Please, do not buy a BlackBerry phone (even if you like BB phones)

do not buy a blackberry

We gave positive reviews to BlackBerry 10, the BlackBerry Z10, and the BlackBerry Q10. We like them, and a few million of you have bought them this year. We’re here to warn the rest of you to stop. Just stop. We’ve continually said that BlackBerry still has a chance, but we have lost what faith we had. BlackBerry is too unstable to recommend to anyone.

Updated by Jeff on 12-24-2013: BlackBerry has canceled 2 phones and BlackBerry World 2014, according to a new report. It will be at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in January, but appears to be focusing on BBM.

Yesterday, we found out that BlackBerry fired its CEO Thorsten Heins, failed to get acquired by anyone, and will now take a $1 billion investment from a group of long-term investors (FairFax Financial) who decided not to (or weren’t able to) buy BB, but desperately want to see it stay alive and return to form. Heins walked away with around $16 million and the Canadian smartphone maker appointed John Chen, former CEO of business software company Sybase, to step in as interim CEO until a permanent replacement is found.

Despite publicly putting itself up for sale back in August, BlackBerry is still on its own.

Unless your job requires it, do not spend your money on a company as turbulent as BlackBerry.

The company’s flagship, the Z10, has flopped. The phone maker sold 3.7 million phones last quarter, but said that “most” of its sales were old BlackBerry 7 devices. The Z10 sold so poorly that the company wrote off $965 million on the phone and will post $400 million more in write downs by May 2014. The keyboarded Q10 isn’t moving either, according to the WSJ. BB is in the process of laying off 4,500 (40 percent) of its workers.

The only good news about BlackBerry lately is that downloads of the new Android and iPhone BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) app are strong, but even that launch was botched when BlackBerry’s servers couldn’t handle a few million people actually using its products.

BlackBerry still has billions at its disposal and won’t die out in the short term, but it would take a miracle for it to come out with a product that excites people enough to change their opinions. Former BlackBerry users feel burned and don’t want to hitch themselves to a loser; potential buyers are (smartly) avoiding it like the plague; and die-hard BlackBerriers are so ingrained in BlackBerry 7 that many of them aren’t taking to the radical touch-friendly BB10. It’s a bad situation for a company trying to get users (and developers) onto its new platform and app store. Without more public interest, its app library will not fill out enough to compete with Windows Phone, let alone iPhone or Android. Acknowledging the dire situation, BlackBerry recently put out a notice assuring customers that it will continue to exist – not a good sign.

Fairfax, which owns 10 percent of BB knows this. From what its executives have said since becoming entangled in the BlackBerry purchase, it may take the company out of the device market. 

In his first interviews, interim CEO Chen hinted that handsets may not be a priority for BlackBerry in the future, telling the AP that BB is in a transitional phase: “…We’re really not in phones but we’re in phones for software, for services.” When Chen is replaced, that person will be the fifth CEO of BlackBerry to head the company since the beginning of 2012.

BlackBerry may not exist as we know it today by the time your next contract is up.

BlackBerry may move away from phones or becoming a niche player, offering “highly-secured phones” for governments and businesses that need ‘highly’ secure phones. It isn’t seeing success as a mainstream phone maker, so retreating into businesses that don’t involve selling phones to regular phone buyers is an option. BBM on Android and iPhone is an early example of this strategy.

When you buy a phone, you often buy it on a two-year contract. We have no confidence that BlackBerry’s BB10 platform will continue to see regular updates, keep up with the competition, get new apps, or be supported by the time your contract is up. In a worst case scenario, BlackBerry may not exist, or may be split into multiple companies in that time. Things move fast in mobile, and companies die quick. 

Buy an iPhone; buy a Moto X; try an LG G2. Even Windows Phone is a safer bet. It has failed to gain any significant market share in three years, but Microsoft is in a much better position to make it work out in the end. 

Just, please. If you’re one of the few people who are considering a BB, don’t. BlackBerry’s days may be numbered.

Update by Jeff: Clarified language about the Fairfax buyout, which did not go through. Read more about it here.

Article originally published 11-5-2013.

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