The reign of the Blackberry on Capitol Hill has come to an end. Blackberry phones had long been the phone of choice for members of Congress, but Blackberry recently informed Verizon and AT&T that production of all BlackBerry OS 10 devices has been discontinued.
BlackBerry’s smartphone market share was below 1% this past year, and the company sold just 500,000 units by May 31st while Apple sold 51.2 million units through March 26th. Why then are Blackberry smartphones so popular among members of Congress and their staff? The long battery life, an email-heavy focus, and an easy to use interface appeals to Capitol Hill dwellers.
As of early 2015, President Barack Obama was still using a BlackBerry. He remarked, “I use a BlackBerry mainly because I’m so restricted in what I can do that’s it’s basically just messages, and it’s still easier for me to tap.” This year, he told late-night host Jimmy Fallon that he got a new device, but he did not reveal which one.
Congress still has a stockpile of six hundred phones, which Blackberry has promised to support. Once this stockpile is used up, Congress will need to adopt a new beloved phone. For members of Congress and their staff, Verizon has agreed to suspend eligibility upgrade requirements for users migrating to Samsung Galaxy S6 Android smartphones. They can also choose a 16GB iPhone SE, however, current eligibility upgrade and mandatory AppleCare+ requirements apply.
Ben Marter, Communications Director for Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, remarked that the Blackberry was “the unsung workhorse of the Senate.” He joked, “We’ll probably take our phones out to the Capitol grounds, say a few words and lower them into the ground.”