Yesterday BlackBerry officially announced they will be outsourcing all handset design, development, and production to third parties, effectively closing their own hardware business.
We will still see new releases of BlackBerry-branded phones running BlackBerry software, but they will not be produced in-house at BlackBerry.
This came as no surprise to those of us who have been paying close attention to the company over the past few years.
Having just made the decision to switch back to a BlackBerry 10 device from an iPhone, it still hit me pretty hard hearing this officially announced in yesterday’s earnings announcements. Today I expect to receive the new BlackBerry Passport Silver Edition I just ordered and I was actually thinking about sending it back unopened at one point yesterday.
But as the day wore on and I had a chance to process the news, I realize nothing has changed. BB10 development ceased long ago native app development never really caught on (with the exception of a handful of loyal developers), and it’s been over a year since the last BB10 device was released (the Passport SE was announced in August 2015). The future of BB10 today is the same as it was yesterday. BlackBerry just confirmed it’s no longer making phones.
It’s likely BlackBerry intends to just let BB10 quietly fade away after a couple more planned security updates. But unless they come right out and announce End-of-Life plans for BB10, the small spark of hope I have that BlackBerry will license their last mobile OS to third party OEMs or have their OEM partners produce a new BB10 handset sometime in the future remains alive.
A couple of things I saw today kept that spark alive among the torrential downpour of “BlackBerry no longer makes BlackBerrys” coverage amongst various news outlets and tech blogs.
First, I saw a video of BlackBerry CEO John Chen talking briefly about BlackBerry’s device heritage and future.
He said his favorite BlackBerrys were the Curve, Bold 9900, and especially the Passport. He said he still uses his Passport today along with a PRIV. He also said that more BlackBerry phones with keyboards are coming and that phones are still iconic and important to the BlackBerry brand. The fact that Chen still loves his passport gives me a little hope that BB10 may survive into the future in some form or fashion.
Second, BlackBerry mentioned in social media and in a comment on its own blog that BB10 version 10.3.3 was still in the pipeline awaiting official NIAP certification.
If BlackBerry intended to just kill off BB10 why would they even bother mentioning it and reassuring their loyal BB10 users that they remain committed to the platform? And you can’t tell me it’s just to push remaining inventory because nobody is buying it at this point except the loyalists.
I still believe there are some core government, financial sector, and other high-security clients that want and use BB10 devices. It’s the only reason I can think of that they would even releasing a new version of the OS and pursuing NIAP certification for it.
Now that BlackBerry has divested itself of the costs of in-house handset development isn’t it at least feasible that they could keep supporting BB10 and releasing a new device every 1-2 years through their OEM partners?
Regardless of what lies ahead, I know this much. I’ve used an iPhone SE for the past month. I actually enjoyed the experience quite a bit. But in spite of all it had to offer in the way of apps, media, hardware, and features, I found myself missing BB10. It’s the same story with Android and Windows, too. Each platform has its unique strengths and great features, but I always come back to a BlackBerry.
I missed the superlative tactile feedback and accuracy that only a BlackBerry physical keyboard can provide me. I missed being able to launch apps and use shortcuts with that keyboard. I missed being able to effortlessly toggle between 3+ apps via Active Frames. I missed having all my important communications, notifications, alerts, and upcoming calendar items easily accessible via the Hub – and I missed being able to peek at unread Hub items without ever leaving an app. And I missed that trademark blinking LED notification light!
I look forward to getting my hands on a Passport Silver Edition. Much like the Bold 9900/9930 represents the pinnacle of the BBOS era, the Passport SE represents the pinnacle of BB10 era. It is the last “pure” BlackBerry phone and will be a prized piece of my gadget collection for years to come. I intend to use it to its fullest extent and flaunt it wherever I go.
What kind of phone is that, you ask? It’s a BlackBerry. A BlackBerry Passport Silver Edition. It was made by the company that defined the smartphone market before Apple redefined it. No, they don’t make these anymore, but that’s what makes them so special. You know you want one.