It’s Official now: BlackBerry to scrap the Classic line up

Goodbye to more tactile keys,
and hello to planes of cool and smooth glass. Today, BlackBerry confirmed that
it will stop making the Classic, one of the company’s last smartphone models
based around a physical keyboard for inputting text, as the company prepares
for a new series of phone designs based on Android and BlackBerry 10
platforms, and more attempts to compete in an increasingly lopsided
smartphone market.

Blackberry Classic Lineup

BlackBerry’s
COO and GM for devices, Ralph Pini, confirmed the decision i,
which appeared to be a belated response to news that leaked out by way of a
U.S. Senate memo published by Politico before the long Independence
Day weekend.

“Sometimes
it can be very tough to let go,” he wrote. “As part of this, and after many
successful years in the market, we will no longer manufacture BlackBerry
Classic.”
To
be clear, BlackBerry is not backing out of making any devices
with physical keyboards. The Politico memo mentioned that a full range of
BlackBerry OS 10 devices (“Q10, Z10, Z30, Passport, and Classic”) was
getting discontinued, which would have covered yet more QWERTY models. But Pini
writes that only the Classic would be going, and BlackBerry has confirmed
the same directly to us.

“We
continue to actively support sales of our BlackBerry 10 smartphones to
customers in most markets. And for customers choosing our Android device as
their next smartphone, there will be a seamless transition without any
compromise to the security of their mobile platform or operations,” the company
noted in a statement. “We believe that being truly cross platform – which
includes support for BB10, Android, iOS and Windows Phone – will allow us to
best serve our customers across the world.” While phone companies will stop selling
these devices, BlackBerry notes you can still buy them unlocked while
supplies last.
As
part of this, the company said it will be releasing 10.3.3 next month,
with another update next year.

In the
meantime, pour one out for the model that arguably started it all, and may have
even given the company its original fruity brand. (Hold it with your arm
stretched out, and one of the original black Blackberry phones kind of do
resemble one of the sweet berries that grows in the brambles in the forest).

BlackBerry
continues to have huge challenges ahead of it in the smartphone industry, and
you could easily argue that the Classic was more important as an icon than as
an actual business.

Once the
early mover and market leader among all smartphones, BlackBerry
accounted for only 0.2% of all worldwide sales in Q1 2016, according to
Gartner
. Android phones represented over 84% of all purchased
devices.

The thinking
seems to be that by pushing BlackBerry deeper into the realm of Android,
it may pick up more users in a market that isn’t particularly strong on
one brand: underscoring the fragmentation in Android, market leader Samsung
only accounts for 23.2% of sales. iOS and Apple are close by at 14.8%.

In that
regard, it’s particularly ironic that the Classic — which itself was a relaunched (in 2014) version of the company’s original
design — is being discontinued: it was one of the few remaining phone models
that you could distinctly make out in a sea of me-too, anonymous Android styles
or iPhone lookalikes.

Next up, you
have to wonder about the longer term fate of BlackBerry’s platform. The company
has seen some major setbacks, with companies like Facebook pulling away from supporting the platform, which it
lumped together with Symbian and older versions of Android in the “unfriend”
pile. As the slow growth of Windows Phone demonstrated, popular app
availability was one (but not the only) factor that kept consumers from buying
those devices.

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