BlackBerry Users Talk About How the Iconic Phone Changed Their Life

“My ex-boyfriend wanted me to share the location feature with him. And he wanted an account of every single second of my life. It was toxic.”
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You’ve seen the who’s who of the modern world sporting it – from Leonardo DiCaprio taking selfies from a baseball stand to pop star Lana Del Rey dedicating a song to it. The BlackBerry defined not just the consciousness of a new, aspirational world but also set the benchmark for what was truly cool. Well before iPhones became the status symbols that they are, everyone from business tycoons to the coolest kid on the block had the BlackBerry. 


Earlier this week, the company decided to discontinue BlackBerrys (BlackBerries?) running on the original 10, 7.1 OS and the ones that came before. Except for devices running on Android, owners of the classic BlackBerry will no longer be able to send texts, make calls or use the internet. 

As expected, the announcement triggered a wave of nostalgia among users who rummaged through their drawers to unearth their iconic BlackBerry. The appeal has been nearly universal. 

A 2010 survey, when the BlackBerry had nearly started to fade away from the market, revealed how a huge population then still preferred a BlackBerry even though it couldn’t run many apps or store a lot of music. Users, it turned out, simply couldn’t get enough of the blinking red light, the smooth keyboard, and everything in between. According to multiple reports, the now phased-out BlackBerry running on the original OS was also vulnerable to a range of privacy and security issues. 


We asked ex-BB users what this early device meant for them and how it changed their life.

Rashi Singh, 33

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My addiction to BlackBerry was clinical. It was almost like it was a drug and I needed my fix every waking second of the day. In part, it was also because it was my first smartphone, but it was the beginning of something really dark for me. 

Almost a year into it, in 2013, my phone crashed. That was the tipping point for me. I locked myself in my room for almost a week, did not speak to anyone else, and just withdrew inside my shell. I’d keep getting panic attacks almost every hour. My sister, to whom I’m very close, would keep telling our parents how BlackBerry has snatched away our bond.

But more than anything, BlackBerry was also my coping mechanism at the time. I was introverted and going through a particularly low phase of my life, plagued by self-doubt. And it helped me escape although, of course, the scale of it came with a heavy mental toll. 

Even to this day, I can see the after-effects of that phase in the way I use social media. I still overshare, post about everything, from a cup of tea I’m having to a breakup I might have had. Although it is not as serious as it was back then, I can see how BlackBerry started it all. 

Anannya Sarkar, 29

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This was 2013. My then-boyfriend and I were having communication problems, not getting to talk properly and share things healthily. From my end, I was ready to go out of my way to fix it. And the way I did it was by buying a Blackberry. The reason was simple: He was active on BBM (BlackBerryMessenger) almost every single minute of the day. So, I thought if I joined BBM too, perhaps it would solve our communication issues. 


But there was a problem. I didn’t want to buy the usual BlackBerry Curve, which everyone in college had. I wanted the relatively expensive Storm 2 to stand out from the crowd, which now seems like a completely baseless choice. I had to convince my father and grandfather to pool in their money to get the Storm 2 from my aunt in the United States because there were hardly any units in India. 

All this was for naught because he was pretty much the same. Here I was, purchasing a super expensive phone to fix our communication issues by convincing my parents, only to realise it was for nothing. It felt like such a waste. I still have the phone and it’s not a pretty memory. 

Vidhi Bubna, 23

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This was 2012. My parents had heard the rumour that BlackBerry phones were encrypted. This was a good enough reason for them to give my BlackBerry to my much younger brother. They told me how I’d get an iPhone instead which seemed pretty cool to me at that time. 

But now that I think of it, they had a problem with a girl using an encrypted phone because they feared not getting access to my chats. So, that was both sexist and messed up on their part. It is a common assumption in Indian families that older siblings get all the freedom. But if the older sibling in question is a woman and the younger one is not, things will always be in favour of the boy. 

Now, of course, I won’t put up with it. I don’t show them my chats anymore. Getting educated in a liberal arts college enabled me with the tools to stand up for myself against my parents. Ultimately, I realised it all comes down to questioning our parents and the problematic choices they make. This can be done in the most civil ways, but it needs to be done. 


Later, my father took the BlackBerry from my brother simply because he wanted to use the “encrypted” phone for his business. In my case, it was taken away from me simply because I was a girl who shouldn’t have access to encrypted devices. 

Mrinali Singh, 33 

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This was 2010 when I bought my BlackBerry curve. Its bold, blunt features appealed to me. You associated it with a certain sense of professionalism. It was all fine until I started dating a guy. 

We had conflicting personalities to begin with. I needed my space, my privacy, and I was not the kind to prove my loyalty. Then this BlackBerry feature of location sharing became super popular. It was marketed as an anti-theft feature. With Mr Snoopy, as I’ll refer to him here, it was anything but that. I was also in my early 20s, at a very nascent stage in my personality development. I didn’t realise just how toxic things would get. 

When I enabled the location sharing feature with him, I quite literally signed up for prison. I had to give an account of every single second of my life – where I was, what I was eating at a particular restaurant and with whom, why I’d left the office half an hour earlier. Things came to a head when I was having network issues after boarding a metro. The location was relayed to him after a 10-min delay and he lost it. His insecurities peaked and he spiralled out of control. That was it for me. No explanation helped, and now that I think of it, none was needed. 

Sure, I was traumatised for months but this experience taught me something really important about how male dominance works, how such toxic men will always try to control your life through technology or any other tool at their disposal. Giving full technological access to someone you love is never justified, regardless of the reason. 

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