BlackBerry phones are a staple of stability and continuity in the U.S. Senate, but that is about to change.
Senate staffers recently received an email informing them that only 600 BlackBerry smartphones are left in the institution's stockpile, and there will be no refills.
The memo explains that after the existing in-house stock gets exhausted, "new device procurements will be limited." Warranty exchanges will still apply, and existing devices will still be supported.
Some did take the news with a bit of disgruntlement. Ben Marter, a Senate staffer who named the BlackBerry "the unsung workhorse of the Senate" is dismayed to see the reliable piece of equipment leave the stage.
"[N]o phone receives and sends emails faster, and the keyboard ... is easy to use," Marter says.
BlackBerry used to be the leader in the field of mobile devices, but rival devices from Apple or Samsung invested strongly in innovation, design and galloped until they surpassed the Canadian manufacturer.
This caused BlackBerry's smartphone market shares to fall below 1 percent in 2015, causing it to sell about 500,000 units in its latest quarter. To put things in perspective, Apple reported sales of 51.2 million iPhones during the same period.
The news comes in the wake of a BlackBerry announcement, stating that the manufacturer will pull the plug on the BlackBerry Classic line — one of the most used models used on Capitol Hill.
BlackBerry promised it will continue selling other BlackBerry OS 10 variants.
In spite of losing significant ground in the consumer market, the Canadian OEM remains popular with government officials, mainly due to its reputation as a secure device and its full keyboard that makes it perfect for intensive messaging.
At the beginning of 2015, President Barack Obama was still holding on to his BlackBerry. The President did note that, for security reasons, his phone was stripped off most of its capabilities. As messaging was one of the few features still in place, the keyboard of the BlackBerry caters best to his needs.
However, Obama appeared in Jimmy Fallon's show recently and explained that his administration forced him to adopt a new handset, but refused to go into details.
According to the letter sent to Senate staffers, employees can switch from BBOS to competing systems, such as Android or iOS, with the Samsung Galaxy S6 and 16 GB iPhone SE as main alternatives.
To help Senate employees with their transition, Verizon has agreed to suspend eligibility upgrade requirements for those who choose the alternative phone variants.