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BlackBerry Phones---Not Extinct, but on the Endangered List?

Update Date: Oct 16, 2012 09:51 AM EDT

Keeping up with the times and appearing polished and business savvy can be synonymous these days. Most clients would be dismayed to know you have an AOL account for email, don't have a Facebook presence and, horror of horrors, still use a Blackberry instead of a smartphone.

Not too long ago, men and women in business suits would not leave the house or go to the bathroom without their Blackberries. There are actual classes on BlackBerry addiction. For our readers who are too young and hip to relate to this article, let me explain what a Blackberry is.

Blackberry is a hand-held device made by a company called Research In Motion. Most BlackBerry devices are smartphones and are primarily known for their ability to send and receive email sing an actual small keyboard as found on a keyboard and can send and receive instant messages while maintaining a high level of security through on-device message encryption. They also have some PDA and media player functionality. BlackBerry devices support a large variety of instant messaging features, with the most popular being the proprietary BlackBerry Messenger service.

Going to a meeting today and pulling out one of these will get you more than a couple of double takes.

The BlackBerry was once proudly carried by the high-powered and the elite, but those who still hold one today say the device has become a magnet for mockery and derision from those with iPhones and the latest Android phones. Research in Motion may still be successful selling BlackBerrys in countries like India and Indonesia, but in the United States the company is clinging to less than 5 percent of the smartphone market - down from a dominating 50 percent just three years ago. The company's future all depends on a much-delayed new phone coming next year; meanwhile RIM recorded a net loss of $753 million in the first half of the year compared with a profit of more than $1 billion a year earlier.

Among the latest signs of the loss of cachet: One of the first steps Marissa Mayer took as Yahoo's newly appointed chief executive to remake the company's stodgy image was to trade in employees' BlackBerrys for iPhones and Androids. BlackBerrys may still linger in Washington, Wall Street and the legal profession, but in Silicon Valley they are as rare as a necktie.

As the list shrinks of friends who once regularly communicated using BlackBerry's private messaging service, called BBM, many a BlackBerry owner will not mince words about how they feel about their phone.

"I want to take a bat to it," Ms. Crosby said, after waiting for her phone's browser to load for the third minute, only to watch the battery die. "You can't do anything with it. You're supposed to, but it's all a big lie."

While our dependence on smartphones grows daily, it's surprising that there is no app that can convert a BlackBerry to an iPhone 5, or vise versa. 

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