We were massive fans of BlackBerry’s smartphones when the brand was popular in South Africa but as smartphones with touchscreens became more ubiquitous and BlackBerry services less affordable, the handsets fell out of favour locally.
Add to that a failure to really innovate in the space and before long BlackBerry was out of the smartphone game.
Then, in 2016 TCL Communication was given the rights to create BlackBerry smartphones, the first of which was the impressive KEYone.
BlackBerry however focused on software and services while TCL made, sold and supported the hardware. Now however, that partnership has come to an end.
“We 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,” wrote BlackBerry Mobile in a statement.
To be absolutely clear, BlackBerry as a company is still around and is not going anywhere, it’s only the future of the smartphone brand that is unclear.
Now, while TCL Communication no longer has rights to make BlackBerry hardware, that’s not to say another firm can’t acquire those rights.
The big question however, is would they want to?
Data from the IDC for Q3 2019 reveals what most of us already know. Samsung, Huawei and Apple have the largest slice of the mobile market in terms of individual manufacturers.
However, “others” (including smaller manufacturers) account for a third of the smartphone market share.
It’s clear then that BlackBerry is an antique of an era that no longer exists.
Perhaps the brand will be picked up by another firm and revitalised into something exciting. It happened with Nokia which has been hitting it out of the park with smartphones in recent years, so much so we often wonder if Nokia would ever wrest control of its smartphone brand back from HMD Global.
We wouldn’t hold our breath about BlackBerry smartphones though.
For now though it looks like BlackBerry as a smartphone brand is doomed, and that’s just a little sad.
— BlackBerry Mobile (@BBMobile) February 3, 2020