Twenty years ago it was a symbol of influence. An indication that you were on-trend and with the times. Blackberry phones were the must-have device, the elite brand that pushed its way into a market otherwise dominated by Nokia in the new mobile market.
Now it is effectively obsolescent. The Canadian company has turned off support for its classic smartphones which “will no longer reliably function”, including for calls and texts.
Blackberry phones were introduced in 2000 and soared in popularity among upwardly mobile professionals because it enabled them to write and send emails on the move on a miniature QWERTY keyboard.
At its peak in 2009 and 2010, BlackBerry had nearly 20% of the global smartphone market – with an even higher percentage in the US – selling more than 50m smartphones a year.
But the emergence of Apple’s more versatile iPhone in 2007, together with Android devices, spelled the end for BlackBerry which suffered from a failure to adapt to the new touchscreen technology.
By 2013, as the mobile world changed to iOS and Android, BlackBerry was struggling. It shipped just 5.9 million phones in the second quarter of that year, compared with the 9 million iPhones that Apple sold in the first few days after its launch.
The result was a a billion-dollar loss and in that same year it launched what would become its last version of its smartphone.
The latest announcement follows a decision taken in 2016 that no more smartphones would be produced as the company joined Nokia in transitioning into a software business. It has been working with, for instance, Ford and Jaguar Land Rover to develop software for their vehicles.
Those who have continued to use BlackBerry 7.1 and the earlier BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.1 will be affected by the latest statement, although Android-powered models will be unaffected.
It had already announced that unsupported systems will stop receiving software updates.
Apart from affecting core operations, such as the ability to send and receive calls (including to emergency services) and texts, data usage may also be affected, while applications such as BlackBerry Link, Desktop Manager, World, Messenger and Blend will have ‘limited functionality’.
In 2020, a Texas firm named OnwardMobility said it would be making a 5G Android-powered BlackBerry device with a full QWERTY keyboard. However, the device was due last year and has yet to appear.