Thank goodness BlackBerry isn’t doing away with keyboard, this devoted fan says

Company chief executive’s assurance future outsourced handsets will have physical keyboard is good news for users who swear by its clickety clack despite BlackBerry’s efforts to wean them off it

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 September, 2016, 2:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 September, 2016, 3:10pm

All is not lost yet. The BlackBerry keyboard synonymous with the Canadian smartphone brand is here to stay, chief executive John Chen said after the announcement it will stop making handsets and outsource production.

Chen’s comment came in a video released on YouTube.

“When we allow other people to build the handsets with our operation systems, it will be compatible with every single one of these, “ Chen says, pointing to recent company releases such as the Passport, Priv and the latest, the DTEK50. “... Somewhere [in the future] we will have one [handset] with a keyboard. When [our partners] heard about the keyboard they’d like to have that licence from me.”

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That is good news for us phone users who swear by the physical QWERTY keyboard for e-mailing, messaging and, in my case, filing stories.The virtual variety doesn’t quite cut it for me.

My first BlackBerry was the Bold 9000, which, in 2008, was one of the best smartphones on the market, especially for business users. It was light, simple to operate and solid. I cannot remember how many times I dropped the handset, but it lasted for a couple of years. Most of all, once I had used the physical keyboard, there was no going back. Even the clicking sound of the keys was addictive.

The Bold line remained many BlackBerry users’ favourite – Chen says in the video uploaded on Wednesday that one of his all-time favourite models is the Bold 9900 (2011) – until the company made the mistake of doing away with the keyboard, a move Chen had to reverse after he became chief executive in 2013.

Priv, the first BlackBerry phone with a keyboard that runs on the Android operation system, released last year, was well received but not well enough to save the company from bleeding red. That’s what lies behind BlackBerry’s decision that its phones will in future be produced by partners including PT BB Merah Putih in Indonesia. The company will focus on software development, including security and applications.

For now I will hang onto my Priv even though its Snapdragon 808 processor leaves a lot to be desired. And that is the point: if BlackBerry doesn’t offer phones that operate and perform as well as its many competitors (battery life on my Priv is still erratic, for instance), not even the beloved keyboard is going to save the company.