Go Gadget Go

People Will Think Less of You When You Show Them Your BlackBerry Z10

A review.

lseries_black_eng_front_4glte1 (1)In 2006, I came to college and I had a flip phone, which did not make me feel inadequate because in 2006, almost every other college student had a flip phone, except this one kid in my French class who was very tall and thin and an American Apparel model.

His father founded a major American novelty restaurant chain, and he brought his skateboard into class every day (he skateboarded to class), and he was the first person to make me feel inadequate for having a flip phone (actually not the first to make me feel inadequate about not being able to skateboard), even though he was really friendly to me.

He had a BlackBerry 8700c, and I thought, like, “Why would a freshman in college need a cell phone that costs like $86/month? He must be important,” because the only other person I knew who had a BlackBerry was my ex-girlfriend’s dad who worked for Citibank (also important).

Not to be hyperbolic, but every single person who had a BlackBerry in 2006 was an important person. This was obvious because they needed to be equipped with push email on-the-go and needed to be able to send ten emails in three minutes with a QWERTY keyboard, and could either afford the plan or were given a BlackBerry by work. Other people who wanted smartphones but were not important had phones like the Motorola Q, which was so laggy that you could press the tile to open the Internet Explorer program, pee, and then come back and it would be almost ready for you to enter a URL. (I had that before I got a BlackBerry.)

Whenever people cite to BlackBerry’s glory days, they cite to 2006, the year I came to college and the BlackBerry 8700 was BlackBerry’s flagship phone, Webster’s dictionary made “CrackBerry” its word of the year, and my permanent mental impression of BlackBerry was formed.

Like baby boomers who will never hear an album as good as Sgt. Pepper, for me, the BlackBerry 8700 is not only a good phone, but actually the best phone of all time. Obviously its features are trumped by every current phone, but if Babe Ruth stepped on the field during spring training this year, he would be an overweight alcoholic smoker, and we still generally agree that he is the greatest baseball player of all time.

The reception is great, the keyboard is unparalleled by any phone that came before or since, the interface is so fast, the thick plastic screen was very difficult to crack, the clickwheel was an accurate and reliable mechanism, the speaker phone was extremely loud, and everything worked like it should. The battery life was like when the menorah at the Second Temple miraculously burned for eight days even though the Maccabees only had enough oil for one day. Obviously you couldn’t do very much on it, but Twitter didn’t even exist yet. Everything important people needed to do can still be done on that BlackBerry.

The next year, obviously, the iPhone came out and RIM appeared unworried, relying on the theory that important/nonfrivolous people would continue to pay handsomely for their products because only frivolous people would like to touch big colorful tiles with their fingers and not give a shit if their email wasn’t secure, or it took an extra few minutes for an email to reach them, or if it was so annoying to type anything of length on a touchscreen that you just gave up. RIM’s theory failed and now BlackBerry is on the verge of extinction.

People are very disdainful and condescending about BlackBerry now, I guess because it seems like anyone who would still have a BlackBerry is defective because they did not understand that they should get an iPhone or they do not have enough money for an iPhone.

Are people looking down on BlackBerries, and the people who use them, as a proxy for resentment for people who are poor? Remember, for example, during the London riots in the summer of 2011 when there was a lot of “looting” and “BlackBerry messenger played a key role,” according to the Guardian (and the entire press corps of England). The subheading on that Guardian story: “Police looking on Facebook and Twitter for signs of unrest spreading will have missed out–they should have watched BBM.” You don’t have to assemble a task force of semiotics professors to understand what is going on when people talk about BlackBerry.

Anyway, I gave up on my BlackBerry and got a Galaxy Note last summer, partially because no BlackBerry was ever as magical as the 8700 and partially because I no longer wanted to be treated in the particular way people treat you when they see you take out your BlackBerry. (I wish somebody had told me Android is only a half-step up.) But last week, I used an BlackBerry Z10. It was from AT&T, and the publicist specifically asked me to mention that I was using an AT&T BlackBerry in my review, so that’s why I put this sentence in. Everyone I showed it to laughed at it because it was a BlackBerry. But because this is technically a review of the Z10, I will tell you that it is a very pleasant phone.

First, it feels very nice in the hand. A good weight. The interface is smooth, the reception is very good and calls sounded great, the on-screen keyboard is the best on-screen keyboard I’ve ever used. The camera takes acceptable photos but has this definitely sweet feature that allows you–if you take a photo of people and they’ve been waiting for you to take the picture for so long that their smiles start to droop and they are no longer smizing–to slide back-and-forth in time to move the photo to the moment at which people in the photo are smizing. I don’t really use apps so read some other review if you want to find out about apps. The battery life leaves something to be desired.

But unfortunately, barring some shift in public perception, you will be made to feel inadequate for still using a BlackBerry, so you should get an iPhone. I’m not joking or being facetious, and it doesn’t matter how good the BlackBerry is. The BlackBerry Z10 could have been handed down to by God himself, like you are Moses and the Z10 is the sacred tablets and your apartment is Mount Sinai, and I would still suggest you not get it. No Snapdragon processor could erase how people will perceive you for carrying this thing.

You deserve to be happy and to be treated well, and it is impossible to know which doors you are closing for yourself when you take out a phone that is not an iPhone and someone sees it. Maybe it will be your date, your job interviewer, or the cutie you see on the subway platform in the morning. You may say to yourself, “I wouldn’t want to date a person, or have a boss, who thinks less of me because I carry the ‘wrong’ cell phone,” but, as this drawing illustrates, the grapes of disappointment are always sour:

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Don’t be that fox. You can get an iPhone 4S for $30 per month from Virgin Mobile (you have to buy the phone outright, but you save a ton on the contract) and it doesn’t have a Virgin Mobile logo on it, so nobody will know you are not using Verizon or AT&T. You think I am joking, but I am not. People are judging you very severely for the kind of cell phone you carry and the kind of cell phone service you have, so it is critical to have the right kind of cell phone (and the right cell phone service, unless nobody can see the logo, in which case it doesn’t matter).

It is impossible to type these words without seeming sarcastic, but if you can lighten the oppressive burden of human existence by not having the kind of cell phone that will make people think less of you, why wouldn’t you do that?

David Shapiro is the pseudonym of a law student in New York City. He has a book coming out in 2014. He writes at www.pitchforkreviewsreviews.com.