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BlackBerrys made up only 3% of smartphones used in Canada at end of 2017

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2018-05-16 CBC/Radio-Canada
a close up of a keyboard: A man touches a BlackBerry KEYone before the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain in this Feb. 2017 photo. © Manu Fernandez/AP/Canadian Press A man touches a BlackBerry KEYone before the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain in this Feb. 2017 photo. 

Somewhat reluctantly, Athar Afzal finally gave up on BlackBerry earlier this year.

He was a longtime fan of the iconic Canadian phone brand but his company forced employees who weren't already using iPhones to transition over. He was ready to make the change though, having grown fed up with the slowness of his aging BlackBerry Priv.

According to online measurement firm comScore, there aren't many holdouts left in Canada still using a BlackBerry.

BlackBerrys accounted for only three per cent of the smartphones used in Canada at the end of last year, says comScore.

A decade ago, the BlackBerry brand was at its peak — but about to experience a precipitous decline with the release of the first iPhone and the subsequent unveiling of the Google Android platform. In 2016, after years of failing to stem market share losses, BlackBerry announced a monumental change in strategy. The company's new focus would be on software and it would no longer make phones, although partnerships with other hardware makers kept the brand alive.

"They never kept up with the times," Afzal lamented. "They just sold it on the keyboard."

Piotr Makuch also gave up on his BlackBerry Priv recently and switched to an iPhone.

"I wouldn't say I'm an absolute die-hard but I certainly appreciated a lot of the things that they do and I've always enjoyed my BlackBerry devices," he said.

"I'd never had an iPhone before and I appreciate that for all the limitations in terms of its customizability, with anything I run everything just works smoothly and nicely. And that's a nice change from the Priv which would kind of chug when I tried to launch apps sometimes."

User frustration

Afzal said a lack of operating system updates for his Priv left him frustrated as his device just got slower and slower. And while he appreciated that the device was marketed around data security, he found the software was unreasonably sluggish.

"Every time you had to restart your BlackBerry it would take (up to) five minutes because it would go through all the security settings again. So from a functionality perspective, it would take forever, and it ended up becoming a nuisance actually," Afzal said.

But there are some BlackBerry loyalists who still remain faithful to the brand and hopeful for the future.

Last year, Chinese company TCL released the well-reviewed KeyOne, which had the trademark BlackBerry keyboard, and it's set to unveil the Key2 next month. A teaser ad promotes the phone with the tagline "an icon reborn." TCL is one of the companies BlackBerry licensed its brand to.

Makuch said he's still open to getting another BlackBerry down the road, as long as it's priced reasonably and not competing with a top-of-the-line iPhone.

"I think about that keyboard all the time," he said. "I really wish the phones were priced better."

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