BlackBerry is all set to return for a surprise second time from the dead, with OnwardMobility picking up the baton from TCL which ended its licensing agreement earlier this year.
We don’t know much about the handsets yet, but they will be 5G connected, manufactured by Foxconn subsidiary FIH Mobile Limited and coming to North American and European markets by mid-2021. And, as you would imagine, the two big things that people associate with the BlackBerry branding are security and the physical keyboard.
“Company professionals are eager for secure 5 G devices that allow productivity without compromising user experience,” said Peter Franklin, CEO of OnwardMobility. “BlackBerry smartphones are popular for communications, data security and privacy protection.”
This is real, but it was also real when, back in 2016, TCL took over the rights to make BlackBerry phones from Research in Motion. And given the companies let the licencing agreement drop, it’s likely safe to assume that while the reviewers received the handsets fairly well, they didn’t sell in large enough numbers to make production viable in the long run.
It is also telling that while Samsung used to sell physical keyboard cases for their Galaxy S phones since the Galaxy S8 the company hasn’t bothered to make one. Perhaps there’s just not that much demand for physical keyboards now that touchscreen predictive text is quite so efficient.
Although TCL was hardly new to the phone licensing game (the Chinese firm already licenses Nokia’s Alcatel brand), it appears that OnwardMobility is brand new in the room. The company site refers to mobile security expertise but doesn’t list anything but the upcoming BlackBerry phones as products. With that in mind, it’s probably best to wait for reviews before putting down any money on pre-order no matter how much you miss the good old days of BlackBerry Messenger.