TCL Confirms End Of Line For BlackBerry Smartphones

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The final end for BlackBerry smartphones? Chinese electronics firm TCL Communication confirms no new handsets after August 2020

BlackBerry Ltd and TCL Communication have confirmed that the Chinese manufacturer will no longer release any more BlackBerry-branded phones.

The two firms had signed a licensing deal in December 2016 after a last-ditch attempt to revive BlackBerry’s fortunes in the smartphone sector by switching from BlackBerry 10 OS to the Android operating system, despite critical acclaim for BB 10 OS.

Since 2014 BlackBerry CEO John Chen had been hinting that BlackBerry could stop manufacturing devices as part of its ongoing recovery strategy. Then in September 2016 it was confirmed that BlackBerry would longer make smartphones (after 14 years) as the company focused all of its resources on security services and software.

BlackBerry phones

That 2016 licensing deal saw TCL release the BlackBerry KEYone in 2017, which boasted two hardcore features that BlackBerry fans loved, namely its comparatively long battery life and QWERTY keyboard.

That device was BlackBerry’s final in-house designed smartphone.

TCL followed this up in 2018 when it released the BlackBerry Key2, which was the first BlackBerry smartphone to feature dual rear cameras, and also included a customisable shortcut button called the Speed Key.

It followed this handset up with the lower-cost Key2 LE.

But these handsets failed to attract significant sales, with the TCL/BlackBerry market share was reportedly as low as 1 percent of the global smartphone sector.

Want to know more about BlackBerry? Read Silicon UK’s Tales In Tech History about the iconic smartphone maker.

End of line

But now that could be the last BlackBerry device after the two firms announced on Twitter that the licensing agreement was ending in August 2020.

“We do regret to share however that as of August 31, 2020, TCL Communication will no longer be selling BlackBerry-branded mobile devices,” said the Twitter statement. “TCL has no further rights to design, manufacturers or sell any new BlackBerry mobile devices.”

TCL said it would continue customer service and warranty support for its BlackBerry portfolio until 31 August 2022.

Meanwhile TCL is expected to continue producing its own-branded devices.

“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 several years,” said the statement.

It is worth noting that BlackBerry has also previously signed a licensing partnership deal in specific markets, such as the deal with Indonesian joint venture called BB Merah Putih in 2016.

So it remains to be seen whether this latest development will finally spell the ending of BlackBerry’s long involvement in the smartphone business.

Remember enough about BlackBerry? Try our 2013 BlackBerry quiz!

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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