BlackBerry Loses Its Base: Hill Staffers

By
Obama drops his BlackBerry on Air Force One Photo: JIM WATSON/2010 AFP

The IT nerds are losing control of Washington, D.C.

Capitol Hill staffers seem to finally be trading in their BlackBerrys for Androids and iPhones. A National Journal survey released today shows that 77 percent of Hill staffers use BlackBerrys today, compared to 93 percent in 2009. 57 percent of federal executives have BlackBerrys now compared to 76 percent two years ago. And it's only going to get worse: Less than 1 percent of the D.C elite interviewed plan to buy another BlackBerry. 

BlackBerrys have long been the Capitol's smartphone of choice, allowing eager young politicos to type in the text of 2,300-page bills at breakneck speed on their QWERTY keyboards.

This was all predicted at last year's SXSW festival by Politico's Mike Allen — winning the year! — who wrote in Playbook on March 11, 2011:

Hanging last night with the hip kids at the Magnolia Café on South Congress Street (we ordered the “hummadilla,” ‘followed by crawfish etouffe), nothing was more embarrassing than a BlackBerry – worse than taking a lunchbox to school when all the other kids have switched to bags. Here, you gotta have a Droid, or maybe an iPhone. Prediction: As video gets more integral to news, campaigns and political mobilization, Washington will experience a tipping point away from the ’Berry.

Playbook has been the most important part of a well-balanced breakfast for the D.C elite since 2007, when it was designed to be read paragraph-by-paragraph by hitting the BlackBerry space bar. BlackBerry's attempt at a tablet is called, um, PlayBook.

And of course, the leader of the free world has had a long relationship with his own phone. "I'm clinging to my BlackBerry," he said weeks before his inauguration in 2009, "they're going to pry it out of my hands." Not content with re-popularizing his dad jeans, Obama has made the BlackBerry holster a key element of the commander-in-chief's uniform. 

The survey also found that D.C staffers are still serious Facebook users, with 84 percent of Hill staffers saying they use the site. Two D.C residents who aren't on Facebook: Sasha and Malia Obama, who have been banned from using the site by their mom and dad. Federal executives have not been sold on the utility of Twitter, who chose the description "pointless babble" to characterize the Twittersphere.