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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Blackberry to return once more with keyboard smartphones

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Blackberry’s return to the smartphone market in 2016 wasn’t as successful as its first stint. Licensed to TCL, it brought up some interesting Android smartphones with physical keyboards and enhanced security. However, the phones did not appeal enough and TCL backed out of the deal. Blackberry, though, is returning to the smartphone market once more and it will try to follow the modern-day trends of the smartphone industry. Also Read – TCL will not design, manufacture or sell BlackBerry smartphones from August 31

According to a report from PCMag, a new company by the name of OnwardMobility will use Blackberry’s license to build smartphones. Similar to the previous TCL deal, Onward Mobility will use Blackberry’s name and Intellectual Property to build smartphones for the US and European markets. None of the details regarding specifications and pricing is out yet. That said, the first phone from this deal will come out in 2021. Also Read – BlackBerry Messenger to shut down soon as the world doesn’t really need pins

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Details on Blackberry’s new outing

“We really see a need for a 5G BlackBerry, Android smartphone with a physical keyboard and being a flagship device,” said Peter Franklin, CEO of OnwardMobility to PCMag. The company has no experience in the smartphone business previously but its staff has experience in the mobile phone business. Also Read – BlackBerry Key2 Red Edition launched at MWC 2019: Price, specifications, features

As part of the deal, Blackberry will offer its security solutions to the devices while OnwardMobility takes care of the hardware part. The company will build its phones via FIH, which in turn is a part of Foxconn. Hence, you can be assured of the hardware quality as the firm makes HMD Global’s Nokia smartphones.

Initially, the new Blackberry smartphones will only come out in the US and European markets. OnwardMobility has no plans at the moment to extend beyond these markets. This is unlike the TCL deal where the phones were sold in several foreign markets, including India. However, the new deal has different intentions with its product placement strategy.

Are there any details on these new BB phones?

Franklin hasn’t given out specific details about the phones but he confirms it will be a flagship smartphone. The first model will rely on Google’s Android as its OS and will come with Blackberry security solutions pre-installed. There will be the physical QWERTY keyboard as well as top-end cameras.

Most importantly, the phone will support 5G out of the box. In the US, there will be support for both mmWave and Sub-6 5G networks. OnwardMobility will price the phones competitively and will sell it via carriers. The focus will be on offering a secure smartphone experience for buyers.

“To me, the keyboard is one of those things where your brain subconsciously picks up on very minute differences between devices. It’s paramount to me that we have a great experience and a great feel both for the tactility of the keyboard, and how the keys respond and feel,” says Franklin when asked about the keyboard on this phone.

What remains to be seen is whether this comeback for Blackberry works or follows the same path as the TCL deal. With the previous Blackberry smartphones, it was evident that keyboard phones are a niche market. Most consumers these days prefer a large touchscreen device with on-screen keys to text or compose emails. OnwardMobility will have to come up with innovative ideas to re-create the demand for keyboard phones in the market.

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