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Gen Z is surprisingly nostalgic about BlackBerry phones

Yet I, a dirty Millennial, feel nothing

Gen Z is surprisingly nostalgic about BlackBerry phones
Callum Booth
Story by

Callum Booth

Editor of Plugged by TNW

Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He w Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He writes about gear, gadgets, and apps — with a particular focus on Apple — and also makes the occasional odd video. Basically, he's halfway between an abrasive gadget nerd and thinky art boy.

If you love commemorating historic dates, I’ve got one for you: January 4, 2022. That, friends, is the day old BlackBerry finally died.

It’s been a long fall for the company. For a while, BlackBerry was… well, I don’t know about cool, but it was popular. More than that, it defined a particular moment in our collective memory.

This was the start of the mobile era, a time when having a full keyboard on a phone felt revolutionary.

But all good things must end. The classic BlackBerry devices (those made before the switch to Android) stopped working on January 4. These can no longer access the internet, make calls, or send messages.

An era is over. The question I have though is this: whose era?

old blackberry phone discontinued
RIP.

I’m a millennial (ugh), and the whole BlackBerry thing missed me entirely. Yeah, my Dad had one, but I can’t remember anyone in my age range using them. If I was going to write a memorial post, it’d have to do so from a distance — I simply don’t have the connection with the devices.

Then an idea struck me: why don’t I find out what Gen Z thinks of BlackBerry phones? If I think the handsets are strange, they must find them baffling.

And while I’m generally suspicious of generations as a concept, time is irrefutable. Gen Z grew up, and were shaped by, a different world. Plus, they seem to really be into old tech like wired headphones — asking about BlackBerry phones is a natural extension of that.

How does Gen Z feel about BlackBerry phones?

Surprisingly, nostalgia was the overriding emotion I got from the Gen Z people I spoke with.

“They’re vintage,” Cara Curtis, a 24 year old copywriter told me. She expanded on this feeling of nostalgia by saying BlackBerry devices reminded her of, and I quote, “the scene in Gossip Girl when Serena throws her phone in the bin cos she got a text that made her sad lol.”

gossip girl serena phone throw
Helpfully, Cara provided this image with an arrow pointing towards the phone. And no, it’s not a BlackBerry.

Emily Fall, an 18 year old studying law at Warwick University feels the same way.

She “loved [her BlackBerry] so much” — even if she thinks they’re dated now. “If I had that phone [these days], it’d be a lot harder to stay in touch with people,” she said, referencing social media and similar applications along the way.

This connection element is something that came up a few times in my conversation. Aoife McCabe — TNW’s 25 year old Social Media Manager — told me she saw BlackBerry phones as “fashion [accessories]” on shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians, but it was BBM that got her hooked.

BlackBerry Messenger (known as BBM) was a proprietary instant messaging app that allowed users to chat with each other. “People my age would still opt for a BlackBerry” over an iPhone, because BBM was free and saved them credit, Aoife said.

This is a similar feeling that Lili Shi, a 24 year old Production Assistant, had about the phones. Shi said BBM “was everything” and wishes she could still update her status.

It wasn’t long before nostalgia reared its head again. Shi reminisced about how much the phones reminded her of school years 8-11 (that roughly spans ages 12 to 16, for all the non-UK readers).

old blackberry phone
The memories, the horrible memories.

Besides the ache of times long gone, there are other elements of BlackBerry phones that stood out to Gen Z.

Arjun Shergill, an 18 year old student studying Aerospace Engineering, said the devices’ “brick breaker game is goated.” That’s slang for historically excellent, by the way.

The robustness of the phone also got a shout out, with Rudy M — a 19 year old Psychology student at Cardiff — saying a BlackBerry was “good to use as a weapon,” or, indeed, as a replacement for a brick in any construction product.

Really though, I was surprised with the affection that Gen Z held for BlackBerry. To me, it was a stuffy device used exclusively by suits, but these conversations made it clear the handsets hold a special place in the heart of many young people.

Despite this fondness, these days the BlackBerry is, in the words of Cardiff student Johnathon Joyner, a “relic of time and space.”

But at least we’ll always have the memories.

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