All Hail the Passing of the BlackBerry

It still beats smartphones for getting stuff done

Key Takeaways

  • Classic BlackBerry devices stopped working this week. 
  • I miss the focus and terrific ergonomics of the original BlackBerry models. 
  • One writer even claims to have composed an entire novel on a BlackBerry.
A classic BlackBerry device.

Randy Lu / Unsplash

The BlackBerry is no more, and I may be among the few people to mourn its passing. 

This week, the company stopped supporting its classic devices running BlackBerry 10, 7.1 OS, and earlier. All older BlackBerry devices not running on Android software will no longer be able to use data, send text messages, access the internet, or make calls. 

With its trademark thumb-type keyboard and tiny screen, the BlackBerry ushered in the age of smartphones. Today’s iPhones and Android devices are far more powerful, but they are nowhere near as efficient as the BlackBerry at actually getting work done. 

Corporate Calling Card

The sight of an executive hunched over a BlackBerry symbolized the work grind in the 1990s and 2000s. 

There was a method to this madness. The keyboard on the BlackBerry is a thing of genius, and to this day, I still can’t type as fast or as accurately on a current-generation smartphone. Having physical keys makes all the difference. I once edited an issue of a magazine at the top of a ski slope using a BlackBerry. 

In some ways, the keyboard on the BlackBerry made it more akin to a laptop than today’s entertainment-centered phones. When you saw someone on a BlackBerry, you knew they were working and not surfing YouTube. 

You can, of course, hook up a Bluetooth keyboard to a modern smartphone, thereby giving you access to what’s essentially a whole laptop. But this setup is clumsy compared to the stripped-down minimalism of the BlackBerry. 

Fewer Distractions 

The secret to the success of BlackBerry was more than just its keyboard. Early models offered a monochrome screen and stripped-down operating system that focused on reading and writing emails. 

The walled garden of the BlackBerry world meant that you were trapped in a zone where all you could do was focus on writing. In some ways, the BlackBerry was the author's phone. One South African writer claims to have written an entire novel on his BlackBerry. 

The BlackBerry also offered legendary durability and battery life. Journalist and author Patrick Blennerhassett used a BlackBerry while traveling through India to research a non-fiction book about the country. 

A senior adult using a smartphone while holding a dog in their lap.

Maskot / Getty Images

"As a journalist, I'm out in the world running around, and even in India, I remember dropping my phone on the street a couple of times, and it just takes a licking and keeps on going," Blennerhassett wrote on the company's website. "I know it sounds like a pretty basic thing, but having a phone that can take a little bit of physical punishment is a huge bonus for someone like me."

By contrast, the iPhone 12 Pro Max that I use as my daily driver is the antithesis of a focused device. You can send emails if you choose, but you also have to wade through tempting icons for games, movies, and music. 

Once I compose an email on my iPhone, it's rare that I won't be interrupted by some notification, whether a text message or an offer of a discounted food delivery from Seamless. If you want to make your smartphone more like a BlackBerry, there are even guides online on how to strip out unnecessary apps. 

There's even a nascent minimalist phone movement that in some ways resembles the original purpose of BlackBerry. For example, you can buy phones with an e-ink display like the Light Phone that doesn't do much beyond phone calls and important text messages. 

Even though I'm nostalgic about BlackBerry, I haven't used one in over a decade. The world has moved on since the BlackBerry heyday, and you are now expected to be connected through Slack and many social media channels all day long. But if I were forced to write a novel on my phone, I'd still choose a BlackBerry.

Was this page helpful?