Saturday 10 December 2016

Say it loud and be proud: I love my BlackBerry

Published 12/11/2015 | 02:30

BlackBerry's Leap smartphone
BlackBerry's Leap smartphone
BlackBerry Priv

My name is Peter Flanagan and I am a CrackBerry Addict.

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There. I've said it. It feels pretty good to write it down.

Fortunately I know I am not alone in my addiction. Data on smartphone usage shows that while Android and the iPhone dominate the market, BlackBerry has remained stubborn with about 1pc market share. It seems there is a die-hard bunch of us still out there.

By this stage the story of BlackBerry is well known but in 2015 it can still be hard to appreciate how big it once was. As recently as 2008 there was no such thing as a smartphone. There was a BlackBerry and there was a mobile phone.

In many people's minds they were two very different things. It was as if the only phone that could deliver email was a BlackBerry and, despite the best efforts of Nokia, Sony, Samsung, and all the rest, they never seriously threatened the Canadian business.

Then came the dismissal of the iPhone, with the immortal line from then co-CEO Mike Lazaridis: "Do I need to read my email in colour?" Followed by near total collapse as the company tried too late to chase the consumer rather than business market.

For the last few years BlackBerry has been a virtual non-entity in the phone business. Its recent efforts - the Classic, the Leap, the Passport, and especially the Q10 and Z10 - have largely vanished without a trace on this side of the Atlantic.

In a weird way, this has made us BlackBerry Fan Boys clutch our precious devices even closer to us. They're now an endangered species. When at a meeting or event now, the other people in the room notice the BlackBerry - they ask about it. A few years ago if you wanted to stand out from the crowd you didn't have one. Nowadays the opposite is true. Having a BlackBerry is a sign of an unwillingness to follow the crowd or fit in.

At least that's what we tell ourselves.

The obvious question is: why hang onto them? After all, there are so many shiny slabs of glass knocking around made by so many companies at so many price points that it is much, much, harder to not use an iPhone or Android than use them.

For work purposes at least, it's because the CrackBerry is still without rival. As a messaging device there is still nothing on the market that even comes close to its brilliance and ease of use.

If you are in a job that requires a lot of texts, emails, Whatsapps and plenty of other instant messages, the physical keyboard beats the touchscreen every time. My typing speed and accuracy are still notably better on the BlackBerry than the touch screen.

I even see the infamous flashing red light that signals a new email as essential. Back in the day that damn red light used to drive me up the wall. Now, having used iPhones and Androids, that light means I won't miss a mail. I've seen the light, as it were.

There may be another reason why I've more or less stuck with BlackBerry through thick and very thin. I came of age in my working life right at the moment when they were at their zenith. I also worked in an industry - finance - where to some degree people measured their worth by whether or not they were deemed important enough to be given one by the office. Bizarre I know.

Perhaps if I hadn't grown accustomed to banging out mail on the Curve 8310 or the 8900, I'd have happily migrated across to the iPhone by now. Even though I use one intermittently, I still hanker after my BlackBerry.

The ironic thing is that BlackBerry actually did get its operating system right eventually. The BlackBerry 10 system is as good if not better than Android or iOS. By the time it was launched though in 2013, most people were ensconced in the two other eco-systems. As a result, developers showed little interest in bring apps to the new BlackBerry system. There are ways to get Android Apps on BlackBerrys, but not all work. Without that eco-system, BlackBerry 10 was dead on arrival.

Still, we CrackBerry Addicts soldier on, unable to kick our habit. I use a Q10 day today, but I have about four others at home in case of emergency. But it's been a tough few years to maintain the addiction.

Which is why the BlackBerry Priv is so exciting (to us at least). If you haven't heard, it's the new BlackBerry running Android. The reviews so far have been good but I can only hope it does well enough to keep BlackBerry in the phone business. To this day, it is one of the few brands I trust completely. I can only hope that they've finally got things right.

After all, us CrackBerry Addicts are desperate for a new fix.

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