The once-venerable BlackBerry smartphone has endured a long slow death march. The final nail in the coffin may have been hammered in on Monday with the news that China’s TCL Communication will no longer sell BlackBerry-branded mobile devices as of Aug. 31, 2020.
TCL said in a statement posted on Twitter that it “has no further rights to design, manufacture or sell any new BlackBerry mobile devices,” though the company indicated it would continue to provide customer and warranty support for the existing BlackBerry portfolio until Aug. 22, 2022.
Customers can find support phone numbers at the BlackBerryMobile site, TCL said.
It was just over three years ago when TCL entered into a licensing agreement with BlackBerry, the Waterloo, Canada, company once known as Research In Motion, which had ceased making BlackBerry hardware.
BlackBerry phones fell prey to the launch of the iPhone in 2007, as well as premium Android phones from Samsung and others.
As recently as June 2018, TCL attempted to keep the barely breathing brand alive with the launch of the BlackBerry Key2, an Android handset that attempted to leverage traditional BlackBerry strengths, including a physical Qwerty-style mobile keyboard, robust security and long battery life. The hopeful nostalgia-driven marketing phrase: “An icon reborn.”
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Though their numbers had dwindled, many of the loyalists who stuck with BlackBerry cited the physical keyboard as a chief reason.
In one form or another, BlackBerry has been on the comeback trail for several years now, and while the market for BlackBerry wasn’t exactly thriving, there was some hope around the fact that there even was a Key2 launch, on top of the KeyOne model that was introduced some 16 months earlier. That hope was never realized.
In May 2019, another remnant of BlackBerry’s heyday disappeared when the consumer version of BlackBerry Messenger or BBM was shuttered for good. By then, BBM was under the auspices of Creative Media Works, a division of an Indonesian media and tech company.
Absent some other unforeseen rescue effort, it seems BlackBerry phones may be gone for good.