For about a month, I've been daily driving a Blackberry Curve 9360. Originally released in 2011, I was able to pick one up, new-old stock, for around $60 CAD.
Before switching to my Blackberry, I ran a de-Googled Android phone. Primarily I used it for GPS, but I also had a few time-wasting apps (like a FOSS Reddit client) that I'd occasionally use during downtime.
This isn't my first time with an esoteric cell phone. For a few months in 2022, I tried to daily drive a Pinephone. If you're not aware, the Pinephone is a fully FOSS phone that runs a fairly standard Linux kernel. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to switch to it as my sole cellular device. Generally I'd carry my Android phone with me as well, for GPS. I also found the Pinephone would sometimes lag when playing music over Bluetooth. I was able to improve this by changing some config settings but I wasn't able to fix it entirely. In general, it was a laggy experience, but I put up with it until my Mobian install bricked itself twice. At that point, I gave up and switched back to my Android, where I remained until getting my current Blackberry.
First steps with the Blackberry
There were a few hurdles when getting started with the Blackberry.
Although the phone supports 2G and 3G, it doesn't support any versions of 3G that are supported by any cell carriers here in Atlantic Canada. Instead, I had to switch to a provider that still has 2G support. I'm pretty sure that officially, we don't have any 2G networks so my phone could stop working at any moment.
Blackberry shut down all infrastructure related to my phone about a year ago. I can't download apps (the app store doesn't work) but I can sideload them, assuming I can find them online. I couldn't locate a working download for a flashlight app, but I was able to download Opera. I tend to use it because it has a newer certificate store than the built-in browser.
I did try to update the phone's certificate store manually, but it didn't seem to make a difference to the browser. I'm not sure if I was doing it wrong, or if the browser has an internal certificate store of its own.
GPS is probably what I used to use my Android phone for the most. Even when travelling within my own city, I would use it when going to an unfamiliar destination. I go on a lot of road trips, and I found I was entirely dependent on my GPS to get anywhere.
When I switched to my Blackberry, I quit GPS cold-turkey. And honestly? It's awesome! It feels very freeing not using it to drive around. My sense of direction has noticeably improved, and I feel much more connected to the city I've lived in for nearly 5 years.
For road trips, I've started writing out directions on paper. Missing a turn used to be an annoying nuisance - now it's a fun puzzle game where I have to rearrange my instructions in my head! It feels like I'm in control, instead of mindlessly doing what a machine tells me to do.
At some point, I'm going to pick up a paper map. I haven't needed one yet, but I have a feeling it'll come in handy. In the summer, I tend to go on longer road trips to much bigger cities like Montreal and Toronto. I'm excited to see how well I do without my GPS!
My Android phone had a FOSS TOTP app I used for authenticating my work VPN. To be able to remove that device from my life, I needed an equivalent for my Blackberry. Luckily, it can run Java Micro Edition (Java ME) programs, and I found one that does TOTP! TOTPME might look like it's from the 1990s, but I appreciate its minimalist UI. It works great and does what I need!
SMS and MMS
For normal texting, the Blackberry is fine. I find the keyboard a bit cumbersome (it's tiny, after all!) but I was never a fast typer on a modern phone either. One limitation is that there's no emoji support whatsoever - I'm limited entirely to emoticons (-: It can be a bit annoying to get a text with a black box and wonder what emoji they used - sometimes it can change the entire mood of the message!
It appears that I can receive images fine. Sending images is a different matter. Some people can receive them, and some people can't. When it fails, it's completely silent - I don't get a notification, and neither does the receiver!
I do very little calling. I mean, I barely use my phone, but even compared to that, I do very little calling. The microphone and speaker are fine, though the phone does feel a little unergonomic. I wonder if my hand is just used to holding something larger.
This experiment has made me fairly confident I can forego a cellphone entirely. Sometimes I leave it at home when I go out, and I feel even more free! It's kind of crazy how long I've been controlled by a brick. I do think that I'll ditch my phone entirely in the near future. Even though it's an ancient phone, it's running proprietary software, and I can be tracked via cell towers anyway. I need to get rid of it!
Downgrading my cellphone has done wonderful things for me. While there are limitations, they are pretty minor, and the benefits are enormous. I feel more connected to the world around me. I feel more in control! I was so sure I needed a mobile device, for GPS at least, but really I didn't.