’s got to be the social status equivalent of reaching heaven… Right?
And let’s not forget, they had some really good phones – pioneering an actually usable mini qwerty keyboard.
Chances are you had a Blackberry 8520
The budget entry point into the Blackberry, this was loved by every young adult who wanted to feel the smartness of an iPhone in an affordable package.
Thanks to the booming app support at the time, this was a great little device for anyone with FOMO over the whole BBM thing.
And then there was the Blackberry Passport
A genuine standout phone from the rest of the competition at the time. This was about the time that Blackberry realised they had a very muddy relationship with the people – were they consumer focussed? Did they just play for business? With this phone, they picked business.
And it shows – this productivity beast was incredible. A 30-hour battery at a time everyone else struggled to get past 10. The 1:1 square aspect ratio display with a 1440x1440 resolution. The patented keyboard with neat new capacitive touch features. It was everything the business market craved for.
But that’s the problem. It didn’t choose an audience from the get go – meaning they fell behind and never stand a chance.
Blackberry stood almost stubbornly by hardware keyboards, even when manufacturers around them were dropping theirs for the monolithic slab we’ve come to know and love, and it bit them hard.
It bit them so hard, in fact, that when they ended up creating capacitive touch phones the audience had already moved on.
If we had to pinpoint a specific turning point of betraying consumer trust, it would be the Blackberry Storm. Nothing bombed quite so spectacularly as a touch screen that physically clicked in with use – going back to the stubborn reliance on button-operated interface.
Positioned as Verizon’s iPhone competitor at the time, it wasn’t going to stand a chance… And since then, they dabbled with touch while keeping their dying grasp on hardware keyboards. While this continued to impress the BB faithful out there, it did nothing for the everyday person.
That relationship is over, and Blackberry waited outside your bedroom window – holding a stereo high and saying “baby, I’ve changed.” But little did they know we were already interested in another – probably talking to them through GIFs on iMessage or something.
So what’s their future? For BB, its software. In Q2, Blackberry more than doubled their software revenue year over year. They’re smart to pop all their eggs into that one basket.
Let’s not forget when they brought BBM to iOS and Android – quickly becoming the number 1 app and bringing back the pin… What a time it was to be alive. Their software chops have been unaffected over the last few years – the only problems consumers have had were with the ridiculous hardware.
And so, join me in waving a final fond farewell to the Blackberry smartphone. It’s been fun.