RIP BlackBerry? TCL Partnership Ends This Summer
TCL, which has been making BlackBerry-branded phones since 2016, will cease production this summer.
After Aug. 31, 2020, TCL will no longer sell BlackBerry handsets, nor does it have the right to “design, manufacture or sell any new BlackBerry mobile devices.” It will, however, provide support for existing devices until at least Aug. 31, 2022.
BlackBerry thanked TCL Communication “and their team for a successful partnership over the past few years. Together we produced great things. Many thanks and appreciation to our BlackBerry community for your continued support.”
As Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian firm once dominated the smartphone world, with its ubiquitous BlackBerry known by devotees as the CrackBerry. But it failed to compete against Apple’s iPhone and then Google’s Android, and the two phone brands quickly eclipsed BlackBerry, which saw the delayed rollout of its much-hyped BlackBerry 10 OS and an embarassing tablet launch.
In September 2016, BlackBerry licensed its security software and services to Chinese manufacturer TCL, which produced Android-based BlackBerry devices. By the end of the year, the company was teasing new devices and even attempted to carve out space in the market as a privacy-focused brand. The Key2 attempted to distinguish itself by offering alerts when background apps were trying to access “suspicious” permissions such as your microphone, as well as locked folders, but still failed to capture attention—especially when Google and Apple pivoted in that direction as well.
Google’s Android 10 offered the ability to grant certain permissions when using the app, rather than the all-in/all-out settings of older Android operating systems. Apple, meanwhile, also changed how apps could access private information such as your location in iOS 13 with the option to set up pop-ups every time an app needed that data.
Recently, BlackBerry also killed its BBM messenger service, as it failed to attract new users. Introduced in 2005, it pioneered the way many of the apps we use now look and feel, as well as infamously introducing read receipts, the notification that lets you know when another person has read the message you have sent them—a boon for email and a nuisance for personal messaging.
It’s possible we will see BlackBerry rise again under another company, in the same way that Nokia’s iconic phones were revived under HMD Global and still march on, but if no other company decides to pick up the name, it could be the end of the brand for the foreseeable future.
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