BlackBerry was a major company in the pre-smartphone era. It was often the first choice for business customers and was also the preferred phone of many governments. However, the company’s iconic QWERTY keyboard began to lose its relevance with the advent of smartphones with touchscreens and advanced Operating Systems.
Canadian company tried to remain strong for many years by betting on its BlackBerry OS. Although the company offered Android app support, it was not a great experience. We saw a few devices, such as the Blackberry KEY and BlackBerry Priv, a few years back.
These devices attempted to combine the tactile keyboard experience with touchscreens, but they didn’t make it into the final. However, a new report suggests that BlackBerry smartphones will soon be back on the market.
BlackBerry is Making a Comeback Soon With Onward Mobility
Onward Mobility has had the BlackBerry brand since August 2020. The company has made no promises regarding new BlackBerry smartphones, however, until now. However, things are starting to happen. The company announced a pre-commitment program, which suggests that a new handset may finally be in the works.
This program is essentially a subscription list for fans and partners. They will receive “product, features, and availability updates” before the general public. Onward Mobility’s landing page states that these individuals and organizations can directly influence functionality and feature design. Most interesting is the hint that a new smartphone may be in development.
It is worth noting that Onward Mobility does have some expertise in security. However, the company does not have any experience in the area of mobile hardware. This is why the company is looking to influencers and telecoms partners for help. To produce BlackBerry smartphones, we expect that the company will likely use an ODM (probably from China).
There are many questions about the return of BlackBerry smartphones. For example, we believe many people are wondering if BlackBerry will continue to insist on a hybrid experience that includes a touchscreen and QWERTY keyboards or if it will finally embrace full-screen devices.
We have to use large screens that are small enough that the device that has a physical keyboard is not as appealing. This design will be useful to those who love the experience. This is not a look back at the past. It’s a way for BlackBerry to distinguish itself. It is unclear if users still need this differentiation.
How much is the 2021 BlackBerry price?
We have no indication of price yet, but our guess is that it will be fairly high, around perhaps the £800/US$800 mark. Unless OnwardMobility can find some big business buyers out the gate, we’re not expecting their phone to sell in huge quantities. TCL’s BlackBerry phones were generally more expensive than the specs warranted, compared to competing devices and we’re not expecting that trait to change this time around.
A BlackBerry in 2021 is a niche device, to say the least, and while the premium price will attempt to reflect the exclusivity of a secure phone with a keyboard, the reality is that it will probably be expensive because of this same niche appeal.
What about the new BlackBerry 2021 specs?
According to OnwardMobility, their new BlackBerry will offer 5G networking capabilities and a physical keyboard. These really are the only two indications of specs that we have so far, aside from the phone running Android, as currently, the announcement is only of the partnership’s existence and nothing more.
OnwardMobility has licensed the BlackBerry name and is also working with FIH Mobile Limited – a subsidiary of Foxconn – to manufacture the phone.
New BlackBerry 2021 wish list
With so little concrete information to go on, here are a few things we hope OnwardMobility’s new 5G BlackBerry is bringing to the table in order to do the brand justice.
A high refresh rate display
The KeyOne and Key2 used the same exact screen and it was not a good one. The colors were a little muted and brightness wasn’t great. A premium BlackBerry needs to pack a much better display, and we’d hope for one with a high refresh rate, this deep into 2021. If OnwardMobility wants to attract business professionals, it should treat them to a premium screen.
A superlative keyboard
It sort of goes without saying that the physical keyboard needs to be good, but the last great keyboard on a BlackBerry was 2014’s BlackBerry Classic. The clicky tactile keys haven’t been recreated since. The Key2 got closest, but the keys were too small and too square.
Sliding form factor
The problem with putting larger keys in is the expectation of modern smartphone form factors. The KeyOne and Key2 had poky screens in order to fit a physical keyboard below them and still have a phone of manageable size. We think the new BlackBerry should recreate the form factor of the BlackBerry Priv, with a regular touchscreen smartphone display and a sliding form factor that hides a physical keyboard.
Then again, if the phone aped the compact design of the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and made Android work properly, we’d be in nostalgia heaven.
The cameras on the TCL BlackBerrys were all weak. We hope the 5G BlackBerry has cameras that can hold their own against modern smartphones. If companies keep bringing the brand back, they need to stop compromising on the quality of the cameras, one of the main things people value on their phones – even businesspeople.