Will we see yet another revival of BlackBerry phones in the smartphone market? All the indications at this time seem to indicate that the BlackBerry loyalists of yesteryears could have something to look forward to. The current owners of the BlackBerry brand, Onward Mobility, have unveiled a pre-commitment program which is asking customers and industry for engagement to understand what they’d want in a smartphone. It has been a while since a new BlackBerry branded phone was launched, the last being the BlackBerry KEY2 LE which was launched in some markets in 2018. It was in August last year when Onward Mobility, the US based tech company, acquired the rights for the BlackBerry brand.
• Onward Mobility says that The Program is to expand their engagement with customers interested in purchasing new smartphones. There is a specific reference to “new and innovative BlackBerry 5G smartphones”. This would indicate that maybe the owners are planning a new BlackBerry phone, complete with 5G mobile network support.
• The Program says that those who sign up will “provide input to directly influence product features and functionality”. Now whether that means the iconic BlackBerry physical keyboard will make a comeback or not, is anyone’s guess. This is the biggest indication that BlackBerry as a brand needs to get its ears close to the ground, and the company is understanding that.
• There is the biggest example of holding on to the BlackBerry 10 operating system at a time when Android was the hottest thing in smartphones, which saw very good phones including the BlackBerry Passport, BlackBerry Q10 and the BlackBerry Z10 not do as well as expected. BlackBerry KeyOne, which TCL launched in 2017, also got mixed reactions. TCL no longer makes BlackBerry phones.
• The hint which suggests a new phone is indeed being planned, and this simply isn’t a data collection exercise, is that Onward Mobility says those who sign up for The Program will be able to “pre-order the device and be one of the first to receive your device at launch”. They will also be the first to receive product, feature and availability updates before the general public does.
• When could we see a new BlackBerry phone, at the earliest? It could very well be sometime next year. But it’ll have to step away from the “enterprise focus”, something that a lot of people immediately attach with BlackBerry phones. And appeal to the wider demographic. Easier said than done, but competent hardware at a competitive price, should be a good start.