BlackBerry, as a company still exists, but it no longer makes phones. But new BlackBerry phones are coming. And BlackBerry’s stock is up. So what, exactly, is going on? Let’s take a look at what BlackBerry has been up to for the last 18-24 months…
The Death of BlackBerry Phones
BlackBerry phones aren’t dead, they’ve just been outsourced – or, more specifically, BlackBerry has licensed the brand to third-party companies. The first was TCL, who then subsequently ditched them, and a new company has taken over the BlackBerry license, a company called OnwardMobility.
OnwardMobility says it plans on releasing a 5G-enabled BlackBerry phone in 2021, complete with a QWERTY keyboard. The new BlackBerry phone will apparently get a release inside early 2021 – the first half of the year, basically.
BlackBerry is thrilled OnwardMobility will deliver a BlackBerry 5G smartphone device with physical keyboard leveraging our high standards of trust and security synonymous with our brand. We are excited that customers will experience the enterprise and government level security and mobile productivity the new BlackBerry 5G smartphone will offer, said John Chen, Executive Chairman and CEO, BlackBerry.
Is there a demand for a new BlackBerry phone? I’m not so sure. Plenty of people are still interested in the brand. I mean, you’re reading this article right now about BlackBerry, so, yes, in some respects, there is interest. But part of me feels like it is more morbid curiosity than actual buying intent.
Case in point: TCL dropped the BlackBerry license because, well, it didn’t really work out – the company didn’t sell enough phones to justify the licensing agreement. And if TCL cannot make it work, it is hard to see another brand, with less experience, making it a success. I’d love to be wrong here, though, so don’t think I am being deliberately negative.
Back in the day, I was a huge BlackBerry fanboy.
What BlackBerry Does These Days
Most people associated BlackBerry with phones. And that is fine; BlackBerry – or RIM, as it was known in its hay day – was once the biggest phone brand in the world, shifting in excess of 50 million phones a year. In 2009, BlackBerry was the fastest-growing company on the planet, which just goes to show how quickly fortunes can change in the mobile space.
Nowadays, BlackBerry is in the security business. The company has always had its roots in security and privacy, but nowadays it is focused wholeheartedly on developing software and SAAS products for big companies. BlackBerry also acquired Cylance, an AI company, back in 2019, so it also has a horse in the AI market too.
QNX Lives On – Just Inside Cars, Planes, and Heavy Machinery
Back in the day, BlackBerry launched BlackBerry 10, a QNX-powered operating system that was designed to compete with iOS and Android. BB10 was a truly amazing platform, technically, but sadly it failed to gain traction in the market on account of its limited developer support.
Core apps like Facebook and Instagram, the type of apps we all take for granted, for not present and this seriously hurt the adoption of the new platform and the phones that ran it. This is to be expected though. You could create a platform better than Android and iOS, but it would still lose – them’s just the breaks in the mobile space right now.
To complete, you need a solid platform (which BB10 was), a legion of committed and dedicated developers, a huge selection of apps, and all the trimmings modern phone users take for granted. With BB10, BlackBerry only had one of these elements – a really terrific mobile operating system.
Following BB10’s demise, BlackBerry’s focus changed and its QNX platform began its new life as a commercial operating system for a variety of industries including aerospace and defense, automotive, commercial vehicles, heavy machinery, industrial controls, medical, rail, and robotics.
Embedded developers across a range of industries rely on our foundation products including our deterministic microkernel real-time operating system (RTOS), software development platform, and hypervisor. Our safety-certified products can accelerate certification efforts. And our security solutions including our over-the-air solution for secure software updates and a unique binary code analysis solution can help you build more secure systems. We also offer middleware solutions like sensor frameworks and acoustic management to boost your development efforts – BlackBerry
More recently, as in just this week, BlackBerry inked a deal with Amazon’s AWS that resulted in BlackBerry’s share price skyrocketing for the first time in a good long while.
The deal with Amazon concerns the development of BlackBerry’s new intelligent vehicle data platform, IVY. Following the announcement of the partnership, BlackBerry’s shares jumped 65%.
AWS and BlackBerry are making it possible for any automaker to continuously reinvent the customer experience and transform vehicles from fixed pieces of technology into systems that can grow and adapt with a user’s needs and preferences – AWS CEO Andy Jassy.
BlackBerry will utilize AWS’s Internet of Things and machine-learning systems to bolster IVY’s capabilities and performance. The complete package will then be sold to car manufacturers for use inside their commercial vehicles, allowing for the next-gen of truly smart smart-cars.
This software platform promises to bring an era of invention to the in-vehicle experience and help create new applications, services and opportunities without compromising safety, security, or customer privacy – BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen.
What Will IVY Do?
According to BlackBerry, IVY will be something of a game-changer in the coming years. With an IVY-powered system installed in cars, the system will be able to analyze driver patterns and behavior, access routes and weather in real-time, provide information and alternative routes based on traffic and weather, and even share electric car battery data with third-parties.
The latter point is very interesting, as it will enable electric car drivers to constantly know how much charge they have and where the nearest charging point is at all times. The system, while not yet deployed, has huge potential for the consumer car market, as well as plenty of defense and military applications.
So, yeah, BlackBerry isn’t making phones anymore, but it has been very busy these last few years. Maybe it is now time for people to start thinking about BlackBerry differently? Investors are clearly bullish about the companies future prospects and I cannot wait to see what happens with its IVY platform.
And if that wasn’t enough, we’ll even be getting a BlackBerry phone with a QWERTY keyboard and 5G during the first half of 2021.
Good to finally see some good news out of Ontario for once!
Miss QWERTY phones? Check out the Titan Pocket!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Does BlackBerry Still Make Phones?
No, BlackBerry no longer makes its own phones. Instead, it licenses out the BlackBerry brand to third-party phone companies. TCL was the first company to licence the BlackBerry brand, but the company concluded its licensing agreement in 2020. In 2021, a new company will take over the license, OnwardMobility, and it has plans to release a 5G BlackBerry phone with a QWERTY keyboard during 2021.
Q: Is There A New BlackBerry Phone Coming In 2020?
Yes, a new BlackBerry phone will launch during the first half of 2021. The phone will be released by OnwardMobility and it will, presumably, run Android. The new BlackBerry phone will run 5G and have a physical QWERTY keyboard.
Q: Who Makes BlackBerry Phones?
Between 2016 and 2020, TCL was the company that designed and manufactured BlackBerry phones. In 2020, a new company took over the BlackBerry license. In 2021, OnwardMobility will release its first BlackBerry phone.
Q: What Does BlackBerry Do Now?
BlackBerry no longer makes phones. The company is now focussed more or less exclusively on the development and deployment of QNX-based operating systems to commercial and enterprise users. In 2020, BlackBerry inked a new deal with Amazon’s AWS to produce a new, innovative vehicle operating system called IVY.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.