BlackBerry is all set to come back from the dead for a surprise second time, with OnwardMobility picking up the baton from TCL, which ended its licencing agreement earlier this year.
We don’t know a great deal about the handsets yet, except that they’ll be 5G connected, manufactured by Foxconn subsidiary FIH Mobile Limited and coming to North American and European markets by mid 2021.
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Plus, as you might expect, OnwardMobility is going big on the two things that people associate with the BlackBerry branding: security and that physical keyboard.
“Enterprise professionals are eager for secure 5G devices that enable productivity, without sacrificing the user experience,” said Peter Franklin, OnwardMobility’s CEO. “BlackBerry smartphones are known for protecting communications, privacy, and data.”
This is true, but it was also true when TCL picked up the rights to make BlackBerry phones from Research in Motion back in 2016. And given the companies let the licencing agreement drop, it’s probably safe to assume that while the handsets were reasonably well received by reviewers, they didn’t sell in big enough numbers to make production viable in the long run.
It’s also telling that while Samsung used to sell cases with physical keyboards for its Galaxy S phones (opens in new tab), the company hasn’t bothered making one since the Galaxy S8. Perhaps there’s just not that much demand for physical keyboards now that touchscreen predictive text is quite so efficient.
While TCL was hardly new to the phone licencing game (the Chinese firm already licences the Alcatel brand from Nokia), OnwardMobility appears to be brand new in the space. The company site (opens in new tab) refers to experience in mobile security, 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 any money down on pre-orders – no matter how much you miss the good old days of BlackBerry Messenger.