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Goodbye, BlackBerry, the zombie phone maker

BlackBerry KEY2
BlackBerry KEY2 (Image credit: Android Central)

I cut my smartphone teeth on a BlackBerry Curve. Plenty of others did, too. And on February 3, 2020, it all ended when TCL, the current licenser and manufacturer of BlackBerry Mobile phones, announced that it would stop selling any and all BlackBerry devices as of August 2020. That means you shouldn't buy one today, tomorrow, or ever.

Really, though, BlackBerry died when the company decided to sell off its hardware manufacturing business. Or it died when it tried too late to compete with Android and iOS with BlackBerry 10. Or it died when it released flawed products like the BlackBerry Storm. No matter how you look at it, BlackBerry as a smartphone company died long before today.

And I, for one, am going to miss it — a lot.

I had every Android-powered BlackBerry built by TCL and powered by the Waterloo company's own Android software, and despite all the flaws, I thought they all were good phones. Not just good Android phones or good BlackBerry phones, but good phones in general. Without BlackBerry, smartphones might be very different than they are today.

There never was a perfect BlackBerry. But there were some really good ones.

Each was flawed — hardware junkies were never going to like the specs, keyboard fans weren't going to want the touchscreen-only models, the KEY series was tall and awkward to use one-handed because of it, and the list goes on. But each also had qualities that made up for it, like BlackBerry Mobile's unique services and some security features that went above and beyond what Google had to offer.

More: I'm switching back to a Pixel because Android 10's privacy features are so important

I absolutely loved my KEY2. If BlackBerry Mobile had the same new permission and app restrictions of Android 10 (or TCL would have just updated the damn thing), I'd still be using it today. I'm one of the small minority of people who wanted a physical QWERTY keyboard and knew how to use it in conjunction with good predictive software. Yes, it was tall and weird before companies like Samsung figured out how to do tall and weird, and it was so top-heavy that one of those finger rings on the back was actually useful, but it made up for it with that keyboard. At least it did for me.

BlackBerry Priv

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

But it's easy to see that the keyboard wasn't enough to keep building them; very few people want actual buttons on the front of their phones nowadays. And that's the big issue — at least one of them. People buying phones in 2020 do not want QWERTY keyboards and do not care enough about mobile security to even look twice at anything with the name BlackBerry on it.

And BlackBerry was never going to build a phone with the latest specs, the best OLED display, amazing cameras, or any of the other things smartphone buyers in 2020 look for when they walk into a store with a fist full of cash. That's not the ultra-conservative BlackBerry way.

There was never going to be a phone with the best specs and the BlackBerry name on it.

I'm not bitter, I'm just a little sad. I don't expect a company to continue building products that don't sell, and I don't expect people to buy anything they don't like or care about. I'm just someone who has used a BlackBerry since the days of the "smart" BlackBerry 850 pager, when the company I worked for handed me one way back in 1999. Monochrome screen, a web browser that hardly worked, and access to your email and calendar at a time when nobody used email or had a web-based calendar.

I've had plenty of other models since — my favorite phone ever was not powered by Android but was a BlackBerry 8800 — and loved some, hated others, but had to leave once I tried a T-Mobile G1. I thought that was the day BlackBerry died for me until the Priv came along. I think it's still a great phone, no matter what anyone tries to tell me.

Great, but not great enough to keep the name BlackBerry alive. Goodbye BlackBerry. All of us will miss you even if some of us don't realize it.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

46 Comments
  • My first "smartphone" was the Nextel "Blueberry" the 7750i - I still have it and it still powers up. I went to AT&T to get the 8820 and had every major release, including the Z10 and Z30, until the Priv that you and I will never agree about (it was that processor - try running maps and a podcast while having the charger plugged in). After the 4th take back to AT&T I got a Samsung and migrated from Crackberry to AC. I'll never forget standing on a coffee farm in Colombia talking to my office on AIM on my 9700 and thinking WOW- this is the future!
  • The reason BlackBerry died in Australia was because of the threat they presented to the revenue stream of the Telcos
    BlackBerry had their own sever so by using 'BlackBerry Bridge' users were able to avoid data download costs.
    Once the Telcos became aware of this they withdrew them from sale and launched a verbal campaign against the product.
    My first and probably the best smartphone of their day!
  • BlackBerry Bridge didn't avoid data cost? Even if you used Bridge to share you phones data connection with a PlayBook... you still used data. And back then data plans were measured in MB. It did cut out having to have a second account.... much the same that hotpots allow you to link other devices without having a cellular account on all of them.
  • Sad day indeed 😔 An incredible legacy in the mobile space particularly if you include bbm. Will miss you blackberry!
  • My first smartphone was the Curve 9300 and I loved that thing. BBM was great back in the day and I was amazed that I could use MSN messenger on the go! Also had a normal headphone jack and dedicated music buttons! I had WiFi calling years before any other manufacturer did! I still miss the physical keyboard and wish Blackberry had made an updated Priv with a decent processor. I was such a blackberry fan that I even got a playbook (after a big discount!) Which was a lovely feeling tablet that was ruined by almost no apps and no way to watch things like Netflix. I hope one day someone resurrects blackberry, like with Nokia, because I'm always a fan of the underdog!
  • Always my favourite. If they had produced a successor to the Motion I'd still be with them.
  • 7210 back in '03, up through Pearls, Curves, Bolds, Torches, Z10, Z30, Classics, Passports, a KeyOne, even the early tablet Playbook. Through trackwheels, trackballs, trackpads, touchscreens. . . . Maybe none of them perfect but for a time they were the best available productivity devices. My personal peak was the Bold 9000 (PKB perfection, nearly). There were times when I could move more email faster on my Blackberry than we could on our desktops. They did it all before there was much of a market but just never recovered from the move to touchscreens.
  • I for one will continue to use my KeyOne until the hardware fails... Can type while continually looking at the screen not something I can do with a glass slab... I think TCL did a fantastic job with their phones and captured the spirit of the Blackberry brand and the whole user experience for me was near perfect. Being a business user and needing to write a lot of emails on the go there was and is no better tool for doing this... Not to mention the two day battery, which meant I never had to carry a battery pack... Great article, which sums up my feelings exactly...
  • When that KEYone goes out, I recommend a KEY2 LE
  • Apple and Google would've existed with or without BlackBerry. Point is, we would've gotten to where we are today, even without BlackBerry..... I don't even want their software on my Pixel 4 XL.
  • I wouldn't mind Google's Pixel's software on my KEY2 LE though. But really, I'd prefer Oxygen OS
  • Great write up. I feel the same way. But at least Android security has improved a lot with Android 10. It will make my transition to a virtual keyboard easier. Lets hope Google doesn't F up Pixel 5, or Surface Duo ends up being as good device. Until the fall, I will be rocking my Key2 and hope that TCL at least honour the monthly updates until August...although I don't expect they will. RIP PKB!
  • How does the added security of Android 10 have anything to do with typing on glass vs keys? Typing on glass will remain a stale experience at best, where the user is forced to stare at the damn virtual keyboard when typing in order to get anything right, and rely on autocorrect to prevent the keyboard from inputting a mess.
  • I just meant that if I can't have PKB anymore, then at least I will always have the latest OS with monthly security updates, and the ability to pick and choose which apps can have access to things.
  • They now go the way of windows mobile defunct brand.
  • Will use my KEY2 for as long as I can. Have the Pixel and after 2 days of using it for work, switched back to my KEY2. Sad day.
  • The Pixel has good software, but that's not worth much when you just want to type accurately and more importantly, enjoy the typing experience.
  • Good article, totally agreed.
    Really a sad day !
    I was using BlackBerry phones since 2005 until recently that I have bought a Note 10+.
    Unfortunately for all of us physical keyboard fans , seems that the market become extremely small and people prefer a bigger screen than a button keyboard.
  • We could have both if someone made a slider follow-up to the Priv
  • Been a Blackberry user for over 15 years until I moved on to the Pixel 3XL last year. I sadly saw this coming and wished it never did I always loved every Blackberry I owned! The experience just always felt right to me! Gone are the days where you asked for a girls "BBM" in a club to try and "pick her up" because that was the "cool" thing to do! How times have changed! I will always miss you Blackberry! Farewell!
  • Oh my, Blackberry. Believe it or not, two days before the news broke, that TCL stops selling Blackberry phones, I was checking the web for any info on the KEYthree. 🙄 I am one of the guys who never felt comfortable using an onscreen digital keyboard. I bought in the Moto Z line because I had high hopes for a qwertz mod. Well, seems that companies can't make it happen, these days. As a customer I am not willing to accept too many flaws. I do want really good specs and cameras when I have to pay more than 500 USD. This said, my absolute dream phone would be an Android based Blackberry PassPriv. Yes, you read that right. Take the dimensions and quality of the passport and make it fullscreen. Add a Priv style slider keyboard to it and yeehaw. For me the passport was the most beautiful phone of the last decade. I love it! Well, it seems that there haven't been enough of my kind. And yes, this is sad 😔 _mH
  • Get the BlackBerry suite of apps for $0.99 a month on the Play Store. You'll get the best email handler (the hub), the simplest password manager, and a bunch of other stuff. While it lasts, those are dependent of BlackBerry, the software company, and these apps are not that update or debugging needy. For 2 years I've been rocking the BlackBerry flavor on my Pixel 2XL. 🙂
  • While I reluctantly put away my Blackberries as daily drivers, I still haven't completely broken the habit as I use BlackBerry Hub+ on my Note 10+ to handle MS Exchange email, calendar, etc. It still is the best.
  • I remember when I first got my hands on a friend's Blackberry Curve 8700 with the trackwheel. I remember how refreshing it felt to use it. It was so different from everything else at the time. I was using Windows phone at the time and I knew that a BB was going to be my next device. My first official BB I purchased was a Torch 9800. I absolutely loved it. Then one of the greatest (if not the greatest) BB came along; the Bold 9900. I was just in love with that device but looking back on it now, I was behind the times. That was when the iPhone 4 came out and they had FaceTime. The front facing camera became a new thing. I should have known then but my love for BlackBerry was in full swing. Then BB10 came out. I thought that was when they would get with the times but it was too late, they let the competition get too far ahead. That was the official end to BB in my opinion. At least there is a little BlackBerry left with their software that I use like email, the vkb, and calender. Thanks for the great memories BlackBerry.
  • I'm mostly sorry for the employees and the incredible talent pool that BlackBerry wasted...while other companies basically swooped in and took their share. All that education, training and experience just lost...or worse, pushed out the door by BlackBerry itself. TCL and BlackBerry Mobile do not equal BlackBerry/RIM...so I won't miss them at all. It's like crying over a cheap copy while forgetting about the real loss of the original. RIM/BlackBerry was once upon a time a pioneer in telecomunications, bold and innovative, a hotbed of creativity, imagination and I'd say transformative power. But it ended up being undone by mediocrity, incompetence, greed and just plain stupidity. What will ultimately happen to the remaining entity of BlackBerry Ltd., remains to be seen, but it will be of little to no concern for the average consumer. What Canadians did with and to BlackBerry is similar to another one of those head-scratching historical moments, the Avro Arrow...look it up and you will see... PS It's quite telling that the DTEK 50 and 60 as well as the BlackBerry Motion are barely mentioned if at all...
  • The author of this article is a TOTAL MORON and should keep to writing childrens story books...
  • Hey Gus...not cool what you posted.
  • My next will be titled Gus and the TOTAL MORON save the world.
  • That'd make for some entertaining cover illustrations =)
  • Do you think the Hub Suite will go away? Using it on my S10 is great. I hope Blacberry licenses or does something with this suite of apps. They are the best in my opinion.
  • Amen. Loved BlackBerry 10 and the way they did Android.
  • "That means you shouldn't buy one today, tomorrow, or ever." Are you serious Jerry? Just because they won't be making any more of them, doesn't make the KEYone/KEY2/LE any less functional than they are now. Security and OS updates are one thing, but also enjoying the device is another. Typing on glass isn't gonna get any better, and the argument for wanting to type on keys remains the same.
  • I'm still pissed the Key2 was never whitelisted by Verizon (just the "LE" version which isn't what I wanted). I used the KeyOne as my primary email/work phone and really wanted the Key2 to resolve the lag I would get when running just a few apps on the One, but alas it never came to be. And now its gone. Maybe someone else will fill the niche, I really liked having the physical keyboard for my work email.
  • so what is left...There are othe options like the FX Tec Pro 1
  • Good riddance to Blackberry, I never liked them or their phones and refuse to acknowledge them as even pioneers of the smartphone, I credit Apple with kickstarting the smartphone as we know it.
  • No, not "good riddance", that's being selfish.
    Not everyone wants to type on a piece of glass.
    If you didn't like their products, no one was forcing you to buy them. You see, there is something called "options". They're good to have. And having nothing but slabs of glass isn't exactly having "options" Their products offered an alternatives for those who wanted to type efficiently on the go
  • They say 'be careful what you wish for '. Well, here we are with all phones doing most stuff fairly well but none doing communication like a BlackBerry, and none doing security like a BlackBerry. These shiny, slippery, fragile slabs of specs bore me to death.
    Phone tech was good enough five years ago, so quite why people queue round the block to get the latest , pointless spec bump I do not know.
    It is lovely to have a good camera on my phone, and an app store with a zillion apps I'll never want, but I would trade it all for a secure device with a phenomenal keyboard, clear speakers, and the twenty five apps I actually use. Basically, give me a 2020 phone, made in-house at BlackBerry, and call it BOLD. Charge what you like, I'm in.
  • Nice summary....yes we all wanted to what see what was next in devices...still using my KEY2 Red Edition till it dies. By the way...you plced a picture of the PRIV (the second picture) in the article. Still use my PRIV also.
  • Never had a blackberry, but it appears to me that BlackBerry was too caught up in nostalgia. It's great that they had physical keyboards, but they could have easily evolved themselves by offering full slab phones much sooner alongside their physical keyboard offerings. Listening to the market and adapting instead of doubling down on a feature that quickly turned niche. Companies that survive let go of nostalgia and disrupt themselves.
  • Yes it's sad. Like putting down a diseased pet...almost.
    You are not alone with your lament for old tech.
    Heck, I still utilize a windows computer box.
    Love the great big monitor and keyboard but it won't be long before that goes the way of the knuckle drag.
    Time and Tech flows on. We just gather ballast along the way until we sink into the gene pool.
    I feel your pain.
    But new stuff is exciting also, isn't it?
    Later.
  • Looking for fellow Blackberry/RIM nerds? You should visit Blackberry's home town of Waterloo Ontario in Canada... you *still* see people carrying Blackberries on the street here, although admittedly fewer than before. Check out this article in the local paper here today: https://www.therecord.com/news-story/9844007-blackberry-fans-stick-with-... - choice quote: "It’s still totally cool to have a BlackBerry. Now it’s cool in the way retro things become cool again" (uh no... no it's not)
  • Blackberry Curve, Bold had them and loved them. My entire company had them! With the lead in business that Blackberry had, there is not excuse for them being extinct. Those idiot co CEO's refused to see was everyone else knew, touch screens were the future. The went the way of blockbuster because they were not listening to their customers and refused to see the obvious.
  • It's not really about the keyboard vs the full touch, it's more like these idiots spent billions on BB10 instead of releasing the KEYone right after BBOS in 2012
  • How strange that the "best" is almost never the most popular or viable. It's no wonder this happened. Blackberry has been under attack for years. Eventually even the toughest competitors tire of the battle and bow out. Blackberry has been attacked from all sides, undermined, critisized and systematically excluded software developers, carriers, OS developers and the masses ha ve fallen for the notion that touch screen is better somehow than a physical keyboard. For those with this belief, they have likely not spent much time on a physical keyboard - really giving it a chance and they are likely not typing extensively enough for it to matter. In this age of acronyms and LOL speak, it's no wonder almost no-one cares. I for one will continue to use my Key2 until it dies. Am hoping for a change of heart. The slab has got to be the most boring and unimaginative thing ever.
  • "The slab has got to be the most boring thing ever" Well spoken, glad I'm not the only one who feels that way
  • Same. Everyone has their own way of using a phone, it's a shame that there weren't/aren't more folks who need a physical keyboard. It didn't help that even when BlackBerry Mobile came out with phones no one knew they were even available.