Blackberry-branded 5G smartphones with QWERTY keyboards to launch this year

OnwardMobility, a Texas-based startup and the new BlackBerry licensee, will be launching 5G-enabled smartphones in 2021. These Blackberry smartphones will be available in select regions in North America, Europe and Asia. The new phones will also feature a QWERTY keyboard.

Blackberry was once at the top of the top players of the business smartphone market. The brand led with its strong emphasis on typing experience, connectivity and security features. However, the convenience and ease of use that was brought to the table with the introduction of touchscreen-based smartphone quickly drove the brand to near-extinction.

Blackberry tried to keep up with the launch of the Z series smartphones, including the Z10 that launched in 2013. However, the Z series wasn’t very sought after when it came to usability compared to the iOS and Android operating systems, which by then had already become quite popular. Blackberry OS 10 on the other hand also had fewer apps than its two biggest rivals.

Hence, the Z series and the new Q series that had launched alongside it proved to be a dead-end for the brand. An Android-based BlackBerry Priv that was launched in 2015 and subsequently the Blackberry Key series didn’t make things better for the brand either. This led TCL Communications to end its partnership with the company in 2020.

Blackberry and OnwardMobility join forces

Things changed when Blackberry announced a licensing partnership with OnwardMobility and FIH Mobile Limited, a subsidiary of Foxconn Technology Group, to launch new smartphones with the classic QWERTY keyboard Blackberry was known for. In 2020, OnwardMobility had confirmed that the upcoming BlackBerry smartphones would not only pack a QWERTY keypad but also support the 5G network. They would also run on Android software.

“OnwardMobility will deliver a BlackBerry 5G smartphone device with a physical keyboard, leveraging our high standards of trust and security synonymous with our brand,” John Chen Executive Chairman and CEO at Blackberry said. “We are excited that customers will experience the enterprise and government level security and mobile productivity the new BlackBerry 5G smartphone will offer,” Chen added.

The partnership means BlackBerry gives OnwardMobility the right to develop, engineer, and bring to market a BlackBerry 5G mobile device. With privacy becoming a growing concern, Blackberry’s expertise and reputation in secure devices could just be what the brand needs to make its reboot successful this year.

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