Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Ads by Google

The tragic decline of BlackBerry Limited has been swift and unstoppable. This Canadian icon, which once literally defined the smartphone, is a shell of its former self. Over the past six years, consumers have gradually ditched the clunky phones for svelte and sleek Android and iOS devices. But there’s a category of user that’s less fickle, and has stuck with the BlackBerry through thick-and-thin. I’m referring to business and government users.

It’s hard to put a finger on the reason why. No small part is because people — and more realistically corporate IT departments — have become used to BlackBerry devices, and have no impetus to change.

But probably the biggest reason is because BlackBerry devices have a much-deserved reputation for security. Throughout its history, people have trusted BlackBerry phones in the way they haven’t Android devices, Palm Pilots, and even iPhones. Even in 2016, BlackBerry devices continue to set the standard for security and trust. Here’s why.

Making All the Right Moves

It’s hard to believe it right now, but during the early-to-mid 2000’s – when the company was called Research in Motion (RIM) – it made all the correct decisions to guarantee its success. Before anyone was talking about mobile security, RIM built a fundamentally secure mobile operating system.

The nucleus of BlackBerry OS was the subscription-based email service. At the time, RIM was unique in offering ‘push’ functionality.

BlackBerryDevice

Ads by Google

The moment an email arrived in a user’s inbox, it would be pushed to their handset. This instantaneous delivery, plus the pavlovian chime that was made whenever one arrived, had an almost narcotic effect on the users, and resulted in the phones being nicknamed ‘Crackberries’.

It was also unique in the emphasis it made on security. All emails sent to BlackBerry devices were transported through servers operated by RIM, with the inbound and outbound connections protected with highly-secure transport-level security. This meant that it would be impossible for an attacker to intercept the messages or steal email credentials through a man-in-the-middle attack What Is A Man-In-The-Middle Attack? Security Jargon Explained What Is A Man-In-The-Middle Attack? Security Jargon Explained Read More .

This sounds incredibly quaint right now. Push email and SSL are both commonplace. However, it’s worth remembering that at the start of the 2000’s, they weren’t.

Another advantage BlackBerry possessed was the ability for an IT department to remotely administer devices.

BlackBerryDevice2

Corporate BlackBerry devices were connected to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). This meant that if an employee lost one on the bus, or in a café, the IT department could remotely wipe them. This limited the chance of any embarrassing data loss incidents.

It also meant that corporate IT departments could control the minutia of each device. If a company was concerned about someone exfiltrating sensitive information by taking photos of corporate documents, it could disable the cameras on each connected BlackBerry device.

Finally, BES made it easy to deploy multiple mobile devices on one fell swoop. Rather than having an IT worker configuring each phone manually, BES made it possible to deploy hundreds of devices simultaneously.

BlackBerryBold

These factors made BlackBerry OS the most secure in the world, and ideal for cautious corporate IT departments. The devices could even be seen in the hands of world leaders. When Obama was elected in 2007, he fought tooth-and-nail with the Secret Service for the right to keep his beloved BlackBerry.

Even Angela Merkel has her own customized BlackBerry Z10, which was fitted with a Secusmart anti-eavesdropping chip. So too does Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who was pictured taking a selfie with Obama and David Cameron with it, during the funeral of Nelson Mandela.

BlackBerry in the Android Age

You don’t need to be told that BlackBerry Limited is in a rough state right now. In 2008, it dominated the still-nascent smartphone market. Shares of the company were traded on the NASDAQ for as much as $120 a share. Now, it occupies around 0.2% of the market, and you can purchase a piece of the company for less than a McDonalds Extra Value deal.

BBRY

While customers have largely lost interest in BlackBerry devices, business are still buying them, albeit in slightly diminished numbers.

In 2013, BlackBerry Limited attempted to reverse their terminal decline by releasing the BlackBerry 10 Operating system 10 Reasons To Give BlackBerry 10 A Try Today 10 Reasons To Give BlackBerry 10 A Try Today BlackBerry 10 has some pretty irresistible features. Here are ten reasons why you might want to give it a go. Read More , which was built upon the robust QNX OS, which BlackBerry Limited had acquired a few years earlier. This superseded the old, clunky BlackBerry 7 OS (which is still supported), with one that was fast, sleek, and beautiful.

It was a great operating system, and perfectly complimented the incredible BlackBerry build quality. I owned a BlackBerry Q10 for almost two years, and I still regard it as the best smartphone I have ever owned. When former MakeUseOf writer Yaara Lancet reviewed the Z10 BlackBerry Z10 Review and Giveaway BlackBerry Z10 Review and Giveaway BlackBerry always seemed like a dying, irrelevant OS. Until now. Read More , she was similarly complimentary.

More importantly, BlackBerry 10 was highly secure. In the annual Pwn2Own contests, BlackBerry 10 devices were unscathed, while iPhones and Android phones were routinely compromised. It had integrated anti-virus powered by Trend Micro, and filesystem-level encryption. It was almost bulletproof.

That wasn’t enough. Towards the end of 2014, it became apparent that there was little room for a third player in the smartphone race. Even Windows Phone was struggling. The decision was made to switch to Android.

Right now, there’s one Android-powered BlackBerry smartphone — the BlackBerry Priv.

Just like its predecessors, it has an incredible emphasis on security. This goes as low-level as the supply chain, where each device is “signed” with a digital key, to prevent tampering. Modifications to the Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and SELinux make it harder for malware to exploit vulnerabilities in Android. Also included is an app called DTEK, which passively monitors the device for any suspicious behavior.

It’s hard to understate how heavily modified the variant of Android running on the BlackBerry Priv has been. There have been hundreds of tweaks and changes, which have had the cumulative effect of making it almost invincible. It’s perhaps the most fundamentally secure Android smartphone on the market.

Beyond devices, BlackBerry Limited is focusing on enterprise-level services which make other Android devices more secure. The latest version of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server — BES12 — now comes with support for Samsung KNOX and Android at Work.

SOLARIN: A Challenger Approaches

Now, more and more smartphone manufacturers are competing to be the “most secure ever”. Devices are shipped with root access 4 Compelling Security Reasons Not To Jailbreak Your iPhone or iPad 4 Compelling Security Reasons Not To Jailbreak Your iPhone or iPad Read More made unavailable to users, and both Google and Apple routinely scan their app stores for malware using static code analysis. Things like transport-level security, VPN support, and encryption are universally available.

But at the higher-end of the smartphone market, we see what “secure” truly means. Take Solarin by Sirin Labs, for example.

Solarin

At $16,000, Solarin is probably the most expensive smartphone money can buy, rivalling offerings made by Virtu — the UK-based and Nokia-owned luxury phone manufacturer. In addition to being sold through their website, Sirin Labs own a shop in London’s luxe Mayfair district, as well as London Heathrow Airport. You won’t get this on a 24-month phone contract!

So, what makes it so special?

Solarin2

In addition to being exquisitely-built, it’s also unfathomably secure. It features an integrated Koolspan TrustChip device, which authenticates and secures mobile communications through sturdy 256-bit AES encryption. Solarin also includes a switch which, when pressed, enables a “shielded mode” for encrypted texts and calls. As you’d expect with a phone of that price point, it also includes a fingerprint reader The History of Biometric Security, and How It's Being Used Today The History of Biometric Security, and How It's Being Used Today Biometric security devices were long held ideals in science fiction movies that seemed plausible enough to actually happen, but a little too far-fetched for real world application. Read More .

You’re probably never going to own this phone. You probably won’t need to. If you’re that concerned about your privacy, a Priv will do. But, one day, could we see Angela Merkel ditch her BlackBerry for it? Perhaps.

Do You Still Use a BlackBerry?

I want to hear why. Is it because of security and privacy, or something else? Let me know in the comments below.

Image Credits: hacker getting difficult password by Creativa Images via Shutterstock, BlackBerry (Stephen Tom), Enrique Dans (BlackBerry Bold), mxmstyro (BlackBerry)

  1. Pedro
    December 7, 2016 at 1:05 am

    Just a question. I had a Blackberry Q10 and it was awesome, until Blackberry said it will take off the support until June 2017. How would you manage this issue? I have lots of contacts with Whatsapp, and I don't know if sideloading the Android's Whatsapp will be as safe. I am wishing to buy a Z10, now that I got an iPod to listen to streaming music (what I mostly do).

  2. Clark Bensen
    December 6, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    I still use my BB Bold 9700, first registered in Nov 2009 (which i mistakenly discovered by touching B instead of T). This replaced an old Nokia upon typing was tortuous but my main focus was simply the phone call; it sufficed. The instant I picked up the Bold I was sold as it filled the main void in my toolkit: email. I hardly ever 'surf' except to check on the status of a flight or train when the carrier has not alerted me. I eventually found texting a more useful tool for many of my needs but the email is still the reason why i have it. I appreciate the elegant businesslike form and functionality. I am pleased that others still use it, let alone that old new stock is still available. The only issues i have had are when a battery freaks out. I have three i carry in my bag and one of them always works (again) eventually. Other than that when BB or AT&T changes something I need to call support: they are the best support staff I have encountered which is especially helpful as the problems generally occur while on the road. What's the saying..."From my cold dead hands". I just hope support continues for it

  3. CHRIS
    December 3, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    I have been using a Blackberry since the year 2000. Ive used almost every BB hand set. It was all about security for me. No i dont have anything to hide but just knowing im secure was a good feeling, like knowing your car or house is secure. The OS10 is the best by far, no doubt. ive used Z10 (three of them) Z30, Passport and now a PD P9982. Blackberry at its best......However, my PD is looking a bit tired now after 3 years and normally id just order the next flagship BlackBerry. ....But this time round, there is no flagship there is no OS10 and the way blackberry has treated its loyal fans leaves me asking myself, why would i buy another Blackberry? i have avoided Android for so many years and now if i want a Blackberry flagship Android is my only choice. In the past you had no option if you wanted security. Apple and Samsung now have great secure devices and you know theses two companies will still be around in ten years time. Blackberry on the other hand no longer build devices, no longer has its own OS so what do they have to offer? We are not even sure they will exist in two years time. Still waiting for the 10.3.3 update. How come Blackphone sell expensive secure handsets in small numbers and survive, why cant Blackberry?

  4. kartik mehla
    November 26, 2016 at 3:20 am

    I still use BlackBerry z10 which I bought a year ago. Actually I was not having an iPhone in my budget and I don't want an android because it seems to me a childish thing so I go for BlackBerry but now I am fully satisfied with it and now I would buy BlackBerry leap

  5. Talha
    November 23, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    I still use BlackBerry because of its security but also because of how it interfaces with me.... I love the blackberry feel... it is mature... professional... and sophisticated...

  6. Scott
    November 1, 2016 at 1:26 am

    My first smartphone was the Blackberry Z10. After a recent switch of carriers I was able to take on a new device but unfortunately, they didn't offer any Blackberry's in their product line up. I chose an Android device and told myself to use it for a month to get used to the operating system. 3 weeks later , I turned back to my Z10 because of ease of communication, thanks to the HUB. That and the sync of both work and personal calendars in one. I use my phone to assist my work day, not to listen to music or play games. If that's your desire then I'm sure your iPhone and Android are superb, but to organize my day with an o/s that is easy to set up and personalize to my taste, then Blackberry is still my preferred choice.

  7. Neville
    October 25, 2016 at 6:59 am

    I am supporting BlackBerry one time shoe shine! I loved my 8520 curve that phone was like chuck Norris it wouldn't break and I know a code for all the old Blackberry's that gives you a menu to clear that makes your phone switch on faster and operate faster like when you first got it, won't deleted anything valuable to you but lone story short then I got a Blackberry torch and the slide touch screen and keypad was the ultimate! Using now a Z3 BlackBerry and most user friendly ever people must come take me on with that and when my phone is on charge it doesn't get hot!!!!!! Only if on the Internet and charging but that's normal so BLACKBERRY ALL THE WAY!

  8. timothy
    June 23, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    My 1st smartphone was a Blackberry Bold and I used it for about 4 years before switching to Android. Initially I struggled to get used to the non-pyhysical keyboard on Android. But now I'm okay with it. I don't miss anything about the BlackBerry bold 9780 which routinely froze when in use. I don't have to close a PDF or word document I'm working on when I connect my Android phone to my laptop and I can still have access to it on the laptop. I disconnect the Android phone without closing the document and it won't get corrupted. That I couldn't do on the Bold blackberry.

    With regards to security issue how can reconcile your support of the BlackBerry's security with this story:
    a Vice News report revealed that Canadian police had access to a master encryption key in its investigation that allowed it to intercept over 1 million messages sent using BlackBerry Messenger between 2010 and 2012.
    It wasn’t clear as how the key was obtained and whether BlackBerry handed it over to Canadian law enforcement to assist in a 2011 murder case involving a Montreal crime organization.
    Today, BlackBerry CEO John Chen confirmed that the company had cooperated with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) but didn’t specify whether it had shared an encryption key.
    “We have long been clear in our stance that tech companies as good corporate citizens should comply with reasonable lawful access requests,” Chen said in a blog post.
    He added, “This very belief was put to the test in an old case that recently resurfaced in the news, which speculated on and challenged BlackBerry’s corporate and ethical principles. In the end, the case resulted in a major criminal organization being dismantled. Regarding BlackBerry’s assistance, I can reaffirm that we stood by our lawful access principles.”
    BlackBerry’s stance on sharing access to users’ private data with governments contrasts sharply with Apple’s position on the matter. Recently, the iPhone maker refused to assist the US Department of Justice in unlocking a handset believed to be owned by the terrorist involved in the San Bernardino attacks.
    http://thenextweb.com/mobile/2016/04/19/blackberry-okay-helping-governments-spy-users-sometimes/#gref

    • Matthew Hughes
      June 27, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      It's an important point, although it's worth noting that privacy != security. They're often conflated together, but they're both fundamentally different beasts.

  9. Travis Moore
    June 23, 2016 at 7:19 am

    Got a BlackBerry Priv, which is what I typed this on.

    • Matthew Hughes
      June 27, 2016 at 4:26 pm

      Nice. My next phone will be the Rome, I think.

  10. Hannibal Moot
    June 22, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    I still use my Blackberry Z30 (and I have a Q5 when I want something smaller to carry) and I have no desire to switch. I love Android and IOS as tablets but for a phone, I don't want all the extra stuff that I would never use. (I would never work on photos on a phone for example)

    I love my Ipad so I tried an Iphone for a bit and hated it. The battery was awful, the keyboard was awful, and the phone calls were awful. I got rid of that and never went back.

    It's sad that more people don't give BB10 a try. It is far and away the best phone OS available. I see all these battery packs for sale in flyers and am thankful I never have to worry about making it to the end of a day without one or a charger. I've never had my Z30 crash or lock up on me..EVER. I never have to do a reboot because it's slowing down.

    BB10 is so intuitive and fast for things I want from a phone like talk, text, and email, there is no comparison in efficiency to either IOS or Android. My 3 year old Z30 makes my Ipad Pro look like it's sitting still when it comes to composing and sending an email.

    It's also the only device I trust for doing my banking on. I don't even use my computer for online banking.

    I even dug out my old Torch (still my favourite BB) last week and was toying with trying it again for a while but I realized quickly how much of an improvement BB10 is over BBOS and went back to the Z30.

    As much as I like the look of the Priv, and maybe I'll get one someday, I wish they would've released a BB10 version as well. I don't want to give up the efficiency of BB10. I hope they don't stop making new BB10's for all Android or I'll be sticking with my old ones (and maybe trying to find backups on Ebay).

    I think BB10 will go down in history like BetaMax; the better technology that was overshadowed by inferior but more popular technology. The more I think about BB10 disappearing, the more I think I would consider going to a plain feature phone instead. As long as I have a tablet for playing with apps at home, I think it would be liberating to only carry something like my old Star-Tac again when I went out.

    • Matthew Hughes
      June 23, 2016 at 9:34 am

      I feel you brotha. I had a Q10 for about two years. I moved to Windows Mobile, and then Android, after I lost it in a cab. I was... Er... What's the euphemism? "Tired and Emotional"?

      Before that I had the Bold. Man, that was a good phone.

      I just miss a good physical keyboard, y'know?

      • peter
        November 2, 2016 at 3:41 am

        I have been using a BlackBerry Passport for over a year now. BEST business phone I've ever had, and this is my 14th phone! The physical keyboard was the main reason for purchasing a BlackBerry Passport as I do a lot of texting for work. The BlackBerry HUB, that is part of the BlackBerry system (which I never heard of before), has made my work life so much more productive. All in all, the MOST productive business phone made, bar none!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *