BlackBerry Will Launch 5G Smartphone With Physical Keyboard In 2021
OnwardMobility announced that it has finalized agreements with BlackBerryand FIH Mobile Limited to deliver a 5G Android smartphone, complete with a physical keyboard.Like the previous TCL deal, Onward Mobility will use Blackberry’s name and Intellectual Property to build smartphones for the US and European markets.The Smartphone is scheduled to launch in North America and Europe sometime in the first half of 2021. None of the details about specifications and pricing is out yet.
Launched in the late nineties by Research In Motion (RIM), BlackBerry began as an email pager device, then quickly rose to prominence as an early smartphone brand. At its peak in the year 2013, BlackBerry had over 85 million subscribers worldwide before its rank in the market declined. This was due to the growing success of both the Android and iOS platforms, as well as the increasing preference for touch screens over physical keyboards – a unique feature once adored and celebrated by BlackBerry owners.
BlackBerry eventually start manufacturing Android smartphones but with less success. BlackBerry Limited (formerly RIM) announced in the year 2016 that it would solely license to partners rather than design its phones. TCL Communication stepped in and helped release three more BlackBerry devices in four years. As TCL’s global licensing agreement was expiring in the year 2020, OnwardMobility confirmed its new agreement to manufacture 5G devices under the BlackBerry brand in 2021.
According to the press release, with an increasing number of employees working remotely during a global COVID-19 pandemic, often with critical and proprietary data and applications, there is an urgency for a secure 5G-ready device. With the emergence of 5G networks on the brink of rolling out around the world, professionals will need the most advanced smartphone experience to ensure productivity. Rather than attempt to cater to the saturated consumer smartphone market, OnwardMobility appears to be returning more to the Blackberry approach in appealing to the professional enterprise. At one point, BlackBerry was synonymous with security and privacy as the predominant device on Capitol Hill, in government agencies, and many private companies. OnwardMobility is smart in licensing the BlackBerry name, as it is still associated with secure communication and privacy for its owners.
Resurrecting the BlackBerry… Again
The news that BlackBerry is debuting a new 5G smartphone in 2021 is probably quite exciting for previous owners who adored their Pearl or Bold. The announcement that the phone in 2021 will have a QWERTY keyboard is also an oddly refreshing feature in a nostalgic sort of way. However, the old school features aside, this will likely be a difficult battle for an unproven start-up. Before BlackBerry Limited stopped manufacturing its phones, it took one last swing for the fences in the year 2017 and released the BlackBerry KeyOne, featuring a physical keyboard below its screen touch. The hype was real, but the sales were not. While TCL described the 850,000 units it sold as a success that number pales in comparison to the 50-million BlackBerry devices sold just 6 years earlier. In this case, the time has already shown that it is going to take more than the prospect of coveted muscle memory on a physical keyboard to make BlackBerry a major mobile player again.
That being said, OnwardMobility has a lot going for it this time around as well. Its focus on the remote worker certainly limits its target market, and it can dominate with the proper technology. 5G is popping up whether people like it or not, and to have a smartphone that is not only compatible with accelerated networks but is specifically designed to work most efficiently and effectively on those networks, could be tempting to businesses. Add the focus on secure communications and privacy Blackberry is known for, and it may not be so difficult for enterprise professionals to drop their current smartphones for a 5G Android BlackBerry. Especially if it can offer them all the fast and secure features they need to stay productive anywhere. While that might be a tall order, hopefully,OnwardMobility can deliver, because if BlackBerry fails again, it will likely mean come to end (for real this time). For now, businesses and consumers will have to wait for more details on what actual features will come with this new BlackBerry smartphone, as well as when the public might get a glimpse at it.