The Last BlackBerry


I’ve owned one (OK, two, but I took the first one into the ocean with me by mistake and replaced it with the same model) BlackBerry, and with God as my witness, I shall never own another.

BlackBerry Curve

The picture of obsolesence.

I got one because my wife had one, and despite all the heartache and grief her device gave her, I was nonetheless suckered into getting one as well. We could text for free with BlackBerry Messenger, she promised, and the way her phone acted up on occasion wasn’t really that much of a bother.

My first BlackBerry was barely usable. It constantly delivered a long series of irritating notifications about things I couldn’t possible figure out, and even the famed BlackBerry keyboard was sorely lacking in functionality – brother, if you wanted to push the letter “A,” you had to work for it.

Still, I could check out Twitter and Facebook whenever I liked (for the most part), and it was nice to be able to grab the pictures of my toddler daughter doing cute things, which tend to come utterly without warning and are evermore fleeting in their frequency. And I could feed my need for news with the Associated Press app I downloaded for free from the BlackBerry App World. Oh, and it made phone calls to boot. Folks are right; being constantly plugged in like that is definitely addicting. I was distraught when I realized that the object bumping my leg in my swim trunks in the ocean at St. George Island was my BlackBerry (as opposed to, say, a jellyfish). I ran from the surf and disassembled it in the sun, and try as I might, the corrosion had done its damage. It never checked e-mail again.

It was in this mindset, like a man on the rebound, that I desperately replaced my BlackBerry with one just like it. It was a desperate, day-long quest to find a replacement, taking me from Douglasville to Hiram to Carrollton, but at last I was able to get a new Curve. I even dressed it in my old one’s clothes and let it sleep in my old BlackBerry’s bed (I put it in the same case and used the same charger). The keyboard and strange network notifications have not been an issue on this phone as it was the last, but that does not mean this phone has been without its problems.

It is dreadfully limited in terms of its functionality when compared to other smartphones. To watch, just this weekend, one of my fellow bloggers receive turn-by-turn directions from her Android phone through her car’s stereo while driving my staggered ass home from a birthday party was crushing, or to see the quality and speed of pictures taken by the people standing shoulder-to-shoulder around me at a concert just last week were brutal reminders of the limits of this device.

I can check the hell out of some e-mail, but if you want anything beyond that, get another device.

Now, it’s having new problems. First, there was the infamous, dreadful e-mail and BlackBerry Messenger outage that many have cast as the death knell for BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM). That pretty much silenced the very thing that BlackBerry did best: messaging. Now, BlackBerry is unveiling free apps (though none in at least the past week) at a total value of about $100, but so far those apps just remind me of what other devices are able to do better with apps that are often available for free. Those free apps are also a brutal reminder of how unwieldy the BlackBerry App World is as opposed to, say, iTunes, which I navigate for my iPod touch (that’s right; because I own a BlackBerry, I have to carry two devices with me all the time; one for messaging, and one for everything else that everyone else uses their smartphones for). Perhaps as a consequence of one of those gift apps from RIM that I downloaded, the battery in my BlackBerry is now going dead far more quickly, usually by the middle of the day and sometimes in just a matter of hours, despite the fact that my use of the thing hasn’t changed.

So, what’s a fella’ to do?

Next month, I’ll be eligible for my next upgrade from AT&T. There are phone either out or soon to be launched that look very appealing to me. I’ve read about the heartache and stress that Android users have experienced dealing with the infrequent and untimely updates to their devices, but I’ve also read reviews that pitch Ice Cream Sandwich as a mighty smooth operating system. Having an iPod Touch, I also am well familiar with the interface and functionality of iOS – iOS 5, no less – and the iPhone 4S seems like a mighty tempting offer.

Still, I have reservations. At my urging, my wife “upgraded” to a BlackBerry Torch, and won’t be eligible for another upgrade for another year. (I wanted our devices to still work together well, and now I’m racked with guilt that I didn’t let her move on then to an Android or iPhone.) I feel I’m to blame for the albatross of a BlackBerry she’s to carry for at least another year. Also, while my phone doesn’t work as well as some other devices, it does still work, and I’m funny about ditching anything that still has functionality. Whether it be a car or a pair of shoes or a phone, I’m a firm believer in flat wearing stuff out. And I’m unsure of which device to get. I don’t have anything in the way of brand loyalty, necessarily, but the best cell phone I ever had was my Motorola Razr, a new version of which is definitely coming to Verizon and most likely coming to AT&T. And Motorola has the Motorola Atrix on AT&T (which is our carrier), and it looks like a pretty significant workhorse. There’s also the Samsung Galaxy Nexus on the horizon, which also looks promising, and a whole range of Windows phones that look pretty damn good now that I’ve got an Xbox (interconnectivity among my home’s electronics has long been a dream of mine – watching videos saved on my laptop that are beamed wirelessly to the Xbox and played on my living room television is a pretty awesome feat).

BlackBerry makes promises that BlackBerry can’t afford to keep. RIM seems to expect us to buy in to this dream that the next great device is just around the corner, yet stumbles over itself and continues to oversell and under-deliver. I want turn-by-turn directions. I want an awesome camera. I want a sleek and fluid operating system. I want to be able to load a Web page, for Chrissakes. My BlackBerry can’t do any of that. For a couple of days, even its one redeeming quality – BlackBerry Messenger – was kaput. And iOS 5 lets iPhones do the same thing now, anyway.

BlackBerry’s future will be in producing inexpensive mobile e-mail devices for stingy corporations, and nothing more. I know I, for one, have carried my first – and last – BlackBerry.


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