BlackBerry was born on 19 January 1999, with the release of the BlackBerry 850. In the immediate years that followed, the brand blew up, offering something all its competitors couldn’t touch: Emails on the go.
Even if you didn’t own a BlackBerry yourself, you can bet your bottom dollar that you knew someone who did, or that you would at least see one in the hands of someone else on a regular basis. That physical QWERTY keyboard with its tap, tap, tapping could be heard in every train carriage and on every plane. It wasn’t just about emailing on the go though. You also had BBM – BlackBerry’s Instant Messenger service.
It might be all about WhatsApp now, but BBM had read receipts down donkey’s years ago. It was yet another unique reason to buy a BlacBerry, appealing to a range of people, not just those in suits. Sadly, those days are gone, and while BlackBerry may still have users, it’s lost its mojo.
In 2016, BlackBerry announced that it would no longer be making devices of its own, with TCL picking up the license. In 2020, TCL’s license ended only to be picked up immediately after by unknown entity, Onward Mobility. In 2021, Onward Mobility teamed up with the manufacturer, FIH Mobile, and there are rumours it will launch the first 5G BlackBerry running Android at some point.
Until then, enjoy looking back at some of the models from days past. And if you have any of the models running BlakBerry software rather than Android, looking back is all you’ll be doing from now as from 4 January 2022, the legacy BlackBerry devices will no longer work. Sad times.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of BlackBerry devices, from its origins to its last.
This was BlackBerry’s first handheld device and it sat within the two-way pager category, along with a few others including the 857, 900, 950, 957 and 962.
The BlckBerry 850 was announced in 1999 with a screen resolution of 132 x 65 pixels, a thumb keyboard and a thumbwheel for scrolling.
The Blacberry 5810 was one of the early Java-based devices, offering a built-in mobile phone, even if a headset was required. It launched in 2002, aimed at businesses rather than consumers.
The 5810 ran on a 2G network and had a 160 x 160 pixel monochrome display. There was also the 5790 and 5820 in the 5000 series.
In 2020, OnwardMobility won the license to produce the first 5G BlackBerry phone. It was expected to be an Android-powered smartphone and was originally planned to be released in 2021 but was delayed. Beyond that, there’s not much to know – will it ever happen?