Some people never let BlackBerry go. Their reward? A 2021 comeback

Some people never let BlackBerry go. Their reward A 2021 comeback

It was nearly all over on August 31. BlackBerry owners had known it was coming for six months. TCL, which had been making Android phones under the BlackBerry name since 2017, was out, “no longer selling BlackBerry-branded mobile devices”. Then, just 12 days before the deadline and the latest in a long line of blows to BB phone fans, in steps Texas tech company Onward Mobility with promises of a new 5G Android BlackBerry in 2021.

“I want more information to be released on the new BlackBerry,” Redditor petiteging posted on the r/blackberry subreddit a few weeks later. “I’m dying to know more… been a user for 10 years. I thought they were done for good. By far the best news of 2020 for me.”

Posts on r/blackberry, which was created in October 2008 and currently has 12,000 members, tend to range from spotting BlackBerry’s influence – like the BB trackpad on a Mercedes dashboard – to lots and lots of crowdsourced troubleshooting, to gems like a teenager getting nostalgic over playing Brick Breaker on a BlackBerry Bold in the ‘00s. There’s also a contingent of former RIM employees active in the comments and some proud Canadians on there, too. BlackBerry Limited, formerly Research in Motion, is now an enterprise security software and IOT company and still based in Waterloo, Ontario.

If you’re a current or recent BlackBerry owner in 2020, chances are a couple of things apply: you know exactly what you like about BlackBerry smartphones (and what you hate about the alternatives) and you don’t know many people IRL with the same brand of phone as you. You couldn’t be safer from the ‘iSheeple’ taunts of Android users.

“I think I clung onto the brand many years longer than my friends,” says Keyth David, who works at the Discovery Channel. “I love BB10 and my Passport (2014). If it was being supported still, I’d have kept it. I only left when all the apps makers started to pull out.” Keyth’s first RIM phone was the BlackBerry Pearl (2006), which he bought in 2007. “The Pearl ball in the middle was the main selling point for me – talk about head turns – but also because I love physical keyboards,” he says. “Still to this day I hate touchscreens. Even to the point that I sold an iPhone to buy the BB Classic when that came out.”

YouTube videos with titles like ‘The BlackBerry Key2 after 30 Days!’ and ‘BlackBerry in 2020’ can still rack up more than 200K views for reviewers. Adam Matlock runs the TechOdyssey channel; he still covers the brand and describes himself as an “avid supporter of BlackBerry”. Matlock says that while he doesn’t get requests to cover BB devices, “people can’t let go of BlackBerry phones because they’re iconic, we have memories with them, physical keyboards are irreplaceable when typing on a phone and they have always been synonymous with productivity and communication.”

Matlock, whose favourite BB device is the Classic and most recently used a KEY2 LE (2018), also alludes to the inconveniences and basic user issues BlackBerry fans have had to put up with over the past few years: “We need Blackberry to get on the same page and give us a phone that works, and we don’t have to compromise on, like we have in the past. A good phone experience should be complemented by an amazing keyboard, not limited by it.”

Lara Mingay, founder of LM Communications, had never owned an iPhone as her personal phone until February of this year. As for BlackBerry devices, “I’ve had them all as I’ve used it from the start, the old, blue ones,” she says. Lara finally gave up on the BlackBerry Classic (2014) and had to “succumb” to Apple when “my BB just basically stopped working… it just shut down”.

There was something else, though. The signature QWERTY keyboard was the “perfect business tool” for sending emails on the go, but then influencers became part of her PR remit: “I just had to give in as it was becoming a bit annoying to not view Instagram properly for my job.”

That’s more pro than con for some people who are using the BlackBerry as a way to cut out their worst internet habits. Louis Doré, a sports journalist at the i paper, still uses a BlackBerry KEY2 (2018), the most recent of TCL’s Android/BlackBerry phones, and before that he owned a KeyOne (2017). “The KeyOne is essentially allergic to social with a 3:2 screen ratio, which cuts the top off Instagram Stories. The Facebook app basically hates it, too. The Key2 doesn’t have the random restart issue for me and is pretty perfect as a distraction-free phone,” he says.

“I’d say my love for it is about as deep as my love for a phone can go. It’s weaned me off social media – except Twitter, which I will never stop scrolling. And it makes me feel connected without ever feeling bombarded.”

Louis’ list of his most-used features is pretty compelling; he likes having apps shortcutted to the KEY2 keyboard, the ability to stop applications from accessing the microphone or camera in settings and the battery life can go to three days on one charge. “It’s a bit clunky, pretty behind the times, and at 27-years-old I probably shouldn’t be their target market, but it’s really good at what I want it to do.”

BlackBerry CEO John Chen didn’t dig into his favourite app shortcuts in his recent statement on the new Onward Mobility deal, but he unsurprisingly mentioned the keyboard, stating that the new licensing partnership will deliver “a BlackBerry 5G smartphone device with a physical keyboard” and offering some more general guarantees on security and productivity.

“Yes, I’m a keyboard nutter, which is probably what you thought of BlackBerry owners, isn’t it?” says freelance tech writer Dan Robinson. “The PRIV (2015) is probably the best phone I’ve owned to date, which is why I’ve kept it so long. I got it in 2016 so I’ve had it for four years,” he says. “BlackBerry used to issue regular software updates, but that ran out after a while, of course.” Dan says that, like a lot of people, he mainly uses his phone, which in this case has a slider keyboard, for emails and messaging: “I find the on-screen touch keyboards really annoying.”

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