What a year it has been for us here at N4BB, and for all BlackBerry fans around the world. While I was putting together this article, I gave a look back at what I wrote in last year’s 2013 recap.
“While 2014 may not be as exciting as 2013 in terms of device releases, and news,” I erroneously predicted, “it will be a hugely important year for BlackBerry.” That last part was on point at least, as 2014 ended up being an absolutely huge year for BlackBerry for a few reasons. Let’s check out BlackBerry’s year through N4BB’s top stories.
The first week of the year, BlackBerry’s then-new CEO dropped a pretty big bombshell at CES 2014 when he let us know the first Foxconn-BlackBerry device would be priced under $200. True to his word, this device would eventually be known as the Z3 and be below the promised mark in several key markets.
Towards the end of the first month of the year, BlackBerry officially announced the rollout for OS 10.2.1. The new update would bring a new call screen, customizable settings, picture password and the ability directly install APKs on a device without needing to sideload.
Although it seems like such a long time ago since this update came around, that’s still the last OS update BlackBerry has had for their in-market devices. The next official update for these smartphones (Z10, Q10, Q5, Z30, Z3), OS 10.3.1, is scheduled for a February, 2015 rollout.
On February 13th, BlackBerry announced BBM 2.0 for BlackBerry 10, Android, and iPhone. The new BBM update brought Channels to the multi-platform world, as well as location sharing, Dropbox support and 100 new emoticons.
That same day started the whole T-Mobile vs BlackBerry saga. That email, sent from T-Mobile, specifically for BlackBerry users urging them to switch to an iPhone 5s would prompt John Chen to flex his CEO muscles for the first time later on.
On February 16th, we exclusively leaked the first renders of the BlackBerry codename “Jakarta.” Specs for this device would also make their way online.
BlackBerry users, I’m hearing you loud and clear. Let me work with the team and get back with you.
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) February 16, 2014
On the 18th, John Chen responded to T-Mobile‘s stupid marketing attempt at BlackBerry users. “We are outraged too,” Chen stated.
BBM for Android got Gingerbread support as well on the 18th, bringing another surge of first time BBM users to the fold.
On February 19th, the first ever pictures of the codename Windermere leaked. Back then, most of us thought this was just a prototype, but as we now know, this look pretty much stayed the same in the Passport.
Rumors of BlackBerry bringing back the tool-belt (call, menu, trackpad, back and end keys) would pop up on February 24th. The company would confirm this rumor the very next day at a press briefing at Mobile World Congress 2014. The Q20/Classic would be announced alongside a new low-cost device, the Z3, aimed at emerging and developing markets.
On February 25th, BlackBerry announced their plans for BES 12, they’re biggest and most bad ass update to date with support for Windows Phone 8 aside from the already supported Android, and iOS.
March started out with news that Apple’s future CarPlay infotainment system would actually be supported by BlackBerry-owned QNX.
BBM would also start getting sponsored content in March. BlackBerry went out of their way to make sure we knew these ads would never interrupt our chats or be too intrusive.
On March 7th, BlackBerry patented a technology that will look very familiar to anyone with a Passport. Anyone that relies on that device’s touch-sensitive keyboard will be glad to know BlackBerry owns the rights to this tech thanks to this patent.
March 10th marked the day BlackBerry CEO coined the term “wall-huggers” to refer to iPhone users that are constantly needing to charge their phones.
The following week, Verizon officially rolled out BlackBerry OS 10.2.1 for their in-market devices (Z10, Q10, Z30).
Our first look at BlackBerry OS 10.3 came on March 23rd. The biggest changes and additions would make their way to the Passport and OS 10.3.1.
The month of March rounded out with a huge security milestone being reached as BlackBerry became the first OEM to receive “full operational capability” on U.S. DoD networks.
Spring brought about a new BBM update which made stickers official within the BBM Shop.
On April 10th, BlackBerry’s John Chen made it clear the Q20 name was going out the door as the trackpad-packing device would be known as the Classic.
The second week of April brought about BlackBerry pushing for a complete ban over Typo LLC’s keyboard case. Typo has since made a second prototype case, and BlackBerry has yet to sue them for it.
The next day, BlackBerry made public an investment in startup NantHealth. This partnership would go beyond just cash, as both companies announced they would be working on products together for the health industry.
AT&T finally rolled out OS 10.2.1 for its BlackBerry 10 devices on April 15th. They were the last major U.S. carrier to do so.
On the 16th, a report came out that Ford would be integrating QNX’s technology for their in-car infotainment system by the end of the year. It turns out that report was pretty spot on.
On April 25th, pre-orders began for the BlackBerry Z3 exclusively in Indonesia, and it got a full hands-on review prior to its release as well. Like pretty much every device in the Chen era, its pre-orders would sell out.
The first of the month would bring a huge update to Twitter for BlackBerry 10 which added photos in DMs, tweet drafts, and a lot more.
BlackBerry’s Michael Clewley would tease us with a preview of a feature called Signature Action that would be debuting in OS 10.3. This new redesign would come to be one of the biggest changes to the BlackBerry Hub in 10.3. Clewley wouldn’t be done, however. On the 5th, he showed off some of the new icon UI that 10.3 would bring.
On May 13th, the BlackBerry Z3 officially debuted. The ‘Jakarta’ would be available initially in Indonesia, and in other limited markets later on in the year.
The Z3 would dominate the month of May with a special John Chen signed device popping up.
Mid-way through the month, BlackBerry unveiled its plans with regards to the 10.3 and 10.3.1 updates. Unfortunately, there was some confusion as to why in-market devices weren’t getting 10.3, and would instead have to wait for 10.3.1, so we did our best to explain the reasoning behind the decision. To be honest, this is still applicable today as we continue to wait for the next BlackBerry 10 OS update.
On its first day of availability in Indonesia on May 18th, the Z3 sold out.
May 21st was the day BlackBerry officially announced their plans for the Internet of Things with Project Ion.
The month would round out with John Chen making an appearance at Code Conference to talk about the struggles and the optimism within BlackBerry.
June started off with a bang. Just like we did with the Z3, in June we exclusively posted the first official pictures of the BlackBerry codename Windermere along with specs and other details.
On June 7th, BlackBerry put the Bold 9900 on ShopBlackBerry.com for $399; befuddling everyone that came across the news.
Halfway through June, BlackBerry launched a new update to BBM which brought different wallpaper colors, more emoticons, and much more.
BlackBerry launched the Z3 in India on June 17th to a very popular reception.
On June 18th, BlackBerry announced one of its biggest partnerships to date when it secured a deal with Amazon. The agreement would include Amazon’s own Appstore coming pre-loaded on all devices running BlackBerry OS 10.3 and up.
This new storefront now gives BlackBerry users access to hundreds of thousands of apps they would have had to previously sideload or find an APK for.
Along with the good news, BlackBerry’s end of the deal included shutting down their own music and video service offerings in BlackBerry World.
On June 19th, BlackBerry CEO John Chen told us the name of the Windermere would be the Passport as he showed it for the first time in public. He would later give us a sneak peek at the Classic as well.
On June 20th, BlackBerry dropped some new figures on BBM’s user base. At the time, BlackBerry counted on 85 million active BBM users with over 160 million registered.
That date also marked the layoff of most of BlackBerry’s Developer Relations team. BlackBerry VP Marty Mallick was let go as part of these layoffs, as BlackBerry shifted its consumer app focus to Amazon’s Appstore, while keeping BlackBerry World on as a productivity/enterprise app storefront.
BlackBerry and QNX released a new operating system for medical devices on July 15th. While this announcement may have been missed by most major outlets, it was pretty big news in the healthcare sector.
We got some comparisons between the Passport and an actual passport on July 16th, which pretty much explained why that’s the name BlackBerry had chosen for the device.
July 17th brought along the first beta for BBM for Windows Phone. It saw a ridiculous amount of sign ups, so if you weren’t able to get in, you’re not alone.
BlackBerry appointed Marty Beard as COO on July 21st, bringing in another one of John Chen’s old pals to the team.
The Passport was photographed in white for the first time the next day. It looked as sexy as ever. Not sure if they had planned on revealing it the next day, but BlackBerry showed off the white Passport the following day themselves.
Since BlackBerry World dropped its support for music, we got a nice little walkthrough on how to migrate our purchased songs over to 7Digital’s app.
On July 29th, BlackBerry hosted a Security Summit event in NYC. At that event, the company would announce the acquisition of security firm SecuSmart, as well as the addition of the new BlackBerry Guardian app scanner.
BlackBerry’s John Sims would also let us know at the Security Summit during a Q&A that BBM would be getting makeovers to both their iPhone and Android clients to match native gestures and UI.
The last day of month saw BBM for Windows Phone officially dropping in the Microsoft storefront.
The end of BlackBerry’s restructuring came to an end unofficially when an internal memo leaked outlining the fact on the 5th. Chen wasn’t a huge fan of the memo getting out, but the good news that all cuts and layoffs were done was definitely a welcome change.
On August 7th, the pre-registration page for the BlackBerry Passport went live. That same day, we exclusively showed the world what the Amazon Appstore looks like pre-loaded on said Passport. The next day, a leak would point towards a Dark Hub option making its way to OS 10.3. Unfortunately, it seems BlackBerry has yet to incorporate this for some reason in its devices.
On August 12th, some of the BlackBerry Classic’s specs were outed by its Geekbench score. This was the first time we got to see that the Classic would end up not really having fantastic internal specs when compared to devices like the Passport.
The BlackBerry Z3 was launched in Egypt on August 18th, adding another market to the spectrum of this device.
On August 21st, we learned that the Passport would come equipped with Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3, the latest tough glass technology. That same day we dropped another exclusive, when we leaked the first renders of the P’9983 codename Khan smartphone.
The BlackBerry Passport’s full spec sheet would be leaked exclusively on the 22nd. This latest leak confirmed once and for all just how much new tech BlackBerry had been able to cram into the Passport. It can pretty much be stacked up against any other device out there in a pure spec battle.
On August 24th, BlackBerry won its second legal motion against Typo LLC.
We exclusively leaked BlackBerry’s full 2014 roadmap on the 25th, along with what makes every owner of each device unique in the eyes of BlackBerry.
The last month of summer would start out with BlackBerry sending invitations to their Passport event which would be held in Toronto, London, and Dubai on September 24th.
On September 4th, we got our hands on the first actual pictures of the Porsche Design BlackBerry P’9983. The traditional ‘blurry’ pictures showed off pretty much the exact thing the renders had weeks before.
BBM for BlackBerry 10, Android, and iOS got a pretty sweet update that day as well. The new update included some simplified UI changes, as well the ability to rate BBM Voice calls within the app.
The BlackBerry Classic made its first non-official appearance in a picture on September 6th. Looking as good as ever, the Classic wouldn’t be launch for another 3 months, but it was really nice to see it anyway.
On September 10th, BlackBerry announced it would be hosting a separate launch event for the Porsche Design P’9983 on September 17th; a decision that I still fully don’t understand.
The next day on September 11th, news broke out that BlackBerry is testing BBM on wearables. Seeing as how BBM already works on Android Wear, the next stop would logically be the Apple Watch when it debuts in 2015.
September 16th brought the announcement that BBM Channel integration had come to Hootsuite making it much easier for Channel managers all over the world to post their content.
The Porsche Design BlackBerry P’9983 smartphone was officially unveiled on September 17th.
The following week, on September 24th, the BlackBerry Passport was officially launched and made available on ShopBlackBerry.com for purchase. Of course, in typical BlackBerry fashion, it sold out before you knew it.
With the launch of the Passport, BlackBerry also introduced a brand new update to their operating system, BlackBerry 10.3.
Two days later, we would learn that BlackBerry sold over 200,000 Passports since launch, a truly impressive feat. To go along with those figures, the Passport earned the title of best selling smartphone on Amazon within those 48 hours.
After the initial wave of Passport review came out, our very own Niko called out some reviewers for their straight up inaccurate reporting of facts when talking about the device.
September would end with John Chen confirming hardware updates to the Passport and Classic would be in the works.
We started out the month by exclusively reporting that the sole U.S. carrier to stock the Passport, AT&T, wouldn’t be launching this smartphone until 2015. For many that simply can’t afford to shell out $600 to buy directly from BlackBerry, carrier subsidy are a necessary evil to have the device you want. Many are still waiting for the Passport to launch at AT&T, as this report would later be confirmed by BlackBerry.
On October 2nd, we exclusively reported the changes that would arrive on OS 10.3.1. The differences weren’t outstanding but some welcome additions and tweaks were supplied. That same day, BlackBerry fan and actor Tim Allen showed off his beautiful Passport on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
On September 6th, the BlackBerry Passport was caught on camera sporting gold trim, and looking oh so fancy.
One of BlackBerry’s most popular and prominent VPs, Alec Saunders, said goodbye to the company on October 7th.
On the second full week of October, we reported the specs of the upcoming BlackBerry Classic along with more exclusive pictures of the device.
October 17th was the day BlackBerry announced BBM 2.5. That new version of BBM would bring some new features like messages retraction, timed pictures and messages, and much more. These new features would be part of the first add-on premium package BBM would launch. For pretty much everyone right now at the end of the year, these features are still free (part of a trial period), but that will most likely change the first month of 2015.
Kim Kardashian told us exactly how much of a die-hard BlackBerry user she is on October 27th. She spoke at Recode’s Code Conference that day and told the world that she owns three Bold 9900s that she buys off eBay or wherever else she can get them. She’s afraid of the company going under, so she makes sure to keep a good stock pile of devices on her at all times. We’re thinking Kim should switch over to a Classic nowadays though.
We finished off October promising to make our drop test for the Passport. It would prove to be a lot more intense.
We delivered on our promise on November 3rd with probably the most insane drop/torture test any smartphone out there has ever endured. We put the BlackBerry Passport through hell and back, and it surprisingly lasted a lot longer than any other phone would have. The trolls hated the video, BlackBerry loved it. Everyone won.
— BlackBerry (@BlackBerry) November 6, 2014
On November 8th, BlackBerry announced it would make red and white variants of the Passport available for purchase on Christmas Day.
On November 11th, we announced our biggest giveaway to date. Over the next month, we would be hosting a contest worldwide and giving away three (3) BlackBerry Passports. The lucky winners were announced in December.
On November 13th, BlackBerry hosted a BES 12 Enterprise event out in San Francisco, CA. One of the biggest announcements at the event was the new deployment of BBM Meetings in BlackBerry World which would launch as a $12/month subscription.
Another huge announcement was the partnership between BlackBerry and Samsung that would be revealed. Two rivals in the enterprise working together, but at the same time still pushing their own software was interesting to say the least.
At that BES 12 event, BlackBerry CEO John Chen put the date of December 17th out as the official launch of the Classic in New York City, Frankfurt, and Singapore. Pre-orders for the Classic would also start on the 13th for $449.
On November 21st, the white, and red BlackBerry Passports went up for pre-order.
BlackBerry officially joined Instagram on November 27th. Even though Instagram doesn’t make an official app for BlackBerry 10, we know the Android app works perfectly fine if you install it. Otherwise, you can just use a third party app like iGrann, which also works remarkably well.
The last month of the year was all about the Classic. With the launch happening on the month’s third week, BlackBerry’s Classic would more than likely be last major smartphone to launch in 2014. And it was definitely worth the wait.
Throughout those weeks prior to the launch, BlackBerry released several videos showing off the Classic and its functions.
We exclusively revealed on December 8th that a white Classic would be launched by BlackBerry after the initial wave.
BlackBerry would announce that day a new Browser that it had been working on with NantHealth to study and understand the human genome and how it related to cancer research.
Ford would announced on December 11th that it has picked BlackBerry’s QNX and would be dumping Microsoft for its on-board infotainment system Sync 3.
Pre-orders for the BlackBerry Classic would sell out on December 12th. Not really surprising as this had been the theme throughout the year.
On December 17th, BlackBerry officially launched the Classic for $449.
Unlike the Passport, the Classic would get the support from 2 out of the 4 major U.S. carriers, as Verizon and AT&T both confirmed they would be carrying it. BlackBerry also let us know that more variants for the Classic would be on the way; specifically blue and bronze editions.
Blend would also get an update from BlackBerry that day with added support for message retraction and timed content.
On December 19th, BlackBerry and Boeing announced a partnership for a self-destructing smartphone. Not many details were given, but it definitely sounds like some James Bond stuff is happening in Waterloo right now.
2014 is coming to a close, but we couldn’t leave you guys without a couple last major leaks.
As an early Christmas gift and a perfect way to end the year, the next day we exclusively leaked the first pictures of the Rio, which is essentially just an improved Z3.
Going forward into 2015
As you can tell, 2014 was an extremely active year for BlackBerry. While they launched only 4 smartphones throughout the year, their focus became more clear and people started to finally appreciate them for what they do best.
The company doesn’t seem to slowing down at all in the coming months either. While we know of one device, the Rio, that will be released in the first half of the year, BlackBerry CEO John Chen has promised to show off some of the coming projects at Mobile World Congress 2015 and beyond. Project Ion should also get a much needed updated announcement, as well as improvements to BBM, BES 12, a launch of OS 10.4 (?) and all other software BlackBerry offers.
Thanks for tagging along with us at N4BB this year, and make sure you stick around for all that’s coming up in 2015!