BlackBerry: a postmortem of the former smartphone king

It is becoming that only a day after Apple celebrated reaching a $3 trillion market capitalization for the primary time in US historical past, BlackBerry is popping off the lights on the previous couple of holdouts. No, Apple’s iPhone did not single-handedly unseat BlackBerry from its once-lofty perch within the early smartphone market. However it might now be part of its Google-branded co-conspirator in strolling away from the previous king of smartphones’ grave. 

The rise of BlackBerry


BlackBerry 850

BlackBerry — or Analysis in Movement (RIM), because it was referred to as for many of its halcyon days — started its meteoric rise in 1999 with the BlackBerry 850, a pager-type gadget that supported two-way e mail communications through a built-in QWERTY keyboard. It constructed on an earlier line of “Inter@ctive Pager” merchandise that have been retired when the BlackBerry identify rose to prominence. 

Whereas the 850 laid the inspiration for BlackBerry’s love of QWERTY-equipped units, it wasn’t till 2003 that the corporate launched something that might even be remotely acknowledged as a smartphone. That product was the primary entry within the BlackBerry 6200, or BlackBerry “Quark,” line. In a time when most cellphones have been nonetheless of the flip selection, the Quark offered a monochrome show located above a full QWERTY keyboard with a couple of additional navigation keys. It offered e mail through early 2G mobile information networks — and never a lot else. 

It was rapidly adopted by variants with shade shows within the 7200 line, in addition to BlackBerry “Attraction” fashions within the 7100 collection. The 7100s skipped the complete QWERTY expertise in favor of RIM’s SureType keyboard, which used two letters per button. Unsurprisingly, this structure by no means caught on regardless of its use in later traces just like the BlackBerry Pearl. 

The following a number of generations would see show enhancements, exterior redesigns, and the addition of thrilling new tech like Bluetooth. Then, in 2007, RIM launched what would go on to grow to be some of the beloved fashions it ever created: the BlackBerry Curve. This unit’s new trackball-based navigation was a game-changer, permitting customers to extra simply and rapidly navigate the gadget’s rising listing of capabilities. Whereas the trackball would finally get replaced by a trackpad within the BlackBerry Daring line, the design language of the Curve would proceed to tell each actually iconic BlackBerry handset ever produced. 


BlackBerry Curve 9360

The start of the top 

Sadly for the BlackBerry Curve, 2007 occurred to be the identical 12 months that Steve Jobs received up on stage and introduced the iPhone. Not like the BlackBerry tackle a smartphone, it relied completely on touchscreen-based interactions to let customers textual content, e mail, browse the online, and extra. (We’ll skip all the now-humiliating sizzling takes that got here out on the time decrying Apple’s decisions.)

Person-friendly enter strategies apart, there was one crucial side of the iPhone’s technique that will come to hang-out RIM for years, and it could have been the only biggest consider BlackBerry’s downfall: Apple targeted on customers from the very starting. 

Whereas RIM spent years making an attempt to persuade the common person that its business-centric units may make nice smartphones for them, Apple as an alternative enticed these customers into its early ecosystems so deeply that they finally started in search of methods to combine their iPhones into their skilled lives. Whereas it could have taken fairly some time longer, Android adopted the same path as effectively.

A brand new contender enters the ring 


HTC Dream

The HTC Dream, also called the T-Cellular G1, made its debut in 2008. This direct competitor to the iPhone took a web page from each RIM and Apple, together with a touchscreen-based OS in Android and a {hardware} QWERTY keyboard located beneath its show, which could possibly be pivoted off to 1 aspect. This mix of touchscreens and keyboards would inform many early Android fashions, together with the Dream’s comply with ups, and Motorola Droid. 

Whereas Apple continued struggling at this level to persuade customers that the additional value of a smartphone and its inherent service plans have been price it, Android struggled to persuade customers that they’d even have the ability to determine the best way to use it. Its fame as a geekier, cheaper iPhone would linger for years, no matter whether or not or not both accusation was warranted. 

That fame as an affordable competitor would go on to grow to be certainly one of Android’s biggest strengths. As its {hardware} and software program caught as much as the standard its iPhone contemporaries offered, its pricing remained decrease on many fashions, permitting a rising portion of the inhabitants to purchase an Android gadget as their first smartphone. This is likely one of the principal causes Google’s cell OS nonetheless tops the chart to at the present time…even when it did take it a couple of extra years to get there. 

The sluggish decline begins


BlackBerry Storm

At this level, the demise knell had already been sounded — BlackBerry simply hadn’t heard it but. In truth, it was this sort of sluggish response to what the market was clearly saying which will have put the ultimate nail within the coffin. Whereas Apple and Google spent the following couple of years constructing on one another’s accomplishments to draw essentially the most customers, BlackBerry remained staunchly loyal to its present enterprise person base to a grievous fault. 

There have been half-hearted makes an attempt at extra direct iPhone and Android smartphone rivals. The BlackBerry Storm is probably going essentially the most well-known of those, because it was the primary gadget from the corporate to rely completely on touchscreen enter, a serious threat on the time. Regardless of the novelty of its tactile click on show (which really noticed the complete display depress like an enormous button), it didn’t seize many shopper customers. Opinions have been additionally typically terrible, citing poor software program integration of the touchscreen, buggy software program, and a typically horrible person expertise. The reactions to the BlackBerry Storm 2 in 2009 weren’t a lot better. 

This failure to determine what customers wished would hold over BlackBerry for the following two years. Fortuitously for the corporate, its loyal person base and well-known customers, like then-President Barack Obama, helped it keep on prime, maybe for longer than it actually ought to have. 

The autumn

BlackBerry’s final good 12 months was 2010. By midway by way of, its numbers had already began to slide from their peak, each by way of gross sales and put in person base. In September 2010, RIM accounted for 37.3% of all smartphone customers, in keeping with ComScore. Apple and Google, in the meantime, had captured 24.3% and 21.4%, respectively. By December, RIM had fallen over 5 factors to 31.6% whereas Google had gained over seven to succeed in 28.7%. It was nothing however downhill from there for BlackBerry. 

By early 2011, Android had handed BlackBerry to seize 31.2% of customers. RIM’s tackle the smartphone swiftly plummeted into single-digit market share figures, and by the top of 2014, it accounted for simply 1.8% of all customers. 

To its credit score, BlackBerry didn’t go quietly. It tried all the pieces from its personal tackle a very new touchscreen-native OS, to revivals of basic BlackBerry fashions from earlier years, to lastly simply giving in and growing telephones for the ever-growing Android ecosystem. Sadly, the Waterloo-based firm had already met its battle of the identical identify. 

Google and Apple had tapped the a lot bigger pool of personal customers and indoctrinated them to their takes on what a smartphone needs to be for each their private {and professional} lives. The units that had as soon as been referred to as “Crackberries” have been nothing greater than a humiliation to personal by the point the ultimate BlackBerry was produced by the corporate previously named RIM in 2016. 

Demise spasms

The BlackBerry identify carried sufficient clout that it lived on for one more half decade or so, being licensed out to 3rd get together producers to be used on a string of largely forgettable smartphones working some variant of Android. Fortunately for patrons of these Android-BlackBerry models, even these produced by the unique firm will proceed to work for the foreseeable future. 

As we put down our QWERTY keyboards, tiny trackballs, and bizarre clickable screens, spare a second to recollect a smartphone firm that simply could not get out of its personal approach when it got here time to persuade the common shopper — and never simply high-powered enterprise executives — that they, too, wanted a smartphone. 

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