Thursday, October 6

My 2009 BlackBerry has become a paperweight because time is unforgiving


Although it was released in 2009, I bought my Blackberry Curve 8520 in 2010, when he was 18 years old. I remember that he had a small budget, but wanted to make the leap from Nokia and its clunky Symbian operating system, which had been with me for a long time. The idea of ​​having a slightly more robust OS, an application store and BBM to chat with friends seemed very interesting to me.

With its advantages and disadvantages, this BlackBerry Curve 8520 accompanied me for almost a year, until I finally changed it for my first Android phone. Afterwards, RIM’s phone kept hanging around the house for several years and, at some point, ended up in a drawer. We are in 2022, that little guy has returned to my hands and I wonder what it can offer me today.

BlackBerry 8520 in 2022

I now recognize that even at the time I bought it, it was already a pretty limited phone. Camera, storage, connectivity, etc., were surpassed by other proposals, but from what I remember they were more expensive. However, something that surprises me about this equipment is its durability. It has a trot of more than 12 years and is still working, with the limitations that we are going to discover in the following paragraphs.

BLACKBERRY

From a hardware point of view (mainly at the level of internal components), the phone has stood the test of time quite well. The front, where is screen and QWERTY keyboard is in very good condition, something I can not say about the sides, whose buttons literally disappeared. It is as if the rubber had “expired” until it came off the terminal.

blackberry

On the back, the cover has suffered a little more over time, as has the rubber part that contains the word “Curve” and the hole for the camera. The top row of buttons has also deteriorated, but internally everything seems to work fine. The buttons, the camera, the speaker, the screen, the antennas. I conclude that if it weren’t for these worn out parts, the unit would be in near mint condition.

But what is a phone without software? Today, more than ever, we live in a world where computers get “old” relatively easily. The hardware may survive, but software updates make them sluggish or just stuck on older versions of the system, and with it, the latest apps don’t work anymore. What happens then with a team that is about 12 years old?

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If it weren’t for the worn parts, the unit would be in almost perfect condition.

At some point in the last few years I made the mistake of factory resetting the phone and store it in a box with the battery 50% charged. I think the choice of the battery was not so bad, but it was to erase all its content. Little did I know at the time that RIM was going to kill off the Blackberry App World app store for BlackBerry OS 5 and simply stop making phones and suspend all of its services in the mobile market.

In this way, I found myself in 2022 with a phone from yesteryear, but completely empty. My hope was, perhaps, to connect it to a Wi-Fi network and try to run some of the apps that I used to use in its heyday, such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Nimbuzz (a client to connect to Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger). The idea was to test, although the companies behind these could also have simply killed the connection to their servers.

As I mentioned above, I didn’t have the ability to use the app store either. In a pointless attempt, I tried to download a version from the store to my computer, transfer it to the phone and do a manual installation, but my idea did not work. I knew it wouldn’t work, but as a curious person I wanted to try it and experience that feeling firsthand.

For an issue of obsolete security certificates, the integrated browser was completely deprecated. I couldn’t connect to secure pages. And what pages are not safe today? My attempts to update the mobile certificates also failed. Thus, as time passed, I began to see this device as a nice paperweight, or perhaps as a new addition to my collection of old phones, for example, a Kyocera 2235.

Opera

At one point I remembered that Opera Mini had been a browser I had used on this very computer early in the last decade. Curiously, I found a way to install it, so it seems to be one of the only apps that works on a BlackBerry 8520 these days. Seeing the browser start up motivated me, and verifying that I could surf the Internet with its small 2.46-inch screen , stole a smile from me.

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However, the moment of happiness was fleeting. Browse, Opera Mini was browsing, but half of the contents of the pages I tried to access just didn’t load. In Xataka and other pages whose main axis is the text, I could read articles, although most of the images were not displayed. Other elements such as videos or banners were totally out of the game.

In the internal Xataka channel on Slack, I told my colleagues about this experience. Alberto de la Torre and Javier Pastor encouraged me to write about it with some interesting ideas. Javier Lacort, for his part, suggested that I try the phone with some of the most popular services today. So I tried it, although ruling out the possibility of downloading and installing applications.

With the WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter apps off the radar, I entered Opera Mini, instagram.com. The result? The page simply loaded the logo of the social network. I did the same with m.facebook.com and surprisingly it worked. The social network loaded in its most spartan version, as in those times. I felt in an experience vintage of the social network, where everything seemed simpler. The question was to give likes, visit profiles and send one or another message to my friends. Then I tried to repeat the experience with twitter.combut I was not successful.

Old Blackberry 8520 Instagram

BlackBerry 8520

In the case of the pages of Spotify, Netflix and TikTok I also had bad luck. The first asked me to upgrade to a supported browser, the second allowed me to log in but failed to play any content, and the third loaded erratically and therefore wouldn’t let me progress at all.

Having discovered the limitations of an old version of Opera Mini, I moved on to explore the other possibilities the phone offered me. The BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) app was still thereHe even called me by my name, Javier, and showed my PIN. Unfortunately we know that this service stopped working on all platforms in 2009, so it was just a nice decoration. I also found the email app, but it was impossible to use it.

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bbm

Far from being the end, the BlackBerry 8520 still had something to offer me. I could send SMS’s and write notes in “Notepad”. In the case of the latter, I thought I’d squeeze it for a few minutes to remember what it was like to type on a physical keyboard (which some want to see again in current phones). After a couple of attempts I came to the conclusion that, in this section, it would personally be impossible to go back. I’m too used to on-screen keyboards.

The mobile could also make and receive calls, although this possibility will disappear as 2G networks go out in different parts of the world. The rest of the available applications offered me a completely local experience. The camera still worked to capture images, the clock, calendar and multimedia player also fulfilled their function, the latter with files transferred to the memory card.

one final thought

Beyond this anecdotal experience, I can’t help but think again about what would happen if the email application, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, BBM and others of that time continued to work as they did in their heyday. I don’t mean current features, but those features that were offered more than a decade ago.

I know that we are in a world in constant evolution, and that we have to move forward, but sometimes I think that for those who only need to send WhatsApp messages, read tweets or consult basic information on the web, they do not need to have such a modern phone. However, even if the equipment is in good condition, its software has a definite expiration date.

I curse you, planned obsolescence

When we buy something, we do so by implicitly signing a time-of-use contract. We know that sooner or later that device will become part of the club of obsolete devices. And it doesn’t matter if the hardware you paid for is still working perfectly, the heart, which is the operating system and its ecosystem, will wither over time, because time is unforgiving.

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