BlackBerry pulls the plug on its pioneering mobile phone
BlackBerry pulls the plug on its pioneering mobile phone

By Kristopher J. Brooks

Service on BlackBerry cellphones — once the preferred mobile device for Wall Street, Capitol Hill and the media — shut down for good on Tuesday, closing the door on a piece of technology that helped usher in a revolution in communications. 

BlackBerry announced in September 2020 that it would stop updating operating systems and software for its devices on January 4, 2022. The move impacts devices running BlackBerry’s 7.1 OS as well as earlier platforms, BlackBerry 10 software and BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.1. Other related services, including BlackBerry messenger and BlackBerry hosted emails, also are ending. 

“As of this date, devices running these legacy services and software through either carrier or Wi-Fi connections will no longer reliably function, including for data, phone calls, SMS and 9-1-1 (emergency) functionality,” BlackBerry said on its website.

BlackBerry phones using the Android operating system will continue to operate, but the company will no longer update the platform or related services.

BlackBerry and its devices rose to prominence in the early 2000s, in part because it was a pioneer in private messaging that couldn’t be traced. Apple and Google have since introduced encrypted messaging technology into their cellphones, and now most U.S. wireless customers have migrated to iPhone or Android devices. 

“RIP Blackberry”

In BlackBerry’s heyday, the Bold, Curve, Pearl and Storm handsets were among the most coveted mobile devices, with some dubbing them “Crackberries” in a nod to their popularity and devoted customer base. The company, previously called Research in Motion, stopped making cellphones in 2016.

While no formal tally exists of how many people still use pre-Android BlackBerry devices, fans reminisced on social media about their old phones.

“Like so many of us, I stopped using my beloved BlackBerry mobile phone a few years ago, but am still sad to see its official end today,” tweeted CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer. “Thanks BlackBerry for doing what you did.”

PGA golfer Ian Poulter tweeted “sad to see BlackBerry go,” while Christina Morillo, a Microsoft employee in Georgia, tweeted “RIP Blackberry.”

“You were wonderful and my favorite line of mobile devices but I’ve found a new love — The iPhone,” Morillo tweeted.

BlackBerry, which is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange and is valued at more than $5 billion, now focuses on selling cybersecurity software. In its 2021 fiscal year, the Canadian company lost $1.1 billion on revenue of $893 million. Results improved modestly in the third quarter, as BlackBerry posted revenue of $184 million on healthy demand for its cybersecurity software. 

Despite those steep losses, BlackBerry drew attention last year as investors piled into its shares and that of other “meme stocks,” notably video game retailer GameStop. In January of 2020, BlackBerry’s stock traded for around $7; a few weeks later, it rocketed 255% to about $29. The shares closed Tuesday at $9.33.