By: Nick Gambino
There was a time when “BlackBerry” was virtually synonymous with “smartphone.” Popular amongst business types, you could hear the pitter patter of rapid-fire texts everywhere. And then the iPhone arrived like a scythe wielded by the grim reaper.
The touch screen was in and physical push-button phones were out. Now, the once-popular cell phone brand is looking to stage a comeback as an Android smartphone.
Startup OnwardMobility has licensed the BlackBerry name to try and capitalize on the brand recognition and compete in a saturated phone market. The phone is expected to hit in 2021 and will feature not only a touch screen but a physical QWERTY keyboard reminiscent of the old BlackBerry phones.
The updated phone will not only run on the Android OS but is also supposed to feature support for 5G, which it seems is their major hook.
“Peter Franklin, CEO of OnwardMobility, declined to offer any feature specifics,” The Register reports. “But said the device would use a clean-sheet keyboard created in-house, rather than reuse a design previously used by BlackBerry or TCL.”
Unsurprisingly, OnwardMobility is targeting corporate and government customers, as they were traditionally the ones using the BlackBerry. However, that audience isn’t the usual target for 5G as their needs aren’t typically geared toward an entertainment or graphic-heavy experience.
“We see a lot of enterprise experiences being enabled by 5G,” Franklin said. “Productivity, along with security, is enabled by 5G in many ways. Your business executive running these mission-critical apps will benefit greatly when you have 10 to 100 times faster speeds with [lower] latency.”
It’s hard to interpret this as any more of an answer than “just because.” I see it as something else. 5G is supposed to be the future of smartphone data, so why wouldn’t OnwardMobility want to use that hook to rope in customers to purchase the new BlackBerry.
They’re also promising a “top-notch camera” and competitive pricing, which is a bit vague. I think a $500 price point would be considered “competitive,” but we’ll have to see what their definition is.
Whatever their exact plans, they’ve got a lot of competition and I don’t know if the BlackBerry name alone is enough to gain any solid footing in the smartphone sphere. The 5G hook likewise won’t be enough, so we’ll have to see when they announce more details.