There hasn’t been a new BlackBerry phone since the Key2 LE (which is basically a slightly cheaper and slower version of the original Key2) came out in the summer of 2018. But now the entire future of BlackBerry phones is in question following a tweet from the official BlackBerry Mobile account.
The tweet says that starting 31st August, “TCL Communication will no longer be selling Blackberry-branded mobile devices,” which would effectively put an end to BlackBerry phones as we know them. Back in 2016, following poor sales of the Priv and DTEK50, BlackBerry Limited (formerly Research In Motion), licensed the global rights to make BlackBerry-branded phones to TCL, who went on to make the BlackBerry Motion, KeyOne, Key2, and Key2 LE among others.
But with the tweet claiming that TCL will lose the rights to “design, manufacture, or sell” any BlackBerry mobile devices (presumably because TCL is unable or unwilling to extend its licensing agreement with BlackBerry Limited) this summer, this would end TCL’s stewardship of BlackBerry’s phone legacy.
Now technically, two other companies (Optiemus Infracom and BB Merah Putih) also have licenses to make BlackBerry-branded phones. However, since those licenses are restricted to devices intended for sale in India and Indonesia, phones like the BlackBerry Aurora aren’t well known outside of those countries, and it’s possible those deals may also be expiring alongside TCL’s license.
For anyone still using a TCL-made BlackBerry Phone, the company says it will continue to provide support existing devices for another two years until 31st August 2022 (or as long as required by local regulations). And while it’s possible that TCL and BlackBerry Limited could forge a new licensing agreement between now and the end of August, based on the phrasing and thanks TCL gave to everyone who bought and worked to create BlackBerry Mobile devices, that sort of seems unlikely.
We’ve reached out to BlackBerry Limited for more information and an official statement regarding the manner. But in the meantime, it seems that a brand that peaked with upwards of 20 per cent of the smartphone market share in 2009 is about to go out with a whimper.
It’s RIP for BlackBerry phones, at least for now.
Featured image: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)