A Sad Day for Punchers: BlackBerry to Discontinue Traditional Keyboard Phone


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John Chen, BlackBerry’s chief executive, with a BlackBerry Classic.

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Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

The struggling Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry made a sharp detour from its history on Tuesday when it announced it was discontinuing the last phone to have the traditional version of the company’s iconic physical keyboard and trackpad.

“Sometimes it can be very tough to let go,” Ralph Pini, BlackBerry’s chief operating officer and general manager for devices, wrote in a corporate blog post announcing the end of the BlackBerry Classic. “For BlackBerry, and more importantly for our customers, the hardest part in letting go is accepting that change makes way for new and better experiences.”

The Classic was introduced in late 2014 by BlackBerry to win back users who prefer plastic keys and trackpads to the touch screens that dominate the operation of its newer models, even ones with keyboards.

Because the company does not break out sales of individual models, it is impossible to judge the Classic’s reception. But BlackBerry’s phone business is generally unprofitable and declining.

Late last month, BlackBerry announced a quarterly loss of $670 million. That was about three times the company’s loss in the previous quarter and largely reflected write-downs in the value of its phone business.

The Classic ran the BlackBerry 10 operating system, which the company had hoped would again make it a vibrant force in smartphones. But it has since turned its attention to phones based on Google’s Android software.

Mr. Pini’s post made no mention of the fate of the other BlackBerry 10 models, which still appeared on the company’s website Tuesday evening.

He did acknowledge, however, that some customers may still refuse to give up on the traditional BlackBerry shape regardless of the company’s plans.

Die-hards were encouraged by Mr. Pini to see if their carriers still had Classics available. He added that BlackBerry had some remaining stock on sale online.

Correction: July 5, 2016

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article erroneously attributed a distinction to the BlackBerry Classic smartphone, which BlackBerry announced it would discontinue. It is the last BlackBerry phone with the traditional physical keyboard that dominates the face of the phone. It is not the last BlackBerry model with a physical keyboard. The error was repeated in the headline.

Correction: July 6, 2016

An earlier version of a summary of this article online misstated the name of the model, introduced in 2014, that is being discontinued. It is the BlackBerry Classic, not BlackBerry 10.

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