BlackBerry’s again—all proper! After TCL terminated its partnership with BlackBerry in February, wi-fi watchers fearful that the storied title—and keyboarded smartphones normally—would vanish from the market. In the present day, a brand new firm referred to as OnwardMobility says it has made a take care of the BlackBerry software program firm to make use of its title and mental property to create a brand new keyboarded Android smartphone, coming to the US and Europe in 2021.
“We actually see a necessity for a 5G BlackBerry, Android smartphone with a bodily keyboard and being a flagship machine,” mentioned Peter Franklin, CEO of OnwardMobility.
BlackBerry is a strong model with a rocky legacy. The keyboarded telephones had been in style via the early ’00s each for crucial enterprise and for message-crazy teenagers, however the firm foundered on the change to finger-friendly touch-screen interfaces and easy-to-use app shops after 2010.
In 2016, BlackBerry—now an enterprise software program firm—licensed its title and IP to TCL to make a string of BlackBerry-branded Android telephones together with the KeyOne, Key2 and Key2 LE (proven above), which had been first rate gadgets however did not make a huge effect in the marketplace. TCL mentioned in February that it might finish gross sales of its BlackBerry-branded telephones this August.
That left BlackBerry on the lookout for a North American associate, and Franklin’s OnwardMobility stepped up.
“I’ve all the time been an avid BlackBerry fan. A variety of the workforce has. I noticed a rising want for safety and productiveness within the cell area, particularly [among] enterprises and governments who care a ton about safety with out compromising productiveness. The workforce actually rallied across the thought of probably the most safe cellphone, and we offered this imaginative and prescient to BlackBerry,” he mentioned.
The brand new BlackBerry fills a distinct segment that is not being served by another producer on US service cabinets proper now. TCL was the final firm promoting QWERTY-keyboarded gadgets via carriers; with out them, the one keyboarded smartphone you may get within the US proper now’s the unlocked Unihertz Titan. (There is a UK firm promoting a keyboarded cellphone referred to as the Fxtec Pro1, nevertheless it seems to be massively backordered.)
Franklin would not inform me a lot in regards to the new BlackBerry’s design or specs, however he gave some hints. The cellphone might be a “world flagship” operating Android. Will probably be “competitively priced.” It should have each sub-6GHz and millimeter-wave 5G, “throughout carriers and throughout service bands.” It should have a “top-end digital camera” and run Android apps, plus BlackBerry’s safety software program. He is working with US carriers to promote it.
“Our objective actually is to allow safety as seamlessly as doable,” Franklin mentioned. “A few of these options and functionalities haven’t been out there to shoppers previously. You do not want an enormous IT division to learn from our options.”
With Google controlling a lot of Android and being an enormous knowledge vacuum, I requested Franklin about whether or not his cellphone may defend customers in opposition to Google, however he did not chunk; he mentioned extra particulars would come out later.
When it comes to the keyboard, he mentioned the traditional Bold 9900 was his favourite BlackBerry.
“To me, the keyboard is a kind of issues the place your mind subconsciously picks up on very minute variations between gadgets,” he mentioned. “It is paramount to me that … we’ve an ideal expertise and an ideal really feel each for the tactility of the keyboard, and the way the keys reply and really feel.”
Who Are These Individuals?
I am slightly involved about OnwardMobility as a result of the CEO does not have a mainstream cell pedigree. Franklin’s background is in enterprise software program, and in line with his LinkedIn, he is had roles in eight corporations previously seven years. The corporate relies in Austin, and it is utilizing FIH to make the telephones. FIH is owned by Foxconn and likewise makes HMD’s Nokia-branded telephones. The HMD telephones are good ones, in order that bodes properly.
The corporate’s key product workers largely appears to have ties to Sonim. Jeff Pon, the SVP of operations, was at Sonim for 11 years. The EVP of gross sales was Sonim’s CMO for 3 years. The SVP of Product, Pam Norris was Sonim’s VP of product administration earlier than transferring to Huawei.
Sonim makes ultra-rugged telephones just like the XP7, proven right here.
That is considerably encouraging; Sonim’s market overlaps quite a bit with a possible BlackBerry market. The maker of super-tough telephones largely sells them to giant enterprise and industrial prospects, nevertheless it additionally has merchandise in any respect three main US carriers. So OnwardMobility’s legion of ex-Sonimites may have the relationships to probably make this work.
Franklin says the brand new BlackBerry will come out within the US, Canada and Europe within the first half of 2021.
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