This article was published on August 14, 2016

The Blackberry Plaintext is the ultimate textual communication device

The Blackberry Plaintext is the ultimate textual communication device Image by: Blackberry
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

I shouldn’t waste my time thinking about Blackberry.

Why would I? The company had its hay-day and we’ve all moved on. Your iPhone or Android device works perfectly, and with a whopping 0.2 percent of the total smartphone market share, the company just isn’t even worth mentioning anymore.

But I can’t stop thinking about them. I very consciously lived through their rise and fall and not just as an onlooker, but as a passionate user of many of their devices.

When I got my first iPhone I used it for a month and then gave it to my girlfriend and went back to my trusted Blackberry. My reasoning: The iPhone was the best mobile phone I ever owned, but the Blackberry was by far the best mobile email device on the market.

Telephony belonged in the past. Email, or text based communication, was the future. The blackberry was sturdier, had a longer lasting battery, had an amazing keyboard that I could use without looking at it. Plus it didn’t hurt it was cheaper.

And that’s why I still miss it.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my iPhone 6s Plus and have no intention of replacing it. But it certainly isn’t perfect.

The iPhone is a beautiful device that does a lot, and does it well. But 90 percent of my work revolves around text, and no matter how excited I am about the iPhone, it just doesn’t handle text all that well. The onscreen keyboard works nicely… for an onscreen keyboard. But it just can’t compare to the classic Blackberry keyboard I loved so much.

So where does that leave us?

We’ve just heard that Blackberry is most likely getting out of hardware, and that makes sense. But I still see a future for a Blackberry device, and as I have no stake in running their business, I can think out loud here without being constrained by reality.

Here’s what I want: A device that takes all that was good about the original blackberry, steals what’s great about the Kindle and combine all of it into a device called the Blackberry Plaintext.

It would be similar in height and width to the Blackberry Bold, but much lighter and thinner. It would have an ePaper screen so the battery would last a week, maybe even two. It would run Android Light and come with a great email client, but also Slack, Google Apps, Evernote, and a bunch of other basic apps that are really focused on text based communication.

And just like the Amazon Kindle it would come with a form of Whispernet. See, if you pay a little extra for the Kindle it comes with an always-on connection that works worldwide called Whispernet.

You don’t need an extra data connection subscription. Apparently Amazon calculated that downloading books worldwide is not that expensive and they can offer it for a fixed fee. I assume they negotiated roaming deals with all the mobile operators around the world. Which wouldn’t be that hard for Blackberry to do, as they already have relationships with all major mobile operators around the world.

Blackberry has always optimized for data so attachments wouldn’t automatically load, and the emails themselves would be compressed by the Blackberry server, as they always have. That would give us an almost indestructible device, with battery life calculated in weeks instead of hours, that’s always connected wherever you are.

Let’s assume they sell it for $300 or even $600. And the always-on connection isn’t free, but $3.99 a month. Or maybe $9.99 a month – I don’t really care, if it works. And it would be so light and thin you could carry it in your back pocket and forget about it.

When I tried a Blackberry Bold a few years ago, a friend of mine laughed and said “Look, you’re never going to abandon your iPhone, and you aren’t going to carry around two phones either, so don’t even bother testing the Bold.” And he had a point. I quickly got tired of charging my two phones every evening, and having two mobile subscriptions and, well, you get it.

But then I watched my girlfriend use her Kindle to read books.

I own an iPad and I love it. But I can’t deny the fact that the Kindle is a beautiful little device that’s very well optimized for just one thing – reading books. The iPad, on the other hand, does a lot of things, reading books is just one of them.

The iPhone also does a lot of things, and entering text is just one of them. I’ll probably get a Kindle too, and don’t see it as something that will replace my iPad and it also wouldn’t feel weird to carry it with along with my other gadgets.

The Blackberry Plaintext wouldn’t be ‘just another phone’. In fact, it wouldn’t even make calls. It also wouldn’t have games, movies, browsing or any of those other things. You can use your Android or iPhone for that.

The Blackberry Plaintext would be the ultimate textual communication device. And I want one.

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