I remember a time when BlackBerry phones were the epitome of cool. I was in the seventh grade, and any kid who managed to score one of the iconic phones was basically skyrocketed to instant popularity. Back then, even the concept of a regular cell phone was foreign and exciting. But phones with keyboards? They were too cool for words. The ability to send e-mails through a wireless network was unheard of and unparalleled by any other type of device, which led the phones to be nicknamed “CrackBerry” phones because of their addicting nature. They were the smartest phones around.
Ah, those were the days -— before the iPhone and Android takeover. It was a much simpler time. Back then, BlackBerry phones were the easy choice for people who needed to stay connected to their e-mail on the go. BlackBerry’s creator, Research in Motion, made the first steps toward providing cell phone users not just with the ability to make phone calls, but an experience as well.
Fast forward just a few years, however, and purchasing a BlackBerry has become the last choice for potential smartphone consumers. The apps are unimpressive and the operating system leaves much to be desired. The amount of BlackBerry users has dwindled, and other smartphones are threatening the BlackBerry’s very existence. What happened to all of the CrackBerry fanatics?
The company couldn’t keep up with emerging competition, mainly the Apple iPhone and Google Android smartphone devices. According to The Globe and Mail, an error in strategy was responsible for BlackBerry’s demise.
BlackBerry marketed its phones to professionals, but failed to take into account the average consumer. As customers started to look for phones that doubled as entertainment systems, with built in apps, BlackBerry stayed focused on its utilitarian corporate design.
Since the iPhone boom in 2007, the company has been steadily declining in profitability and popularity, leaving its loyal users to wonder at what point to retire their beloved CrackBerry phones. Well, that time might have come at last.
BlackBerry announced Monday that the firm would be taken over by Fairfax Financial, a Canadian insurance company and the company’s largest shareholder. This news came after the announcement that BlackBerry had suffered layoffs of 4,500 employees and a $1 billion quarterly loss as a result of a failed released smartphone.
In other words, the company’s future isn’t looking too bright.
That is, unless Fairfax can reorganize the company’s goals so that it takes charge again. BlackBerry once had the innovation and skills necessary to capture almost half of the U.S. smartphone market share, and although that seems unlikely at this point, who’s to say they can’t do it again?
BlackBerry needs to stop trying to appeal to the average user and focus on their niche market, the consumers who so loyally have stuck with their favorite BlackBerry phones for all of these years. These consumers prefer the physical keyboard and secure e-mail access to all of the bells and whistles of an iPhone or Android device. Simple communication is their first and foremost priority. The problem is that there are so few of these consumers left, and BlackBerry will certainly struggle to capture new consumer interest.
Which is why, if I’m being perfectly honest, the company might do well to just throw in the towel. The BlackBerry name itself is tainted, has forever lost that coolness factor that was so enthralling back in my middle school days. And as much as I wish I could fawn over another BlackBerry, I am simply unimpressed by its last smartphone attempt and am hesitant to believe that going private will really do anything to help save the company.
Indeed, the conclusion of the BlackBerry age may be upon us, and there is nothing that CrackBerry addicts can do about it, except appreciate and remember the groundbreaking technology that BlackBerry once embodied.
The most impressive aspect of the BlackBerry is that it was the first step towards creating the types of smartphones that are so popular and cool today. BlackBerry is the very reason we even have e-mail on our smartphones today, and paved the way for future technologies to help reinvent the way we communicate.
The BlackBerry phone was a crucial step in smartphone history, but maybe that’s all it will ever amount to — just a piece of history. But one thing is certain: We will forever remember the BlackBerry as the first smartphone to ever have the “cool” factor.
Cecilia Callas is a junior majoring print and digital journalism. Her column “Tech Talk” runs Wednesdays.
Follow Cecilia on Twitter @ceciliacallas