BlackBerry is a name that was synonymous with smartphones in the years before the iPhone first launched and touchscreen-only devices powered by Android and iOS came to dominate. But BlackBerry stopped developing its own mobile operating system in 2015 and stopped making phones altogether not longer after.

The company eventually announced it would be pulling the plug on legacy services used by most BlackBerry OS phones to place calls, send messages, and connect to the internet. And CEO John Chen confirmed that the company decommissioned that infrastructure on January 4th. But as of January 5th many BlackBerry owners are discovering that… their phones still work. For now.

Left: BlackBerry Bold / Right: BlackBerry Passport

First off, if you’re wondering why it’s even possible that shutting down a server in the cloud would stop you from being able to make phone calls with a device that you already own, it’s because the way BlackBerry devices were originally positioned as enterprise hardware – BlackBerry OS was tightly tied to BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) for synchronizing things like email, BlackBerry Messenger, the BlackBerry World app store, and even web browsing.

Over the years folks have found ways to configure some older BlackBerry phones to work without BIS, but functionality is limited, the instructions won’t work on newer phones running BlackBerry 10 OS, and honestly nobody knew what would happen after BlackBerry shut down its infrastructure entirely.

Now that January 4, 2022 has come and gone, many users are happily finding that their phones continue to work.

But one plausible explanation is that wireless carriers also have to decommission their infrastructure related to BlackBerry phones. And until that happens, it looks like users will be able to continue using their phones normally. If that’s the case, it’s likely that rather than all remaining BlackBerry phones turning into paperweights at once, it may happen slowly as one carrier after another ends support.

And honestly, that’s kind of implied in the original shut-down notice. BlackBerry never said phones would stop working altogether. Instead the company said devices running BlackBerry OS 7.1 or earlier, BlackBerry 10, or BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.1 and earlier would “no longer reliably function” (emphasis added).

That said, reliability is kind of important when you consider what’s at stake. Features that BlackBerry warned would become unreliable after legacy services were shut off include data, phone calls, SMS, and 9-1-1 emergency calls placed either over a mobile network or WiFi.

In other words, it’s probably still a good idea for anyone hanging onto a BlackBerry to think about getting a backup phone in case your preferred device suddenly stops supporting basic functions like placing phone calls or sending text messages. But die-hards (and based on posts on forums, reddit, and social media, it seems like there may be more of them out there than I’d anticipated) may be able to squeeze a little more life out of their aging phones.

January 25, 2022 update: In the weeks since the official shut down, many BlackBerry users have run into issues including:

Know of other issues? Let us know in the comments.

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3 Comments

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  1. Passport,
    Well I’m in UK on o2 and still making calls using txt and email in April,
    did buy an iphone but happened to try BB jus last week and found it working

    bonus!

  2. This is annoying. I assume the plan was that by now anyone who wished to stay with BB would have purchased a newer Onward Mobility passport. But there aren’t any. What a great way for BB to honour, respect and support the faithful. NOT. Or as the CEO might say ‘rather than keep the BB reputation intact, I am going to put my balls on a work bench and hit them repeatedly with a big hammer, and see how that works out’.

  3. I use my BlackBerry 10 OS “Leap” for calls and basic Web surfing on data and it still works just fine. Rogers Canada is my carrier.