BlackBerry Drops Classic Phone, U.S. Senate Drops BlackBerry Phones

As BlackBerry's market share hits 0.2% globally from 11% in 2011, big changes are happening at the former enterprise smartphone powerhouse.

BlackBerry classic phone drop

BlackBerry is dropping the production of its Classic QWERTY keyboard-equipped smartphone just a few days after the U.S. Senate unveiled its plans to stop offering BlackBerry phones to members after its existing supplies of the company's handsets are distributed.

The moves, though unrelated, could offer more support for the widely held industry beliefs that BlackBerry is continuing on a road map that will see it become a mobile security software company in place of its former position as a powerhouse in the enterprise smartphone market just 10 years ago.

The dropping of the BlackBerry Classic handset (pictured) was unveiled by Ralph Pini, the company's chief operating officer and the general manager for devices, in a July 5 post on The BlackBerry Blog.

"Sometimes it can be very tough to let go," wrote Pini, as he described changes the company is making in its phone lineup. "For BlackBerry, and more importantly for our customers, the hardest part in letting go is accepting that change makes way for new and better experiences."

As the company prepares to issue several new handset models, it is dropping its BlackBerry Classic, which debuted in December 2014 with a trademark QWERTY keyboard and a 3.5-inch touch-screen display. "For many years, Classic (and its BBOS predecessors) has been in our portfolio," which has made it an "incredible workhorse device for customers, exceeding all expectations," wrote Pini. "But, the Classic has long surpassed the average lifespan for a smartphone in today's market. We are ready for this change so we can give our customers something better—entrenched in our legacy in security and pedigree in making the most productive smartphones."

The company will continue to support the BlackBerry 10 operating system for customers as well as its expanding Android offerings, a company spokesperson told eWEEK in a July 5 reply to an email inquiry about the move. "We are focused on software updates for BlackBerry 10, with version 10.3.3 scheduled for next month, and a second update to follow next year," the spokesperson wrote.

Only the BlackBerry Classic smartphone is being discontinued, the spokeswoman added. "Similar to many other device makers, we are changing the lineup of smartphones as we innovate and advance our portfolio," she added. "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 move by the U.S. Senate to discontinue the distribution of BlackBerry smartphones to its members and staffers when its existing supplies are gone came in recent days through a memo revealed by Politico. The memo from the Senate's mobile communications office said that the BlackBerry devices on the list, which included the Z30, the Classic, the Passport, the Z10 and the Q10 from either AT&T or Verizon are being "discontinued" by the device maker, which is being denied by BlackBerry. Only the Classic is being dropped, the company insisted, despite the memo.

In addition, the Senate mobile communications team is not dropping support for BlackBerry devices, but only the availability of new devices when the current supplies of about 600 devices are used up, according to a spokesperson for the office. Similar notices are "sent to the Senate community any time a product used in our environment is discontinued or is in limited supply," the spokesperson wrote. "The Senate is not phasing out BlackBerrys. BlackBerry still supports and will continue to support our devices and the OS10 platform on which they operate."

Any future BlackBerry products will be evaluated by the agency to determine if they would be useful for the Senate, the spokesperson continued. Senate users will still have a choice of Android or Apple iPhone smartphone models.