5 memorable BlackBerry devices from years gone by

Before BlackBerry gave in to the giant that is Google and its Android operating system, it was a bit of a mobile device juggernaut.

Seeing record profits and sales in 2009, the company (then known as Research in Motion, or RIM) was riding a wave of high numbers, notably with its highest recorded sales figures in a quarter, and revenues of in excess of US$3.4-billion in the third quarter of 2009 alone. Its business was booming, and it came very close to rivaling the iPhone in that regard.

But since then, the company’s been experiencing a bit of a decline. As a result, the BlackBerry PRIV and the company’s new Android-centric philosophy possibly marks the end of what really made BlackBerry devices unique in a world of copy cats. The PRIV also arrives in South Africa this week, which is very much a make or break smartphone for the company.

So, in honour of the Canadian marque’s previous exploits, we take a look back at five truly memorable BlackBerry devices from bygone years.

BlackBerry Quark 6210

blackberry 6210

First is the BlackBerry Quark.

Launched in 2003, the 6210 introduced the world to BlackBerry Messenger. It was also the first of its family to gain call features without a prerequisite headset (remarkably) and to add to its charm, that was marked in the press release as a breakthrough feature:

The built-in, high-quality phone supports GSM voice services with optional features such as call waiting, call answer, conference calling and call forwarding. It includes an integrated speaker/microphone designed for comfort and clarity when held to the ear and a headset that attaches for convenient, hands-free conversation allowing users to read, type or retrieve information while they talk. A call management button also enables users to quickly access the phone application and turn on/off the mute feature.

The phone was also named as one of TIME’s top 100 gadgets of all time, placing at number 62.

BlackBerry Passport

Blackberry Passport 3

Possibly the most innovative BlackBerry ever — certainly the most daring form factor-wise — the Passport was one of a kind in a sea of generic touchscreen devices. Shaped like a passport (obvs) and launched in late 2014, the Passport boasted a full QWERTY keypad with gesture controls, a 4.5-inch touchscreen and the ability to run Android apps on its BlackBerry 10 operating system. It was a productivity boon too; thanks to its efficient OS, the BlackBerry Hub and the intelligent keypad, it was the perfect business phone.

We loved it so much, that we gave the device a 9/10. As for its global popularity? 200 000 devices were sold in just two days post-launch.

BlackBerry Pearl

blackberry pearl josh hallett

Image: Josh Hallett via Flickr

Although it wasn’t the first phone with RIM’s SureType keypad, it was the phone that surely put it on the map. Named after its round white trackball, the BlackBerry Pearl was a design departure from the usual pebble-like shape of older BlackBerrys prior to 2006, and featured four rows of five keys, spreading out letters in an unusual but practical way.

Not everyone liked this though, but it did carve a niche for itself in the QWERTY prevalent phones of its day. More interestingly though, the keys also allowed BlackBerry to slim down the device, making it one of the first BlackBerrys to comfortably fit in a slim pair of jeans (remarkably important for smartphone users of today).

BlackBerry Bold 9700


Image: doronko via Flickr

Loved by more than just Jay Z, the BlackBerry Bold 9700 was a great device for its time. Launched in 2009, the phone was an evolution of everything that made BlackBerry great. The BlackBerry 7 OS was the perfect system for messaging enthusiasts, while the keypad was arguably one of the best QWERTY keypads ever made.

The optical trackpad also returned, and a 3.2MP camera featured on the rear, which was pretty good for its time.

BlackBerry Curve 8520


Image: BitchBuzz via Flickr

You might be wondering why the Curve is on the list. There’s a simple answer for this: it was about as popular as cherries on ice cream. I had two of these in my time, and one of them is still working to this day.

It boasted a rather rudimentary BlackBerry 7 OS, but it allowed users in the emerging markets to send and receive messages at a fraction of the cost. Remember, this was before the MXit and Whatsapp revolutions in South Africa. BlackBerry Messenger was a mainstay, and if you didn’t have one of these device in South Africa, you weren’t as cool as the rest of the kids.

Closing thoughts

Of course, your personal BlackBerry favourite will likely differ to mine, but we’re interested to hear your thoughts. Which BlackBerry is your favourite? In light of the BlackBerry PRIV’s South African debut this week, will the company’s first Android smartphone be a massive success, or a total failure? Let us know in the comments section below.

Andy Walker, former editor


Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Memeburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.