It really was the only move they had left to make. The time had come for BlackBerry - the Canadian telecommunications and tech company - to shut down their unprofitable in-house phone manufacturing operations and license their name and handset technology to a third party phone manufacturer. It was either that or watch helplessly as their iconic brand disappeared from the smartphone market altogether.
A licensing deal, formally announced in December 2016, was struck with TCL Communication, which agreed to manufacture and release BlackBerry devices under the trade name BlackBerry Mobile. TCL is not the only BlackBerry licensee, of course. BB Merah Putih and Optiemus Infracom also made licensing deals to sell BlackBerry-branded devices in Indonesia and India.
But the question on the mind of every BlackBerry fan back in 2016 was whether TCL could manage to breathe new life into the beleaguered brand or merely add to the years of disappointments and failures leading up to that monumental passing of the torch. Many fans were skeptical, myself included, and many still are. But they needn't be any longer. The proof is right in front of our eyes. Not even two years after the licensing deal was announced, BlackBerry Mobile has released three new BlackBerry smartphones to market - the KEYone, Motion, and KEY2. A fourth device - the KEY2 LE - has just recently been announced and will be released before the end of 2018. That's four new devices in the span of two years - an impressive feat for a new venture in a niche market.
BlackBerry Mobile set lofty goals and made strong commitments at the outset, and by all accounts, they have delivered. What's more, they have managed to generate some genuine excitement and buzz around their products. Their marketing and overall messaging has been on-point and so much better than the cringe-worthy marketing BlackBerry Limited did for the PRIV and DTEK devices. When so many other brands are busy copying one another and pumping out notched glass slabs all with similar look and feel, BlackBerry Mobile dares to make phones that are defiantly different - phones that stand out in a sea of sameness. And the fact that they keep releasing new devices is an indication that they must be achieving some degree of success and meeting or exceeding their goals. After all, TCL, like any other business, has no reason to continue to invest money in a failing product. If they weren't able to extract some value out of their BlackBerry Mobile venture, they would have been "one and done" with the KEYone.
But here we are, in the latter half of 2018, and BlackBerry Mobile just launched the KEY2 LE. And their launch events just keep getting better, generating good buzz and spurring refreshingly objective and positive-leaning reviews from a good number of major mobile tech news outlets. BlackBerry Mobile is not without its critics, of course. No mobile tech company is. But while the critics nitpick about their prices, specs, and design, I hope they don't forget that two years ago, there was a strong possibility that we would never see another new phone bearing the BlackBerry logo. All things considered, BlackBerry Mobile has done a fantastic job bringing BlackBerry phones back from the brink.
So what kinds of BlackBerry devices and innovations will we see in the future? Will they give the trackpad another try? Will they release a slider that addresses the shortcomings of the PRIV? What goodies do they have planned for the KEY3? The fact that we can even entertain such speculation for 2019 and beyond is a clear indication that BlackBerry Mobile is the real deal.