BlackBerry phones stop working as company decommissions services

A BlackBerry smart phone
The company has now pivoted to making cybersecurity software. Photo credit: Getty Images

BlackBerry is pulling the plug on service for its once ubiquitous business smartphones, which were toted by executives, politicians and legions of fans in the early 2000s.

The move marks the end of an era as the phones, which sported a tiny QWERTY physical keyboard, pioneered push email and the BBM instant messaging service.

Former US President Barack Obama, one of its most celebrated users, made headlines in 2016 when he was asked to give up his BlackBerry and replace it with an unnamed smartphone.

BlackBerry lost favour with users with the advent of Apple's touchscreen iPhones and rival Android devices. In recent years, the company pivoted to making cybersecurity software and embedded operating systems for cars.

CEO John Chen said that the switching off of the phone services was "the end of an era and the beginning of a new one".

"For many of us, those BlackBerry devices earned a permanent place in our hearts, and it’s been sad to see them go," he said.

"The fierce commitment of our customers to their BlackBerry devices still fills us with pride, though we stopped manufacturing them years ago. We have been holding off on decommissioning the BlackBerry service out of loyalty to our customers for a long time."

Social media was alight with tributes. One Twitter user reminisced it was a "fabulous machine" and hoped the company's phones would be resurrected.

Another lamented the end by posting a picture of their 13 different BlackBerry phones.

"Each device in my collection has its own unique memory. Wish I could continue to use these devices forever."

The company first said it would take steps to decommission legacy services for BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry OS operating systems in 2020, and confirmed late last year that January 4, 2022 (US time) would be the shutdown date.

Devices running on them after today will no longer be supported and may not be able to receive or send data, make phone calls or send messages reliably, the company said.

Android devices with the BlackBerry name will be unaffected by the shutdown.

Meanwhile a US judge has rejected the company's bid to dismiss a lawsuit claiming it defrauded shareholders by inflating the success and profitability of smartphones using BlackBerry 10 OS, and said the class-action case could go to trial later this year.

Reuters / Newshub