BlackBerry phones are a series of wireless handheld communication devices that were among the first popular smartphones. They were manufactured by the Canadian company Research In Motion (RIM), which later changed its name to BlackBerry in 2013.
BlackBerry phones were known for their QWERTY keyboards, push email, and high security features. However, they lost their market share to iPhone and Android devices in the late 2000s and early 2010s, and stopped making smartphones in 2016. BlackBerry then switched focused to developing cybersecurity software and solutions for various industries and devices.
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The First BlackBerry Device
The history and evolution of BlackBerry phones can be traced back to 1999, when RIM introduced the RIM 957, a pager with internet functionality and a QWERTY keyboard. This was the first device to use the BlackBerry name and the BlackBerry OS.
The First BlackBerry Phone
In 2002, RIM launched the BlackBerry 5810, the first BlackBerry phone that could make voice calls, but required a headset. The BlackBerry 7230, released in 2003, was the first BlackBerry phone with a color screen and an integrated microphone.
The BlackBerry 7100 series, released in 2004, was the first to have a SureType keyboard, which combined two letters on each key to reduce the size of the device.
The First BlackBerry With a Trackwheel
The BlackBerry 8700 series, released in 2005, was the first to have a trackwheel for navigation.
The First BlackBerry with a trackball
The BlackBerry Pearl, released in 2006, was the first to have a camera and a trackball.
The First BlackBerry with a QWERTY Keyboard
The BlackBerry Curve, released in 2007, was the first to have a full QWERTY keyboard and a trackball. The BlackBerry Bold, released in 2008, was the first to have 3G connectivity and a leather-like back cover.
Hitting the Peak
According to some web sources, BlackBerry phones reached their peak popularity around 2009 and 2010, when they had a global market share of about 20% and 19%, respectively.
In Canada and the United States, BlackBerry’s home territory, BlackBerry phones were popular from the early 2000s to the early 2010s, when they had a dominant market share of smartphones and was widely used by business professionals, government officials, and celebrities. The North American market share was over 50% in 2009 and 42% in 2010.
However, the brand was soon overtaken by iPhone and Android devices, and their market share declined rapidly in the following years. By 2016, BlackBerry’s global market share was less than 1%.
The phone brand’s decline was attributed mostly to its lack of appealing apps and its poor touchscreen performance: the company couldn’t adapt to touchscreen fast enough. But let’s get back to the historical timeline.
The First BlackBerry with a Touchscreen
With the arrival of capacitive touchscreen with the iPhone and Android, BlackBerry attempted to make the transition to keep up. The BlackBerry Storm, released in 2008, was the first to have a touchscreen, but it was criticized for its poor performance and lack of Wi-Fi. The BlackBerry Torch, released in 2010, was the first to have a touchscreen and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. It didn’t make a huge splash either.
The BlackBerry Tablet
The BlackBerry PlayBook, released in 2011, was the first and only tablet made by BlackBerry, but it failed to compete with the iPad and other tablets. I owned one: you can still enjoy my first impressions of the PlayBook.
The First BlackBerry 10 Phones
The BlackBerry Z10 and Q10, released in 2013, were the first to use the BlackBerry 10 OS, which was based on QNX, a more modern and secure platform. BlackBerry was hoping to turn the tide of its decline around.
The BlackBerry Passport, released in 2014, also ran BlackBerry 10, was the last flagship phone made by BlackBerry, and had a unique square-shaped screen and a touch-sensitive keyboard.
It was a powerful device in its time and its distinct design stood it out from the sea of smartphones of that time. I was gifted one by BlackBerry on its release and I still have a unit till date. You can still enjoy my complete BlackBerry Passport review.
The First BlackBerry To Use Android OS
The BlackBerry Priv, released in 2015, was the first and only proper BlackBerry phone to run Android, but it was too expensive and too late to attract customers. Other BlackBerry phones with Android came after it, but they were not manufactured by BlackBerry Inc.
The Last BlackBerry Phones
In 2016, BlackBerry announced that it would stop making its own phones and focus on software and services. The BlackBerry DTEK50 and DTEK60, released in 2016, were the last phones to bear the BlackBerry brand, but they were actually made by TCL, a Chinese company that licensed the BlackBerry name.
TCL continued to make BlackBerry-branded phones till 2019 when none was released. In 2020, the licensing agreement between TCL and BlackBerry Inc. was officially ended.
From 2002 to 2016, I owned a total of fifteen BlackBerry phones, namely:
- Blackberry 9630 Tour
- BlackBerry 9800 Torch.
- BlackBerry 9300 Curve 3G.
- BlackBerry 9360 Curve.
- BlackBerry 9900 Bold.
- BlackBerry 9810 Torch.
- BlackBerry Playbook.
- BlackBerry 9320 Curve.
- BlackBerry 9650 Bold.
- BlackBerry Z30.
- BlackBerry Z10.
- BlackBerry Q10
- BlackBerry Passport, and
- BlackBerry Classic.
As you can imagine, I have fond memories of the BlackBerry brand. But I never really made the transition to Android with BlackBerry, though I got to review the Priv. It was a solid device, but as they say, it was a little too late. None of the BlackBerry-branded Android phones that followed made a splash either. The era of BlackBerry had come to an end.