The rise and fall of the Blackberry in popular culture

Blackberry has announced it’s no longer going to design its own phones, 14 years after the first one came out.

It could still put out handsets but they won’t be designed in-house.

Over the years Blackberry’s image has shifted from a businessman’s assistant, to a celebrity accessory, to the organisational tool behind the London riots.

Recently, though, its popularity has waned in the face of competition from iPhone and Android.

Here, then, is the evolution of the Blackberry in popular culture.

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Expect world leaders, the odd Kardashian, and plenty of terrible lyrics (we’re looking at you Sean Kingston).

The businessman’s best friend

Businessmen talk on their blackberries

Blackberry released its first two-way pager in 1999 – the Blackberry 850.

But it wasn’t until three years later in 2002 that we saw the first model which could properly be called a phone.

The 5810 could handle emails, web browsing and, amazingly, it could even take calls if it was connected to a headset.

Back then, though, things were all business. Mobile phones were the territory of people in smart suits with important meetings to get to.

“We had a very, very successful recipe of what Blackberry was all about,” former chief executive Thorsten Heins told CIO magazine in 2010.

“There were four main pillars: battery life, typing, security and compression.”

The celebrity’s best friend

This businesslike approach to smartphones, though, seemed to strike a chord with some of the most powerful people in the world.

Barack Obama famously refused to give his Blackberry up when he took office in The White House.

After winning the election he said that if officials wanted him to stop using it they would have to “pry it out of [his] hands”.

David Cameron was a fan too when he became prime minister, and Kim Kardashian was among the celebrities who endorsed the company.

Kim Kardashian at the launch of the Blackberry 8330 Pink Curve in 2008

The lyricist’s best friend

Lana Del Rey

By 2010 it wasn’t just celebrities, politicians and businessmen using Blackberries, ordinary people had taken them up too.

Remember when being asked for your BBM pin (Blackberry messenger pin) was as common as being asked for your number?

With all this exposure, it wasn’t long before the music industry cottoned on and started paying homage to the handsets.

Tinie Tempah talked about putting numbers “in my Bold BB” in Miami 2 Ibiza, and Maxwell D called on people to get “on the Blackberry hype”.

Unbelievably, Lana Del Rey recorded a synth-pop track about sexting called BBM Baby in 2011, but it didn’t get unearthed until earlier this year.

Sean Kingston and Soulja Boy take the prize for the most poetic tribute though, for their 2010 offering simply called BBM.

“BBM, BBM, BBM every day,” Sean sings, “BBM, BBM, BBM every day.

“Cause I’ve been hitting up your phone all day, but I found a way to communicate. BBM me every day.”

Beautiful.

The rioter’s best friend

The London riots

There’s also a darker phase in the history of Blackberry’s image.

In 2011 thousands of people rioted in cities across England, after a man was shot dead by police in Tottenham.

In the aftermath politicians and members of the police force suggested that the unrest had been organised on BBM.

Some even questioned whether the technology was partially to blame for the riots.

Not very many people’s best friend

In the last few years, though, the popularity of the Blackberry has declined.

“I was the first president to have a Blackberry,” Barack Obama told US talk show host Jimmy Fallon in June.

“And so years pass… and [now] no-one else has [a] Blackberry.

“And finally this year they say Mr Obama we’re going to give you a smartphone instead of a Blackberry.”

It also took a while for Kim Kardashian to turn her back.

She cited the “physical keyboard” as her reason for sticking with the company through the years, but in August she gave up too.

https://twitter.com/kimkardashian/status/760916393831243776

https://twitter.com/KimKardashian/status/760916489385889792

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