Blackberries Going Dark

If you're still carrying one of these, it'll be a brick in three days.

CNET (“BlackBerry to end support for its classic phones on Jan. 4“):

BlackBerry phones have been declared dead many times over since falling from the height of their popularity more than a decade ago, but next month the company will finally end service for its legacy devices.

Starting Jan. 4, phones running BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry 7.1 software or earlier will “no longer reliably function” on carrier networks or over Wi-Fi, the company said in a support FAQ. This means the phones will no longer be able to use data, make phone calls, send text messages or make 911 emergency calls.

To be clear, the BlackBerry phones impacted are old. BlackBerry 10, the last version of mobile OS released by RIM, came out in 2013. RIM discontinued its BlackBerry line in 2016 and shifted its focus to security software under the name BlackBerry Limited.

In 2016, Chinese manufacturer TCL picked up the license for the BlackBerry Mobile brand and released the BlackBerry KeyOne and BlackBerry Key2. These phones, which run Android, aren’t impacted by end of service for legacy BlackBerry software and services. TCL, however, stopped making BlackBerry phones in 2020 and said it would support devices until August 2022. Security startup OnwardMobility then picked up the BlackBerry Mobile brand, saying it would release a new 5G BlackBerry Android phone in the first half of 2021. That phone has yet to materialize.

I was very late to the cellphone and smartphone games, being a late adopter of both. My first of the latter, though, was a Blackberry, probably an 8100 series, somewhere around 2006. It was a huge advance for me to be able to read emails away from home or office.

I really had no desire to move to an iPhone, which I did in 2009 with the 3GS, but did so when the Atlantic Council, for whom I then worked and was paying my monthly bill, went from a bring your own device policy to company-issued phones. Because they were going with AT&T, which at the time was considered an inferior network but had exclusive rights to iPhones, I went ahead and took the plunge and never looked back. The family just upgraded to the 13 series for Christmas.

The Blackberry has long since been something of a relic, as it was terrible for surfing the web, although for years it was actually better than the iPhone as an email device. And, I suppose, if you haven’t upgraded your phone since 2013, it’s hard to complain that it’s now obsolete. Then again, if you bought one in late 2016, it seems a bit premature for it to no longer be able to so much as make a call to 9-1-1.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I followed a similar pathway and was at first wholly unconvinced by the lack of a real keyboard on the iPhone.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I swore long ago that I would never have a phone smarter than me and I haven’t upgraded in… I really don’t know. When my present phone finally becomes obsolete, and if I am unable to get anything other than a smart phone, my wife will be very disappointed.

  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    I went straight from Nokia flip phones to iPhones. When Apple comes up with the implantable chip – iBrain? – I’m ready.

  4. Kathy says:

    I liked the keyboard on the Blackberry. That was also the device where I first played audiobooks.

  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    When Apple comes up with the implantable chip

    Likely delivered surreptitiously in a vaccine.

  6. Mister Bluster says:

    When I was an employee of Verizon Communications (not Verizon Wireless) management relieved us of our flip phones and our 13 in. screen laptops that ran Windows -0.0 (crap on a chip, had to spend time every morning downloading yet more security patches from the VZ LAN) and replaced the laptops and phones with the much worse Blackberry.
    Miserable device. Screen was the size of a postage stamp and I had to use a pen or a pencil to press the tiny keys or I would hit more than one at a time.

  7. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The inerrant prophet Matt Groening predicted the eyePhone.

  8. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Hah! You just reminded me how many people were predicting the swift death of the iPhone because, after all, who wants a phone without a physical keyboard!? There was also some doomsaying because at its introduction, Jobs barely mentioned its ability to make phone calls. A good number interpreted this as a sign it wasn’t very good. All this focus on gimmicky apps and games were just a smokescreen, because who is really going to use apps after the novelty wears off? Surf the web on a tiny screen? That’s why we have computers!

  9. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I switched because I moved to a less expensive phone service that doesn’t have any flip phones in its inventory, but I had moved on my (now discontinued 2nd number) to a smart-type phone because the replacement for the phone that had just died was $50 higher than the cost of the android phone. I hope not, but you may find the same situation cost-wise when yours dies. d

    I would switch back tomorrow, and now that I’m used to paying $200 for a Motorola, the shock wouldn’t be as dramatic.

  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: Still surf the web mostly on a computer. In addition to the tiny screen being not particularly amenable to my fairly rapidly fading vision, the tremor in my hands makes the touchscreen keyboard on my phone a marginable choice, at best, for typing URLs–normally requiring 3 or more attempts.

    On the other hand, I realize that I’m very much an outlier. Just noting that we exist.

  11. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: It definitely took me awhile to get the hang of the non-keyboard keyboard.

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I still use a laptop (usually projected onto a large monitor) as much as possible but do read more and more on my iPhone. When the Plus models came out, I believe with the 6, I sized up, mostly because of the extended battery life, and really liked it. When the X came out, I was pissed because their best phone had a small screen and I skipped three generations of upgrades before finally succumbing to the 11 Pro Max two years ago and now the 13 Pro Max.

  12. EddieInCA says:

    I went from a Motorola flip phone (StarTac) to a Treo. I wanted the keyboard, but didn’t like the blackberry. I stayed with several models of Treos until I switched to the Iphone in 2010. Now I run 100% Apple. Macbook Pro, Ipad Pro, and Iphone X. I’m usually two upgrades behind for the simple fact that my phone does everthing I need it to so why upgrade until I absolutely have to. I upgraded from my Iphone5 to the 8, and then to the X. I probably should upgrade to the 13 about now.

  13. grumpy realist says:

    Am I the only one left who uses my iPhone to use it mainly to make phone calls? Text is useful, particularly when I’m in a 1/2 bar signal zone. I find the maps/compass useful; I’m constantly quarrelling with the specialised apps (they’re either always yelling at me to download a new version of the app or a new version of the iPhone operating system). About the only non-iPhone app I use are flash cards of whatever language I’m practicing. And the rest of the apps just sit there and stare at me.

  14. Kathy says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I guess it depends on each person.

    I’m kind of a computer-friendly user. I’ve had computers, of one kind or another, since the mid-1980s, long before the commercial internet. Today’s “phones” are just tiny, portable computers.

    That said, mostly I play games, read articles* and sometimes ebooks, play audiobooks and podcasts, some casual web browsing, and play games. That’s only on my personal phone without a SIM chip or phone line. The company phone, with a line and mobile data, I use for calls, texts, to check email, and Waze, plus Uber for very occasional use (corporate account), and a few other apps I mostly never use.