December 6, 2023
The rise and fall of the BlackBerry

Dubbed the ‘crackberry’, it was a tech gamechanger and status symbol. So what happened to the first smartphone and why didn’t the execs see it coming?

A decade and a half ago, there was no bigger status symbol than the BlackBerry. Lady Gaga tweeted from hers. Madonna slept with one under her pillow. Kim Kardashian owned three of them. When he became president, Barack Obama fought tooth and nail to be able to keep his device. When Naomi Campbell lost her temper with a housekeeper in 2006, which household object did she choose to use as a projectile weapon? That’s right, it was the humble BlackBerry. Without any overstatement, they were everywhere.

And yet, when was the last time you thought about BlackBerry? A year ago? A decade ago? More? The BlackBerry currently occupies a genuinely strange space in the culture. It swept in with such gamechanging ferocity – here was a phone that allowed you to send emails, liberating its user from the tyranny of the office – only to be displaced just as quickly when Apple announced the iPhone. BlackBerry’s ups and downs were so sudden and violent that they’re now almost impossible to comprehend.

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