Ode on a Blackberry

by Leandra Medine
July 2, 2013
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Does anyone else still think about what mobile digital discourse felt like before touch screens? No? Fascinating.

blackberry

Written by Mattie Kahn, Illustration by Charlotte Fassler 

Between November of 2009 and February of 2010, I wore through two pairs of cashmere gloves. The first time, I was mildly amused. (“I never liked those gloves,” I told myself. “They needed replacing anyway!”) But after a second pair suffered the same fate, I decided I needed to seek professional help. Damning evidence in hand, I met my friends for lunch.

“My name is Mattie Kahn, and I’m addicted to my Blackberry,” I confessed. I tossed a single worn-out mitten—pristine, save the grimly damaged thumb area—on the table.

“The first step is acceptance,” one of the assembled intoned sagely. The others just the others just laughed.

I’d secured my inaugural smartphone—you always remember your first—after accidentally leaving a badly battered Motorola RAZR in the backseat of a cab. When my initial fear of my parents’ wrath subsided, I gleefully realized that its loss would necessitate a new phone, and the new phone would be a Blackberry.

We were inseparable from the beginning. Passionately in love, attached at the hip, and troublingly co-dependent, my Blackberry and I had all the makings of a great first romance—or at least a great Jennifer Love Hewitt movie. Within weeks, I felt suffocated in the absence of 3G reception and only grudgingly tucked the device into my backpack during class. Soon, I was consulting its pixelated screen like a reflex. And before long, I could type without looking at its keyboard. BBM was officially my drug of choice. So publically acknowledged was my devotion that when my birthday rolled around, my friends constructed a perfectly scaled replica in vanilla buttercream cake and luridly dyed frosting. This did not embarrass me as much as it should have.

Still, like any self-respecting teenager, I would not let my undying affection preclude considerable bitching. I was aggrieved to find that the Blackberry didn’t fit comfortably in the back pocket of my jeans as my RAZR had and that it wouldn’t play Danity Kane’s “Showstopper” every time someone called me. I loudly bemoaned that boys could see I’d opened their pithy texts within seconds of receiving them and that lukewarm liaisons could tell when I was being evasive—which was always.

But secretly, I didn’t mind watching small, block-lettered “R”s appear alongside my sent messages. Whether they garnered desired responses or not, missives exchanged via BBM’s pared-down interface were as straightforward as the limits of modern communication would allow. To wit: when my friend’s longtime boyfriend traded in his snazzy T-Mobile Sidekick for the Blackberry Curve, he looked at her brightly and said, “You used to just suspect I was ignoring you. Now you’ll finally know!”

Asshole.

Still, bad boyfriend behavior aside, I’m instantly nostalgic for a time of such digital candor. I know it isn’t chic to say so. I know iPhones are incomparably cooler and easier to use and I’ve had one since 2012, when buying another Blackberry seemed only slightly riskier than stepping aboard an already sinking Titanic. But the truth is—cashmere casualties notwithstanding: I really, really miss my Blackberry.

I miss its tactile keyboard and seemingly indestructible frame and the strange satisfaction that came from sending an angry PING! to a recalcitrant interlocutor. I miss BBMing both the significant and unimportant boys and teaching my mom how to open a photo message and emailing my family from many, many miles away, because Blackberries had actual, functioning world editions, which were awesome.

I miss my Blackberry for what I imagine are probably a hundred idiosyncratic, meaningless reasons…not one of which is compelling enough to convince me to rejoin all 14 of the toupee-wearing businessmen and door-to-door salesmen and used-car agents who realistically still depend on theirs.

But do me a favor, okay? Just don’t try to tell me that iMessage and BBM are pretty much almost exactly basically sort of the same thing. Because—now, really—that would just be silly.

REPLIES
  • Bianca

    Miss my bb too!!!!!!! I stare at it from time to time, still lying there almost lifeless (creditless) in my bedside table (yes it is still there and I do charge it even though no one calls me to that number) we had such great times together! plus it’s pink :) And no, iMessage and BBM are NOT the same at all…

  • http://stylegrenade.blogspot.com/ Diana de Belen

    I was addicted with BBM before, like how crazy I updated my avatar or status every hour, just so my friends and contacts will notice me. :)) But since iPhone invades our life, especially instagram. Right now my BlackBerry is just always kept on my bag and iPhone on my hand. But I miss BBMing also actually.

    xx Diana
    http://stylegrenade.blogspot.com/

  • Reptilia

    I miss BBM!! I loved my bb and we were inseparable too! Hhahah love this post!

    http://www.justreptilia.com

    xx

  • ana

    Just bailed on my blackberry last week for an iphone, won’t lie, getting some separation anxiety from reading this.

  • Lefukaka

    Before I even continue with this post, I’d like you to know that I just logged into spotify and searched Danity Kane then added 3 songs to my playlist. That is just rude of you to remind me of their existence.

    • Lefukaka

      Now that I have finished the post, I would like to add that I LOVE my curve and will only give it up for a Q10.

  • Andrew

    The inability to play cheesy pop tunes as ringtones would definitely deter me from a Blackberry. I’m sticking to my Britney playing iPhone.

  • Rach xox

    Have to admit. I’m still addicted to mine. Wont ever give it up! lol Yet some how I don’t sell used cars or wear a toupee! I swear every time I pull it out someone goes…wow I miss my blackberry!

    <3

  • Lizzie P.

    I will forever miss that blackberry keyboard…I was sooo much faster!

  • http://thecornerapartment.com/ Elizabeth @ TheCornerApartment

    The Blackberry touchscreen phone was my first smartphone, and we certainly had a love-hate relationship. I graduated to an Android (traitor, I know), then finally got an iPhone 4S after everyone had had their iPhone for a few years already. Of course, right after I got my 4S, the 5 came out. Playing phone tag is hard.

    Elizabeth

  • gracekelle

    I have both the iphone and blackberry. While I understand the iphone is faster, prettier, and “cooler” i am able to type faster on my bb keyboard…and like you, without looking. That is a skill when you’re listening to someone at a meeting or brunch, while also getting back to your other important conversation!

  • http://www.farandwildjewelry.com/ abigail lind

    i use to clock in 60 wpm all up on that qwerty. no one had seen thumbs move so fast since the days of thumb war.

    abigail
    http://www.farandwildjewelry.com

  • Aubrey Green

    I also miss my blackberry. I really only got the iphone for instagram, which I’m not upset about, cause I’m obsessed – I would really like to have both, cause I HATE touch screen keypads – so maybe those of us that miss the blackberry should do as Leandra and have both?

    • Ash

      Or you can get a BlackBerry Z10 & side-load (it’s easy, I promise) Instagram. There’s directions on the internet.

  • freya

    Now that T-Mobile carries the iPhone I’ve been thinking about making the switch. I love my BB and the only reason I would switch is lack of apps. I don’t know who makes the decisions over at RIM, but they don’t seem to realize that even though their new phones get great reviews, if they don’t have platform support for popular apps like Instagram/Starbucks/Tumblr/Netflix etc etc etc their sales will continue to slide.

    • Elena

      This comment is SO on point. I love my BB and won’t change it with an iPhone, no matter how much I love Instagram. Sooner or later they will just have to add Instagram for Blackberries too.

  • http://www.quirkitout.blogspot.com/ Putri Soe

    I’ve switched from Blackberry Onyx to Samsung S3. And it was one hell of a good decision.
    The ping sounds from BBM made me crazy!!!

  • Cathrine

    hahaha you are so funny!
    http://www.cathrineurhammer.dk

  • habitatus

    Totally. in fact…I am STILL on bberry. I tried to switch to an iPhone & even though the web interface on iphone is VASTLY better than the bberry, I spend more time typing than websurfer on my phone. HOWEVER, you may be saddened to know that now the better bb’s are ALL TOUCHSCREEN. It’s horrible! It’s hard to keep the love going…I mean, the keyboard is still as superior as the web browser is inferior (and seriously, the default browser is Bing), but I can’t keep my giant cheeks from face dialing people. ALL. THE. TIME. At this point, I’m not even sure if I’m writing these actual words or if I this is a face dial to MR.

  • FemmeRogue

    I will never part with my 9900- its so sleek and sexy and I too can type without looking, in fact I was recently challenged to a duel in which I won by 3 seconds and without staring down at my keypad. They were wow’d.

    However since Tmobile does carry iphone now- I might upgrade my other line to it and use it as my blogging duty phone

  • Jay

    I’ve had a bunch of blackberries but after it took a bath in pot of dirty water, I had to swtich to another phone and my friend lent me her iPhone – which I couldn’t stand!! Needless to say, the minute the Q10 came out on the market I snatched it up and I am absolutely in love with it. Its the perfect phone for me :)

    Best part is definitely being able to type without looking, the exclusivity of BBM (yah I’m a BB snob), the way the calendar is designed, how your email is immediate, the syncing of your gmail to your phone AKH I just cannot stop gushing – but I will.

    I LOVE ME SOME BLACKBERRY.

    So basically I’m saying you should go pick up a Q10. :)

  • http://www.delectablychic.com/ CynthiaC.M.

    I’ve had an iPhone since September and while I miss BBM a little bit, I love that I can access Instagram without having to email myself pictures (I had an iPad long before I got my iPhone). However, I did hear that RIM might be launching a cross platform BBM for Android and iOS.

  • moldub

    The PING function is what I miss the most. Nothing like sending a PING to get someone’s attention or call them out for that ‘R’ appearing with no response.

  • Pa

    I miss my blackberry too! I really do. I miss the keyboard and BBM statuses and all that. God, I ranted so much through my statuses…

    http://memyselfandboston.wordpress.com

  • iPhonelychallenged

    Ha funny had just been debating the whole iMessage vs. BBM today! On that note, I have a question in which I am in dire need of an answer for and I think some of you can help.

    My question is: just got to Spain from Canada and have an iPhone here (I’m pathetically new to almost everything iPhone and I type like an 80 year old on iPhones) and I’m thinking of texting an iPhone in Canada. I have 3G (not sure if thats relevant) and was wondering what the costs will be like. I’m told Imessage is “free” internationally (in the sense that there aren’t any extra international costs that incur like BBM). True?

    • liv

      True.

  • kerrin
  • Jessica Lai

    Aww… I really miss mine. Maybe it’s because I’ve started out with series of Sidekicks hence the besotted feelings for QWERTY and not-so-smartphones ..

    • Leandra Medine

      Sidekick! I had one of those babies too. Hard to text in class with.

  • Ash

    I’m STILL a BlackBerry user, as a 25-year-old Houstonian. Simply put, I just like it better. I went from a Curve 8310 to a Bold 9700 to a Torch 9810 & am now a very happy owner of an all-touch-screen Z10. I can use it on Instagram & Pose & a large portion of other apps that also run on Android. I’ve played around with friends’ Droids & iPhones and it just doesn’t work the way my brain thinks, while my Z10 & I bonded on day one.

  • brunetteletters

    I almost cried!!! You are so right hahahahaha…I love love bbm and I still have one. I truly wish bb has instagram bc that thing is apparently the best thing ever invented on social media…

    http://brunettelettersblog.blogspot.com/

  • Josefina

    Ohhhh I love you so much! I feel the same for my blackberry and I can’t let it go! If it would have Instagram, I wouldn’t even look at a person who carries on an iPhone. Blackberry keyboard is just the best thing ever happened to the mobile world, and no reason is enough to give up on it. Fortunately, here in Argentina we are still Blackberry fans. But it won’t last forever since iPhone and Samsung keep poking their noses everywhere.

  • felicia hsb

    Definitely agree with you. i miss the ringtone when receiving a BBM and mostly miss the feel of physical buttons!

  • katie

    blackberry has the new q10 out that has both the touch screen AND a physical keyboard!! i’m itching to get one and feel those keys under my thumbs

  • Samia

    I LOVE my Blackberry, it’s unbreakble. I tried Iphone but I just leave it in my bag, its useless.

  • Katie-Marie Isaac

    I miss my Blackberry so much! It always looked so slick and aesthetically pleasing with all it’s curves and keyboardness…loved it. But, like most, I dumped it in a favor of an iPhone 5. I feel as though I’ve cheated.

    http://confessionsofafactorygirl.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Katy

    i wish there was some kind of device i could plug into my iphone that will add a touchless keyboard to it.

  • Paula McClelland

    Never owned a Blackberry – but I read this to the end and you did’nt convince me I’m missing out :-P

    ♥ Paula Shoe Fiend.
    http://shoe-fiend.blogspot.co.nz/

  • liv

    The best selling feature of Blackberry Devices is BBM and now What’s App has filled that void for iOS and Android devices. What’s App is much better and everyone I know has it.

  • samantha rothenberger

    i love thinking back to how cool the first sidekick i ever saw was, a black and white text message feed that even with colorized tv’s, gameboys..xbox and internet, it still mesmerized us all. and than the bbm’s came..

    mind blowing.

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