QWERTY and quirky — Blackberry’s later Android incarnations retained the famous keyboard. | Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
Dear friends, we’re gathered here today to mourn the death of that once-beloved monarch of the mobile world: BlackBerry. And, yes, I realize that this is not the first time we’ve announced the death of the company or its devices (and, for reasons I’ll explain below, it likely won’t be the last) but this is a very definite ending for legacy BlackBerry hardware.
As of January 4th, any phones or tablets running BlackBerry’s own software — that’s BlackBerry 7.1 or earlier, BlackBerry 10, or its tablet operating system BlackBerry PlayBook — will “no longer reliably function,” says the company. Whether on Wi-Fi or cellular, there’ll be no guarantee you can make phone calls, send text messages, use data, establish an SMS connection, or even call 9-1-1. That sounds pretty darned dead to us.
If, for whatever inexplicable reason, you or someone you love is still using an original BlackBerry, then we recommend you make it a New Year’s resolution to pry it gently but firmly from their hands. From January 4th onwards, it’ll be little more than a paperweight. (Though BlackBerry devices running Android will continue to work as normal.)
Image: The Verge
An elegant phone for a more civilized age: the BlackBerry 8310.
As alluded to above, though, this might not be the last BlackBerry death we announce. The company has experienced a slow and torturous decline since its dominant era in the late 2000s, when its QWERTY keyboards and reputation for security gave it a 50 percent market share in the US, but such a storied brand has to be wrung for its last dregs of value. (Its parent company, BlackBerry Limited, has pivoted to selling cybersecurity software.)
BlackBerry tried to reboot itself in 2013 with a new OS, BlackBerry 10 (which failed), and in 2015 switched to making Android devices (which failed, too). Then, in 2016, it started licensing its brand to third-party manufacturers like TCL. This is still how the BlackBerry name lingers on, and in 2020, a Texas firm named OnwardMobility said it would be making a 5G Android-powered BlackBerry device with a full QWERTY keyboard to release in 2021.
Well, the clock is rather ticking on that one (OnwardMobility hasn’t shared any news or updates on its website since January 2021), but whether that particular effort lives or dies, it will at least give us a chance to gather again for another funeral. We really must get together some time under kinder circumstances. How are your aunt and uncle anyway?