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I used a BlackBerry Classic running the BlackBerry 10 operating system as my daily phone until 10 months ago. Many of my earlier New Leaf Journal photos came from the lens of my BlackBerry Classic. In October of 2020, I wrote an entire article about using the Open Camera App from F-Droid to get the most out of my BlackBerry Classic’s camera. Despite my being one of the longest BlackBerry holdouts, I just learned that BlackBerry is ending support for its devices that run BlackBerry 7.1 (or earlier), BlackBerry 10, and its tablet operating systems.
(You can see some higher quality versions of my BlackBerry Classic photos on Pixelfed.)
My Time With BlackBerry
From about 2006 through 2021, every phone that I used had a physical QWERTY keyboard. Nevertheless, I was a latecomer to BlackBerry just as I was one of the last holdouts, only first using a BlackBerry Bold in 2011 or 2012. Despite the fact that I never had much use for email on my phones, I loved BlackBerry’s QWERTY keyboard for sending SMS messages, which I discussed in my article about using JMP to send SMS messages from an XMPP account. The old BlackBerry OS and the BlackBerry 10 OS were intuitive and well-designed too. I do regret that I only learned toward the end of my BlackBerry 10 usage that I could install some free and open source Android apps from F-Droid on it.
Hoping For the Return of QWERTY Phones
While BlackBerry fades away from the phone market, the dream of new QWERTY phones lives on. If record players and instant cameras can make comebacks, surely QWERTY phones can as well. There are several exciting efforts to make modern QWERTY phones.
I have been following the development of the Astro Slide 5G Transformer, a rather large phone with a keyboard that can run Android as well as some mobile versions of Linux. The fully open source Pine Phone, which runs Linux, has also released a keyboard case. Finally, Popcorn Computer is releasing a sort of Linux-based PDA with a keyboard that would be nice on a phone.
None of these projects are quite ready for prime time, but they are definitely worth following.
BlackBerry phones running BlackBerry’s former operating system are now defunct, and the BlackBerry phones that run vanilla Android are on the way out the door. But with a number of promising efforts to bring keyboards back to phones and phone-like devices in the works, I hope that there will be some new viable keyboard phones running open source and privacy–respecting operating systems in the future.
Note: The BlackBerry May Live On
I still have photos from my BlackBerry Classic that may make it into future New Leaf Journal articles. Thus, while I looked ahead to the future in the last section, my BlackBerry Classic may have some more days in the Sun.
Update (Jan. 7, 2022): See my follow-up post on how I transferred my photos from my BlackBerry Classic to my computer.