Blackberry smartphones are officially dead. From WhatsApp announcing it will discontinue support for Blackberry followed by Facebook, the Priv’s poor market performance to the United States Senate declaring it will no longer issue BlackBerry smartphones within Senate and Blackberry declaring it will no longer produce the Blackberry Classic. The Canadian company just couldn’t take it anymore.
BlackBerry, which a decade ago was among the largest smartphone makers, has struggled to keep pace with modern handsets produced by rivals such as Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android operating system. Now, Blackberry says it will outsource hardware development to partners.
In May, the company’s chief executive, John Chen, said he would know by September whether the hardware business was likely to become profitable. This followed several efforts in recent years to find new customer niches as its smartphone handset sales continued to stagnate in the face of competition.
Mr. Chen has been candid about the future of Blackberry’s handset business, saying he would consider closing the division if it could not become profitable.
In May, he told Bloomberg that he would know by September whether that was likely. “The first time I made that statement was September a year ago,” said Mr. Chen. Now, the latest announcement takes the company out of the handset market entirely.
But the Waterloo Ontario-based company is not all about waterloo. It has had its fair share of glory days. Sit back as we take you on a bumpy Blackberry smartphones throwback.
Blackberry Smartphones: History in Pictures
March 2002: The Blackberry 5810
Technology company Research In Motion (RIM) first started selling pagers in 1996 and later released the Blackberry 5810 – a phone, email, and mobile web-browsing device with a full Qwerty keyboard. Described as one of the first smartphones, it was able to make and receive calls when connected to a headset.
This was followed by other monochromatic models: BlackBerry 6210 (2004) with a trackwheel on the side and a ‘Qwerty’ keyboard, WI-Fi equipped BlackBerry 7270 (2005), the BlackBerry Charm 7100T (2004) with a keyboard that contained two letters per key and the BlackBerry Pearl 8100 (2006) that came with a trackball to replace the trackwheel.
2007: BlackBerry Curve 8300
Now featuring a color screen, camera, and an improved mobile web browser, Blackberry handsets became popular in the business world and soon enjoyed celebrity endorsements from the likes of Kim Kardashian West and President Obama. It became one of RIM’s best-selling BlackBerrys.
In June 2007, Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s iPhone. The device is said to have changed the course of the smartphone industry by introducing downloadable apps and bringing an easy-to-use touchscreen device to the mass market. The iPhone was the first mobile phone to feature a “full” web browser, something Blackberry executives are reported to have thought would cause mobile phone networks to collapse.
2008: BlackBerry Storm, BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 and a BlackBery Bold 9000
Under pressure from mobile networks to develop an “iPhone killer”, a series of Blackberry smartphones were produced — the Storm, Pearl and the Bold. Then Storm which was meant to be the direct “iPhone Killer”, featured a touchscreen that physically clicked when pressed, to emulate the feeling of the firm’s famous keyboards.
The device ran Blackberry OS – the firm’s legacy operating system, which had been built before the advent of downloadable apps. Critics said the Storm was glitchy and slow, and its web browser paled in comparison to the iPhone’s offering.
Despite the Storm’s poor reception, Blackberry continued to grow its market share until 2010.
The company launched its Playbook tablet, its first device to ditch Blackberry OS in favour of a new, modern operating system. The Playbook was marketed as a larger-screen “companion” for the firm’s smartphones but lacked basic features such as a built-in calendar and email app. By December, the company had written $485m (£370m) off the value of its unsold tablets.
The firm’s chief executives Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie stepped down soon after.
RIM became Blackberry Limited and launched its BB10 operating system, six years after the appearance of the iPhone.
The platform struggled to attract app developers, who were already occupied producing software for Android and iOS and were reluctant to support a third platform. Big-name apps such as Google Maps, Instagram, and Snapchat never officially made it to BB10.
It wasn’t for a lack of effort that BlackBerry faded away. It attempted a comeback in 2013 with the launch of a touchscreen-only smartphone as well as its BlackBerry 10 operating software. However, poor sales pushed the company to consider a potential sale later that year. BlackBerry eventually dropped the sales bid and replaced CEO Thorsten Heins with Chen.