It was only five years ago when Barack Obama fought mightily to keep his BlackBerry — becoming the first president to be connected by email.
Now, he may be looking for an upgrade.
The White House is in the early stages of testing smartphones, the Wall Street Journal reported on yesterday, with devices from Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics being examined by the White House Communications Agency.
It’s a sign of the times — and the woes facing BlackBerry.
Obama already uses an iPad to catch up on the news and sports, aides said, but for email he has relied only on a highly-encrypted and secure BlackBerry. But that may be changing if the military unit that oversees the president’s communications signs off on the new devices.
Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told reporters Friday that no changes were imminent to the president’s BlackBerry. But tests are being conducted by the White House Communications Agency for other areas of the administration.
After Obama was first elected in 2008, he was told that he would have to surrender the BlackBerry that he admittedly had become addicted to. At the time, he said in an interview: “They’re going to pry it out of my hands.”
But he prevailed in a fight with the Secret Service and his lawyers, who warned that all of his messages remain subject to the Presidential Records Act. The fact that his words could ultimately end up in the public domain was a caveat that did not dissuade the president.
Obama has shared his email address with only a small circle of old friends and senior advisers, but aides say it’s been a lifeline for staying connected in the presidential bubble. He’s known for sending messages well into the night.
If the president leaves his BlackBerry behind for a new smartphone, it’s another sign of the times from when George W. Bush famously sent a farewell message from his AOL address when he took office — saying he would no longer be reachable by email.
“Since I do not want my private conversations looked at by those out to embarrass, the only course of action is not to correspond in cyberspace,” Bush wrote. “This saddens me. I have enjoyed conversing with each of you.”
Obama has kept that conversation going, communicating with friends in crisp messages. People who receive them say they are usually short and sweet and always free of emoticons. Soon, he could have many more options at his fingertips.
Administration officials told ABC News that the Pentagon is running tests on the security of Android phones, but the president intends to keep his current communications plan for now.