BlackBerry signals end of an era as it prepares to pull plug on classic phones

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Tuesday marks the end of an era: BlackBerry will discontinue service on its classic smartphones. So for those still holding on to their QWERTY keyboards, be warned.

In a 22 December statement, the company reminded users of the development, which will affect services for all of its devices not running on Android software, including the BlackBerry 10, 7.1 OS and earlier.

“As of this date, devices running these legacy services and software through either carrier or Wi-Fi connections will no longer reliably function, including for data, phone calls, SMS and 9-1-1 functionality,” the statement says.

Boasting a physical keyboard and BBM instant messaging, the BlackBerry was once a powerplayer in the cell phone world. In the first decade of the 2000s, the devices were toted with pride by white-collar professionals and then-President Barack Obama alike.

At its peak in 2009 and 2010, BlackBerry owned nearly 20% of the global smartphone market – with an even higher percentage in the US–selling more than 50m smartphones a year.

But with the rise of the iPhone and Android touchscreen devices, the phone eventually fell out of style. And unless it warrants a reboot like the T-Mobile Sidekick or Motorola Razr, it seems that BlackBerry’s moment in the sun has passed.

When the iPhone first launched in June 2007, it didn’t immediately overtake BlackBerry’s reign. With an elite status and user-friendly reputation, businesspeople especially, stayed loyal to the product. BlackBerry’s BBM instant messaging system also remained a user favorite feature, boasting the same cachet and ease of iMessage today.

Soon, though, BlackBerry’s technology fell behind and users began to make the move away from physical keyboards. BlackBerry launched a series of poorly received devices as the iPhone leveled up and Androids became viable alternatives. After the release of the iPhone 4, Apple’s phone sales passed BlackBerry’s for good.

By the time BlackBerry’s technology began to catch up, it was out of fashion. Working professionals, one of BlackBerry’s core customer bases, even began to make the switch to iPhones and Androids. In September 2012, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer snubbed the devices by asking that employees transition “from BlackBerries to smartphones”.

By 2016, BlackBerry announced it would outsource its product and no longer manufacture its own phones. Instead, the company made a move to pivot into software, similar to Nokia, another former cellular giant.

Today, BlackBerry bills itself primarily as “an enterprise software and cybersecurity company” developing software solutions for corporations. The company still employs thousands of workers and pulled in around a billion dollars in revenue in 2020, according to Statista.

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