“Wait,” *snickers* “what is THAT?”
“It’s a BlackBerry.”
*chortle* “You should get your office to give you an iPhone or an Android.”
“This is not my office phone. It’s my own. I bought it.”
I have this conversation at least once a month. And, granted, it is prompted by a legitimate argument in a 4G-laced America. Why on Earth would I, given a choice, willingly choose what conventional wisdom has decreed to be a sub-par technological product suited, at best, for non-internet-savvy middle-aged government workers and, at worst, Kim Kardashian?
The answer is simple: just like the average-looking person you hook up with at the all-inclusive resort after two days of sitting alone at the bar, the relationship I have with my BlackBerry is mostly out of convenience. It fits my needs perfectly while dispensing with the now-standardized expectations one might have of a smartphone in 2012 (or, for that matter, a one-night stand in Cancún.)
I am currently the proud owner of a BlackBerry Bold 9900, the top-of-the-line offering from Research In Motion, the Canadian company that produces these phones. It is light-years ahead of what people perceive about BlackBerries. It is thin. It has a very responsive touchscreen and an amazing QWERTY keyboard. Its operating system is rock solid. I have never had to pull its battery to restart it. No, it does not have a lot of apps. No, I cannot watch Netflix on it. No, it does not have Instagram, though the camera is a decent 5 megapixels. Yes, I get that camera filters are the new awesome thing. Yeah, I know. I know.
Before continuing, I would like to point out that, yes, I find iPhones and Android phones (at least, the high-end Galaxy Maxx Droid Captivate Nexus III Sense X-TREME! ones) to be the superior technological product. Two cores beat one. Retina screens rule. I deny none of these things — it really would be stupid to do so.
But just like there are different models for Swiss Army Knives, there is something to be said about having a tool that does only a few things, but do them well. Do I really need one with a magnifying glass, a ballpoint pen, a USB flash drive, fifteen different kinds of screwdrivers, a saw, a bit wrench, an altimeter and whatever a “pharmaceutical spatula” is? (No kidding, that exists. Look it up.) Not really. Not all the time. I’m not Katniss Everdeen.
“Whatever,” you say. “You can just not install apps and keep a barebones iPhone.” But what’s the fun of that? An iPhone without Words With Friends, without Instagram, without one of the thousand versions of Angry Birds installed is an iPhone gone to waste. And being the tech dweeb that I am, I take full advantage of all my tech and push my gadgets to the max. My iPhone would not have just some apps, it would have ALL the apps that Apple has to offer. Even the fart apps.
This brings me to why I would not be very good as an iPhone owner. Despite my parents’ many protestations, I have very mild attention-deficit disorder, which translates to (again, despite my parents’ protestations) a very hard time accomplishing things I should be doing. I can only deal with so much awesome before I raise my middle finger to the world and engage in Omega-level procrastination. Thus, if a BlackBerry can be equated with crack cocaine, to me an iPhone would be highly refined, Afghan-produced heroin as pure as snow in Narnia.
If I had an iPhone, I don’t think I could ever go to sleep. If I did, I could never get out of the bed; if I did that, I would never get off the toilet. You’d find my skeleton in the throne, what remains of my thumb still flicking left to right in an Angry Birds-launching motion.
The (very obvious) limitations that my BlackBerry has are what keep me connected to reality. It does what I need it to do. I can write long emails and documents with the keyboard while the phone is in my pocket. I can buy movie tickets and make dinner reservations. I can use Twitter and Foursquare and Google Talk seamlessly without distractions. If I have hours to burn, Bejeweled is always available. If I need any more power, I can use a computer, or an iPad, or my PlayStation 3.
Most importantly, my phone helps me keep in touch with my family and friends from home who are still on the same platform. Peru is just getting 4G, and the costs of an iPhone or an Android phone are still prohibitive for some companies, let alone individuals, so it was through the pooh-poohed BlackBerry Messenger, for example, that I found out through a group chat that my best friend’s baby was born. Sure, we could all use WhatsApp or whatever, but that would require getting everybody on it, which means teaching my father how to use it. The man is brilliant, to be sure, but technology stumps him. You teach him how to use it.
I could go on and on with the tiny things that I think this phone does that distinguishes it from the other offerings out there. (Two stand out: a little LED that tells me whether I’ve gotten a tweet or a text depending on the color it lights up, and a little-publicized feature called WiFi Calling that allows me to make calls from anywhere in the world with no roaming charges provided there’s a wireless internet connection available. Yay for saving money!) But it all boils down to one simple fact: this phone works for me.
I get that I have very specific needs not applicable to a large percentage of the smartphone-carrying population. If another phone does the things I need better, I will consider switching. But for now, I will eschew the glass slate monoliths and stick with my Canadian-designed QWERTY keyboard. It may not be the fastest or the coolest. People may not line up for it at the stores. But given the choice between the popular and the bespoke, I will always go for the latter. And so, I think, do a lot of people, who stay in the shadow to avoid mockery.
Do not despair, fellow BlackBerry owner. You are not alone. Let’s face the snickers and laughs together.
(Author’s note: this piece was written and edited in its entirety on a BlackBerry.)