BlackBerry Is Planning a Comeback. For Some, It Never Left

It was nearly all over on August 31. BlackBerry owners had known it was coming for six months. TCL, which had been making Android phones under the BlackBerry name since 2017, was out, “no longer selling BlackBerry-branded mobile devices.” Then, just 12 days before the deadline and the latest in a long line of blows to BB phone fans, in steps Texas-based Onward Mobility with promises of a new 5G Android BlackBerry in 2021.WIRED UKThis story originally appeared on WIRED UK.“I want more information to be released on the new BlackBerry,” redditor petiteging posted on the r/blackberry subreddit a few weeks later. “I’m dying to know more … been a user for 10 years. I thought they were done for good. By far the best news of 2020 for me.”
Posts on r/blackberry, which was created in October 2008 and currently has 12,000 members, tend to range from spotting BlackBerry’s influence—like the BB trackpad on a Mercedes dashboard—to lots and lots of crowdsourced troubleshooting, to gems like a teenager getting nostalgic over playing Brick Breaker on a BlackBerry Bold in the ’00s. There’s also a contingent of former RIM employees active in the comments and some proud Canadians on there, too. BlackBerry Limited, formerly Research in Motion, is now an enterprise security software and IoT company, and is still based in Waterloo, Ontario.If you’re a current or recent BlackBerry owner in 2020, chances are a couple of things apply: You know exactly what you like about BlackBerry smartphones (and what you hate about the alternatives) and you don’t know many people IRL with the same brand of phone as you. You couldn’t be safer from the “iSheeple” taunts of Android users.
“I think I clung onto the brand many years longer than my friends,” says Keyth David, who works at the Discovery Channel. “I love BB10 and my Passport (2014). If it was being supported still, I’d have kept it. I only left when all the app makers started to pull out.” David’s first RIM phone was the BlackBerry Pearl (2006), which he bought in 2007. “The Pearl ball in the middle was the main selling point for me—talk about head turns—but also because I love physical keyboards,” he says. “Still to this day I hate touchscreens. Even to the point that I sold an iPhone to buy the BB Classic when that came out.”
YouTube videos with titles like “The BlackBerry Key2 After 30 Days!” and “BlackBerry in 2020” can still rack up more than 200,000 views for reviewers. Adam Matlock runs the TechOdyssey channel; he still covers the brand and describes himself as an “avid supporter of BlackBerry.” Matlock says that while he doesn’t get requests to cover BB devices, “people can’t let go of BlackBerry phones, because they’re iconic, we have memories with them, physical keyboards are irreplaceable when typing on a phone, and they have always been synonymous with productivity and communication.”Matlock, whose favorite BB device is the Classic and who most recently used a KEY2 LE (2018) , also alludes to the inconveniences and basic user issues BlackBerry fans have had to put up with over the past few years: “We need Blackberry to get on the same page and give us a phone that works, that we don’t have to compromise on, like we have in the past. A good phone experience should be complemented by an amazing keyboard, not limited by it.”
Lara Mingay, founder of LM Communications, had never owned an iPhone as her personal phone until February of this year. As for BlackBerry devices, “I’ve had them all, as I’ve used it from the start, the old, blue ones,” she says. Mingay finally gave up on the BlackBerry Classic (2014) and had to “succumb” to Apple when “my BB just basically stopped working … it just shut down.”