Blackberry in the smartphone world is becoming more like the “rising from the ashes” phenomenon. As soon as you begin to conclude that the once iconic smartphone brand is ready to bite the dust, it somehow finds a way to resurrect itself. That happened back in 2016 when TCL agreed to manufacture two Blackberry-branded smartphones, and it is happening once again now. OnwardMobility has just announced that it will be launching a new 5G smartphone for Blackberry with an external keyboard in 2021, ending the company’s brief hiatus from the mobile phone manufacturing market.
Blackberry was once arguably the world’s number one mobile phone brand. But with the launch of iPhones, and an uncanny resistance to come to terms with change, Blackberry witnessed massive decline in demand. As a result, the brand officially ceased to operate as a smartphone manufacturing company back in 2016.
In 2017, Blackberry made another effort to penetrate the market again by making a deal with TCL to start manufacturing the BlackBerry KeyOne. However, when the TCL deal reached the end of the runway in Feb 2020, it decided against a renewal.
However, the company is now forming a new partnership with OnwardMobilty and Foxconn to create this new phone. Particularly, Blackberry has given OnwardMobilty the manufacturing rights for this mobile phone, with Foxconn subsidiary FIH Mobile Limited helping design, engineer, and manufacture the device. OnwardMobility CEO Peter Franklin, who made the announcement via a video, said that the new 5G blackberry will deliver “security and productivity”.
“BlackBerry smartphones are known for protecting communications, privacy, and data,” Peter Franklin said in the video. “This is an incredible opportunity for OnwardMobility to bring next-generation 5G devices to market with the backing of BlackBerry and FIH Mobile.”
We highlight security, because that is apparently going to be a big part of the design of the new device. “We are excited that customers will experience the enterprise and government level security and mobile productivity the new BlackBerry 5G smartphone will offer,” said John Chen, Executive Chairman and CEO, BlackBerry.
Blackberry’s decision to stick to physical keyboards is kind of controversial. While at one end, it does attract the nostalgic fans as well as productivity freaks, the sheer slowness of current Blackberry line-up and a massive screen real-estate sacrifice meant that the phones saw limited success. TCL too never released official figures, only saying time and again that it has sold decent numbers.
Fans would be hoping that Blackberry listens to the feedback and perhaps a startups like Onward Mobility could create a more modern, sleek and secure product design. Fingers crossed for this one, since we know folks who would be dying to get their hands on a much better, modern Blackberry, with a physical keyboard.