It was love at first touch – the keyboard reeled you in and never let you go. The comfort and convenience of the iconic console was unmatched, and remains so even today.

The legendary BlackBerry that pioneered wireless email, popularised QWERTY keyboard on cell phones and instant messaging via the BlackBerry Messenger and once dominated the smartphone industry is now in the dumps. And chances of its recovery are close to nil.

On September 28, news came that the Canadian telecommunication company would no longer manufacture smartphones. This is not the the end of BlackBerry phones – the company will be outsourcing the production of its hardware and will focus only on software development.

It does, however, mark the recognition of the end of the reign of BlackBerry Limited, earlier called Research In Motion, over the mobile phone market, especially among professionals.

At a time when Apple’s iPhone and Android-based devices dominate the smartphone space, it sounds unbelievable – even hilarious – that BlackBerry had earned the nickname “Crackberry” because of how addictive its user experience was.

But its downfall was in the making for years. After being a status symbol and the go-to device for affluent working men and women in the 2000s, its fortunes began to steeply decline since 2011-’12. According to reports, its stock value fell by 70% from 2006 to 2016.

The biggest hit for the company was the arrival of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android in 2007. The two changed the smartphone market and BlackBerry never really managed to keep up. Sure, it tried – even moving away from the QWERTY keyboard towards touch-screen phones first with BlackBerry Storm in 2008 (which fared poorly) and later, Z10 and some others. But it was a losing battle. The makers (and the few remaining loyalists) had refused to wake up to the reality of its downfall. The rise of internet-based instant messaging like WhatsApp took away the other advantage that BlackBerry had – that of the BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM, which allowed BlackBerry users to exchange messages free of cost, using data, instead of through SMSes.

The latest announcement, however, is the final nail in the coffin. It’s a bitter and painful end for long-suffering BlackBerry addicts like me who had refused to see the writing on the screen.

Sentimental fools

So why did a handful of us bury our heads in the sand for so long? The reasons are sentimental. Knowingly or unknowingly, BlackBerry had us in its grip. That QWERTY keyboard was addictive. No other format could replicate the feeling of typing away furiously and sending off an email or text in seconds.

Despite Android and iPhone flaunting their full-touch devices with their large screens that were only becoming larger and more popular, we remained a vocal minority. “Full touch”, we sneered. “How can anyone type on this?” In our minds, we remained superior in the belief that all other phones were just toys. When it came to using a phone for work, it was our shiny BBs, as we liked to call them, with their superior security credentials.

But while we remained obdurate, the world of smartphones around us changed. Android phones and iPhones brought with them millions of apps, giving users an array of things at the click of a button. Soon enough, there was an app for everything – from groceries to online transactions to cabs.

BlackBerry users missed out on that revolution. Most popular apps did not have BlackBerry versions, even though the company had an app store. Perhaps, app developers had seen the signs of the decline much earlier.

Still, the few remaining BlackBerry users sneered and waxed eloquent about how these apps were only being created to mine user information. But in a world where information sharing is the vogue, no one really cared anymore.

An icon we kept defending

We also found our ways around the limitations. For instance, words like “sideloading” entered the average BB user’s dictionary. For the uninitiated, this means getting third-party apps to run on a BlackBerry device through a complicated set of procedures. This was the only recourse for BB users who wanted the same apps that their friends on Android or iOS were using.

But there was a difference: while Android or iPhone users would just need to visit their respective app stores to get the application, a BB user had to first check if the app they wanted could be “shareloaded”, then download it, transfer it to their phones and discreetly pray that it worked. Most of the time, it did not. But we never stopped hoping (and trying).

To those who cared to listen, we insisted that there was something about the BlackBerry – the flashing red light indicating activity on our phones, those messages and emails we could type without even looking at the keypads, and the old-school charm of asking a fellow BB user for their BB PIN so that we could add them on the messenger. We held on to a time when this was a symbol of coolness. We then tried to swoon over the revamped BlackBerry 10 operating system in 2013 in a desperate bid to save the company.

But no reinvention on the part of the company was enough. WhatsApp announced a few months back that it was discontinuing support for BlackBerry phones by year-end, gently asking us to get with the times. But we stayed. I, for one, was woebegone after mistakenly drowning my beloved BlackBerry 9300 in the waters off Colva Beach in Goa, only to go and buy the new Q5, enamoured by BB10’s sparkling new interface. I refused to let go of it, even when its motherboard malfunctioned or its screen cracked, choosing instead to get it repaired at considerable cost.

And it still remains by my side. My trusty partner. The red light on top of the battle-weary screen still spiritedly blinks, telling me I have notifications to check. The dusty keyboard still gleams, secure in the belief that no other device can offer a better texting experience.

But now the request for us to move on has come from the makers themselves. All we can say in our defence is that we did not go gently into that good night. We tried to fight its death as long as we could.