Unconventional Review: RIP BlackBerry (at least in Thailand)

BlackBerry Blog

Just over a year ago, I bought a Blackberry Q10 in Bangkok. By then Thai-urban appetite for BB plunged, them preferring the comforts of Androids – freedom of limitless apps, fashionable designs, bigger hardware and interface, and touch-screen convenience are among the many reasons for the abandonment of the security of device. Fashion over encryption, style over the no-nonsense of BB.

In August, my Q10 fell, due to an unfortunate, terrible encounter. The small portion of the screen shattered, almost hair-line, though just enough to prevent me from reading anything on the screen. Repairs, aaah the problems started from that word.

BB Q10
My Blackberry Q10. RIP.

It has served me well, in three countries, during the course of my travel and work. Though the thought of its history left me deeply annoyed. Calls, emails, and DMs, tried them all to inquire about repairs. No such luck, as by then Bangkok moved away from BB’s influence. What about @BlackBerryHelp on Twitter? Forget it, sent several DMs, asking for location of a BB service centre in Malaysia, and all I got was evasive replies that left me fuming. So much for a progressive BB-service via Twitter.

Went to MBK, Fortune IT Mall, Terminal 21 then wandered into well-visited IT shopping havens, and the not-so-popular ones too. Nothing. The irritation of dependence, I guess; when I am completely at loss with the usage of other brands, and unable to shake off the BB10 obsession. The technician at the 4th flood in the Fortune IT Mall wasn’t much help, and the appearance of my BB left him appearing puzzled at perhaps an obsolete model. The so-called BB Centre at T21 was merely a lone cut-throat salesman trying to rid of his remaining stocks of Z10s and fake 500-baht battery. Aye, its within his business nature to attempt at ripping off a “tourist”.

OK, fine, so I adapt, somewhat. A second-hand Blackberry 9790 at a small stall in Rama 3 Central. Reminded me of a phone I once owned, a BB 9780, minus the touch-screen. Negotiating is an art in the countries I’ve visited, and my skills are less than proficient in Bangkok. So I called a friend, who managed to bargain from 3200 baht to about 2800 baht. Clone battery, a charging cable, a generic earplugs and hell yeah, the second-hand BB was mine. A wink, a hug and coffee was all I gave my friend, for her wondrous ability to tolerate my impatience.

My 'new' second-hand BB9790
My ‘new’ second-hand BB9790

I upgraded the OS to 7.1, and to my horror the BBM was without the BBM Channels and the Stickers. I could do without the Stickers (emotions), personally not my kind-of-thing to replace stickers with words, however I do have several micro-blogs in BBM Channels.

Not a good start with the 9790, and even now I am at loss of how the system prevents me from deleting the defective BBM and reinstalling the latest version applicable to my OS. Oh well, I’m already making notes of pricing for second-hand Q10s, when I return to Malaysia… unless BB Passport is released, hopefully soon; then I won’t be bursting my budget for the year.

Battery drain on the 9790 is incredible, so I uninstalled whatever apps I didn’t need. Encryption of device and memory card, wonderful. Emails via BB, fabulous and reliable. Local data plan for Blackberry Internet Service (BIS), costly though that’s within the budget.

Second-hand BBs (Bold versions) are quite good actually. Reboot the device, and you’re back in action – that is if you’re not fussy with a second-hand bruised model. As a traveller cum relief worker, I depend on sturdy phones, for report-writing, secured email environment, drafting blog-posts/articles and tweeting. I am bias, the Qwerty keyboard allows me to type quickly. Addition to incredible apps for recreational use or to keep one occupied in the loneliest moments, aha not for me.

Anyway, despite the BB hype years back in Bangkok, the reality is Blackberry is dead and buried in this city and most of the other neighbouring provinces, though still in usage by most people I know in the conflict-torn south of Thailand. BB is somewhat in subdued demand in Malaysia, while still holding strong, for now, in Indonesia. Oh hell, its practically useless in Cambodia, at least that’s what some locals tell me, preferring the Samsung or iPhone, or some suspicious-looking China-by-product of copy-and-paste R&D.

I think in this day and age of modernization, we move away from safety, preferring the comforts of apps, or half-baked security gibberish. Being a minimalist, I look for other aspects of life for nourishment, definitely not on social and “self-development” apps. The BB is useful for work, for my travels, allowing me that reliable tool to facilitate the adventure. For the moment, I’ll stick with the 9790, and will, as usual, try to push the device beyond its capacity and originality.



An avid blogger, twitterer and photojournalist, Zashnain Zainal suffers from an incurable addiction to social work, helping marginalised communities since 1989. Nowadays he travels from the plantations of Malaysia to the slums of Thailand. He can be found at zashnain.com and @bedlamfury

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