Posted by Matt Egan 14 May 2015
In defence of BlackBerrys
BlackBerry is doomed as an independent smartphone maker. But BlackBerrys are good and it will be shame when they are no more.
On my desk right now I have the two most recent BlackBerry handsets: the BlackBerry Classic and the BlackBerry Passport. Neither of these phones is about to storm our Best smartphones chart. Neither of them is going to restore BlackBerry to its former glories.
The best that BlackBerry can hope for now is for its valuable enterprise software assets to be acquired by a major vendor such as Microsoft, Google or Samsung, with Samsung being the favourite due to the two companies' existing relationship.
Don't believe me? Take a look at BlackBerry's most recent set of results. BlackBerry made a profit, but sales of BlackBerry handsets fell from 3.4 million to 1.6 million. And this in a rapidly expanding smartphone market. No. The future of BlackBerry is not as a handset maker. At least not primarily.
BlackBerrys: not bad
But that is not to say that the BlackBerry Passport nor the BlackBerry Classic are bad smartphones. They are not bad products, but nor are they smartphones in the modern sense of the world. Those two most recent BlackBerrys offer something different to everything else on the market. They are not multimedia and entertainment devices as are Androids, iPhones and Window Phones. BlackBerrys remain almost exclusively communications devices. Portable gadgets for email, SMS, IM and - yes - placing telephone calls.
And at those functions the two newest BlackBerrys excel. The Passport's big square screen and bigger than average physical keyboard make it the perfect portable device for reading and replying to email. It's good even for perusing and amending spreadsheets. Properly. And it is a phone.
The BlackBerry Classic is not quite as good at either of these things, but makes up for it by being smaller and cheaper. Which is in itself interesting: in portable tech, smaller usually means more expensive. It is entirely in keeping with the BlackBerry handset's productivity chops that the bigger device is more expensive. You are paying for the big screen on which to work, rather than smaller more powerful components.
It is sad that such products may struggle to survive in a post-BlackBerry world (or at least a world in which BlackBerry is no longer an independent phone maker). Diversity is almost always a good thing. The few people who use BlackBerrys tend to love them. And there is an argument for having a BlackBerry purely for business communications and productivity.
Several devices to rule them all
I've written before about how great a piece of engineering is the Surface Pro 3, and how little I want to own one. The Surface Proi 3 is a good laptop and an acceptable tablet. It is great at neither. I am happy to have a separate laptop and tablet, as I use them for different things at different times. For the minor inconvenience of not always having a power PC to hand, I am happy to enjoy the better keyboard of the laptop, and the greater portability of my venerable iPad mini.
It's the same with smartphones. I love my LG G4 and it is a fine music player, but I would rather have a separate iPod on which to store all of my music than compromise on carrying around only a few banging tunes. Yes, I am that guy.
I am not a guy who wants a BlackBerry, however. Just someone who can see the value of having a work-only device that is great at the things it needs to do.
We'll miss an independent BlackBerry when it goes. But go it will. See also: 5 of the worst tech videos and adverts ever: HTC rap, BlackBerry song and Microsoft awfulness