eWEEK at 30: Glory Days of Nokia, Motorola, BlackBerry Ended With iPhone

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2014-01-25 Print this article Print

BlackBerry's impact was so considerable that it actually introduced two words into the lexicon. The second, Crackberry, suggested how addictive it was to suddenly have information "literally at your fingertips," wrote Stephanopoulos, pondering whether the device was "more a curse or a blessing."

"Suddenly, businesses were able to communicate with their employees no matter where they were," said Gold. "It allowed you to stay in touch with your users around the clock, which of course has good sides and bad sides. But until then you had to go to something, you had to sit down at a PC. People were taking their phones to bed with them—the BlackBerry changed the working world."

In 1999, as Nokia was overtaking Motorola in the feature phone space, Canadian company Research In Motion (RIM) introduced the BlackBerry 850, a sort of two-way pager with a small display, a QWERTY keyboard, a wireless data connection and the ability to synchronize with a corporate email system.

By the time RIM added voice capabilities (though not a speaker—users had to wear a headset) to the device in 2002, people were already beginning to complain about "BlackBerry thumb"—the joint pain related to the workout that the BlackBerry's keyboard was giving to the overworked thumbs of the handset's more obsessive users.

The BlackBerry 6210, introduced in 2003, was the company's 10th device and its first with an integrated phone. It was a mobile phone with a Web browser, access to corporate email, SMS, BlackBerry Messenger and even access to corporate applications. It came in blue or black, and a few months later a slightly tweaked version for AT&T and T-Mobile, called the 7210, even featured a color display.

"Before the iPhone, BlackBerry was the device," said Gold. "You were nobody if you didn't have a BlackBerry."

By 2004, BlackBerry had more than a million subscribers, and by 2007, it had more than 10 million.

The iPhone Changes Everything

On Jan. 9, 2007, at MacWorld San Francisco, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, calling it "literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone." It featured Web browsing, email access, searching, maps and most importantly, a multi-touch display that made it possible to control the phone with a fingertip.

It was beautiful and simple and designed by designers for everyone. A tremendous number of people thought Apple had introduced the first phone with email access and an Internet connection, though what it had actually done was create a smartphone so unintimidating and accessible that suddenly the average person became alert to possibilities that really only "enterprise users" had been enjoying.

"With Nokia's Symbian phones, you needed a manual to get started. BlackBerry was the same way," said Strategy Analytics' Hyers. "They just weren't intuitive. They were designed by engineers."

The iPhone went on sale June 29 of that year, and by September Apple had sold a million of them, giving it a 3.4 percent share of the worldwide smartphone market. In another strategic move, ahead of the holiday shopping season, Apple lowered the iPhone's starting price from $599 to $399.


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