Ever True to You, Dear BlackBerry

Just last year, Beyoncé Knowles was photographed holding the BlackBerry Bold P’9981, a model designed by Porsche that sold for more than $2,000.

How the mighty have tumbled. In September, BlackBerry entered an agreement for its $4.7 billion sale to a consortium led by Fairfax Financial; a recent earnings report suggests a company in financial free fall. BlackBerry models are selling for $11.99 on eBay. Even Goldman Sachs, an adviser to BlackBerry, allows employees to get company email on iPhones and Androids.

But holdouts for the device (more than you think) now congregate online to report sightings of the latest models (“Finally saw a guy with a Z10 at work. Couldn’t tell you what he looked like but his phone was gorgeous!”), even on television shows like “NCIS” and “White Collar.” One fan noted that President Obama’s selfie with the prime ministers David Cameron of Britain and Helle Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark at the Nelson Mandela memorial service was taken with a Z10. And when Susan Rice, the national security adviser, appeared on “60 Minutes” with her BlackBerry, it was perhaps the ultimate endorsement of the device’s reputation for superior encryption.

Though such policy-wonk cred persists, being able to trade BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) contact information no longer indicates that you are a member of an elite set; the feature has been all but usurped by iMessages and Twitter direct messages.


Paris Hilton in 2010 with a BlackBerry, a now maligned phone.

“I was courting a woman long-distance and we did BBM all the time,” said Rob Fong, 54, a former Sacramento City Council member. “When she moved up here, she got her first iPhone. I made her keep her BlackBerry so we could BBM. She’s canceled it now that we’re married.”

Mr. Fong knows only one other BlackBerry user, but he has no plans to trade his in.

“People make fun of me when I take my phone out,” he said. “I feel like I have an eight-track tape player in my car. When did I become that person? But I love it. And I register every time I get an egregious error typed on an iPhone.”

Roberta Kaplan, 47, a partner at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, owns a BlackBerry and an iPhone. Being loyal to the former, she said, is “not cool or even retro-cool. I just can’t write a whole paragraph on an iPhone but I’ve written 10-page briefs on my BlackBerry.”

It’s not just government, law and financial firms that assign BlackBerries to their employees. Prada does, too, although the company’s Instagram account would indicate that someone in Milan is an iPhone user.

In part perhaps because BlackBerry long cultivated members of the fashion world with giveaways and promotions, there are many in that field who cling to their chic-in-2006 gizmo.

“The party’s going on on Instagram, and I feel left out,” said Robin Zachary, a stylist and art director who said she is “over 40” and lives in Chelsea. But she won’t give up her BlackBerry. “I can type faster than a speeding bullet on that keyboard.”

Carol Straley, 62, works in public relations for beauty clients and loves the way her BlackBerry Bold fits in her hand.

“I could be backstage during fashion week, waiting for the show to begin, or on my way to breakfast with an editor and need to be checking my email all the time,” she said. “That’s your lifeline. But on the other hand, I am intrigued by all the capabilities of the iPhone, not least of which are the aesthetics.”

Owning a BlackBerry indicates a gravitas and devotion to work that the iPhone does not.

“There’s a certain frivolity about the iPhone: playing games, watching videos, Pinterest, Snapchat,” said David Shapiro, 25, a student at Brooklyn Law School who got his first BlackBerry in 2006. “Owning a BlackBerry is the opposite of a status object now. It’s like driving a junk car.”

That is true even when compared to older technologies, he said, “because people who have flip-phones seem to have taken a principled stand against encroaching technology, which is its own kind of status thing.”

Just this week, Mr. Shapiro gave in to the siren call of the iPhone. But, he said, “I am keeping a spare BlackBerry in my backpack just in case.”



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