Remember the Volkswagen Beetle? That was the indestructible car, and it refused to die. In the world of mobile phones, it appears that BlackBerry is the equivalent. Because, against all odds, a 5G BlackBerry phone with QWERTY keyboard is on the way.
But it isn’t BlackBerry Ltd, the Canadian company that we all love, that is going to manufacture it. As was done in the last few years from 2016, BlackBerry Ltd. is licensing the brand name, this time to an American company named OnwardMobility. It is OnwardMobility that will make this upcoming 5G BlackBerry smartphone.
OnwardMobility is set to manufacture 5G BlackBerry phones, and one with a hardware QWERTY keyboard will hit the North American and European markets in early 2021. The new 5G BlackBerry phones will be manufactured by a subsidiary of Foxconn called FIH Mobile.
BlackBerry abandoned its own BB10 OS (BlackBerry 10 OS) in 2015 and adopted Android OS for use in its smartphones just before it stopped in-house production.
TCL was licensed to produce and market BlackBerry-branded smartphones world-wide, and did so from 2016 till 2018. The brand sold only 850,000 units in 2017, a clear sign that all was not well. In 2019, no BlackBerry smartphones were released by TCL, and earlier this year, it was made known that TCL would no longer be producing them any more.
TCL now manufactures its own self-branded smartphones, with the TCL 10 5G, TCL 10 Pro, and TCL 10L, announced at CES 2020 and now on sale.
There was another licensee, less known, an Indian company named Optiemus Infracom, which produced BlackBerry phones strictly for the Indian market. Optiemus Infracom isn’t making BlackBerry-branded smartphone any more either.
A 5G BlackBerry phone with QWERTY keyboard will be the first in line of the new BlackBerry-branded phones from OnwardMobility, and we can expect more devices to follow after. It does not look like there will be an official global distribution, but we can hope.
Also, OnwardMobility is targeting the enterprise market, BlackBerry’s traditional segment. How viable that is in today’s world remains to be seen.
There are no details of what specifications and features to expect from the upcoming 5G BlackBerry phone, so we will have to wait for those. But we know that it will run Android OS, will have a hardware QWERTY keyboard, and many of its components will be built and assembled in North America..
One thing that is clear though is that the BlackBerry mobile brand has refused to die. Against all odds, it has managed to keep pushing on. Perhaps the US and Canada can make the brand great again, as OnwardMobility is targeting North America (and Europe) this time. The North American regional market is BlackBerry’s home territory afterall. This just might play out beautifully well.
What do you think though? Do you think this is going to work out? Do you think that a 5G BlackBerry phone with hardware keyboard will be viable in 2021 or do you believe this is a wild goose chase?