I’ve assumed it before, and still BlackBerry has continued in some form or another, but the statement issued today doesn’t sound promising for the future of BlackBerry.
While a lot of people have long since moved on from using a BlackBerry, despite almost certainly having fond memories of owning and using one, in recent years there has been little to no traction.
The supply of handsets, manufactured under licence by TCL Communications (the company that also build Alcatel branded handsets) went quiet, news on updates all but disappeared, and it seemed unlikely that there was going to be any new hardware.
And now it’s official; it’s over for TCL Communications’ involvement. From the end of August, TCL will no longer sell BlackBerry-branded handsets.
It will, however, continue to support devices until the end of August 2022. Therefore BlackBerry won’t fall entirely off the map just yet – but will any other manufacturer step in to keep the name alive?
The statement in text:
When TCL Communication announced in December 2016 that we had entered into a brand licensing and technology support agreement with BlackBerry Limited to continue making new, modern BlackBerry smartphones available globally we were very excited and humbled to take on this challenge. Indeed our KEY Series smartphones, starting with KEYone, were highly-anticipated by the BlackBerry community. What made these devices great wasn’t just the hardware developed and manufactured by TCL Communication, but also the critical security and software features provided by BlackBerry Limited to ensure these were genuine BlackBerry devices. The support of BlackBerry Limited was an essential element to bringing devices like BlackBerry KEYone, Motion, KEY2 and KEY2 LE to life and we’re proud to have partnered with them these past few years on those projects.BlackBerry Tweet on February 3rd 2020
We do regret to share however that as of August 31, 2020, TCL Communication will no longer be selling BlackBerry-branded mobile devices. TCL Communication has no further rights to design, manufacture or sell any new BlackBerry mobile devices, however TCL Communication will continue to provide support for the existing portfolio of mobile devices including customer service and warranty service until August 31, 2022 – or for as long as required by local laws where the mobile device was purchased. Further details can be found at www.blackberrymobile.com or by phoning customer support at the numbers found at https://blackberrymobile.com/hotline-and-service-center/.
For those of us at TCL Communication who were blessed enough to work on BlackBerry Mobile, we want to thank all our partners, customers and the BlackBerry fan community for their support over these past few years. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many fans from all over the world during our world tour stops. The future is bright for both TCL Communication and BlackBerry Limited, and we hope you’ll continue to support both as we move ahead on our respective paths.
From everyone who worked on the BlackBerry Mobile team at TCL Communication over the years, we want to say ‘Thank You’ for allowing us to be part of this journey.
Can there still be a future for BlackBerry?
When it all started to go wrong for BlackBerry, I was particularly sad. For many, many years, I carried one as my go-to email device, thanks to incredibly fast messaging (back in the 2G and emerging-3G days when speeds were low), was highly affordable thanks to data traffic included in a single monthly charge, and it also offered exceptional battery life – as in one to two weeks.
The physical keyboard was also a must for fast data entry.
But times change.
Now Google and others offers instant email at no cost, data is cheap, speeds are higher (so no need for a server to compress and filter data), modern smartphones offer decent battery life even if not quite as good, and BBM has been replaced by plenty of free instant messaging alternatives.
And when it comes to a keyboard – most of us have not suffered too badly now that screens have massively grown in size. Keyboards have become smarter at correcting mistakes, and bring other benefits like multiple language support and managing clipboards.
The other problem for BlackBerry is that most people simply don’t want to carry two devices.
Since many businesses introduced ‘Bring your own device’ (BYOD), the choice between using a top-end Android or iPhone handset, or being made to use a company-supplied BlackBerry was never going to work out well for BlackBerry.
There is still be a market for portable devices with keyboards (e.g. the Planet Computers Cosmo) but this is better served by smaller players that can truly customise devices for a specialised market.
Perhaps another company will step in and take over, but as every month goes by I think it’s fairer to conclude that the BlackBerry adventure has come to an end.