BlackBerry is the smartphone brand that steadfastly refuses to die. The presumed-dead name has been resurrected once again, this time by a new company called OnwardMobility. It will work with manufacturer FIH Mobile to create and sell a 5G BlackBerry Android phone with a physical keyboard, ready for a potential release in the U.S. and Europe during the first half of 2021.
You read that right: A new BlackBerry phone with a physical keyboard and 5G, running Google’s Android software, is coming next year. TCL Communications was the last company to produce BlackBerry smartphones. It did so under license from BlackBerry Ltd., which continues to provide mobile security services, but isn’t in the hardware business anymore. TCL let its license lapse in February 2020 when modern, Android-based BlackBerry phones became a thing of the past. Until now.
OnwardMobility has the rights to develop, engineer, and market BlackBerry phones, which sounds like the same deal BlackBerry made with TCL in 2016. Unsurprisingly, it is highlighting the BlackBerry brand’s high level of security and privacy as a major selling point, and although the tone of its website and press release suggests it’s mostly targeting business and governments with its new phone, Digital Trends confirmed with the company that it will sell the upcoming devices to the general public too.
The question then becomes, will anyone want a BlackBerry phone in 2021? When TCL released the BlackBerry KeyOne in 2017 it came on a wave of nostalgia, with many people who started out their mobile life with a BlackBerry phone keen to return to using a physical keyboard. TCL went on to make the much-improved BlackBerry KeyTwo and the BlackBerry KeyTwo LE. It sold to both consumers and businesses.
While the specific reasons why TCL decided not to continue with the license are not known, it’s unlikely it would have stopped if the phones were selling in large numbers. It’s not clear yet how OnwardMobility intends to market its own BlackBerry phone with a physical keyboard to those who are used to smartphones with large touchscreens, and at a time when folding phones are just starting to turn heads. We’ll learn more over the coming months.
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