Austin startup dials up plans to reboot once-popular BlackBerry phone

An Austin company is making a comeback for the once ubiquitous BlackBerry.

OnwardMobility, a startup that makes mobile devices, announced on August 19 that it had signed a contract with BlackBerry and FIH Mobile to revive the device. In the first half of 2021, Onward Mobility plans to launch a 5G BlackBerry Android smartphone with an old-school QWERTY keyboard. It will be available in North America and Europe. Onward Mobility says it will work together on both the design and production of the device.

With the increasing number of employees working remotely with critical data and applications and the constant threat of cyberattacks, there is an absolute need for a secure, feature-rich 5G-enabled phone that increases productivity, “said a press release from OnwardMobility . “Employees are demanding better workplace technology experiences, and organizations are facing increasingly complex challenges in selecting, deploying, securing, and managing devices in order to meet expectations and maximize employee productivity.”

In a YouTube video announcing the deal, Peter Franklin, CEO of OnwardMobility, says that 5G-enabled BlackBerry devices will be more than “nice to have” but also a “critical need”.

“Consumers are looking for a safer choice for their smartphone purchases,” says Franklin. “And you’re ready for a slim device built from the ground up with security and productivity.”

TCL Communication announced in February that it will cease sales of BlackBerry branded phones effective August 31, as the company has lost the rights to continue to design, manufacture and sell them. BlackBerry stopped manufacturing phones in 2016. Later that year, TCL licensed the BlackBerry branded Android smartphones.

OnwardMobility now owns these rights.

Covering BlackBerry-TCL’s dissolution, Business Insider noted that TCL’s discontinuation of phones marked the end of an era for a brand that dominated nearly a fifth of the global phone market a decade ago. “However, because smartphones became difficult to keep up with as the iPhone and Android became more popular, BlackBerry slowly lost its relevance when it came to the global smartphone market,” said Business Insider.

In a BlackBerry story published by Harvard Business School’s Digital Initiative, the brand was named “the world’s original smartphone leader.” The original company, founded in 1984, launched its first mobile phone in 2000.

“For the next decade, the BlackBerry became the corporate device of choice in America for its enterprise security and business functionality. Even after the competitive entry of the iPhone in 2007 and the Android operating system from Google in 2008, BlackBerry was certainly not doomed, ”the story says. The brand dominated the smartphone market until 2010.

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