The next BlackBerry-branded smartphone will launch in 2021, and licensed manufacturer OnwardMobility has launched a waiting list for the next device.
BlackBerry and OnwardMobility first announced their partnership last year, promising to launch a new 5G smartphone with a physical keyboard.
It will be powered by Google’s Android operating system.
This came after TCL Communications said it would stop selling BlackBerry smartphones by 31 August 2020.
Those who join OnwardMobility’s waiting list will be invited to give insights into what they really want from the next BlackBerry device.
Besides the focus on productivity, security, and the classic Blackberry physical keyboard, the companies have remained tight-lipped regarding info about the new smartphone, and no images or renders have surfaced thus far.
However, OnwardMobility did state that the phone is set to launch in the US and Europe first.
The manufacturing of the devices will be done by the third member of the partnership, FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Foxconn, one of the largest hardware manufacturers in the world.
Seeing Blackberry entering the mobile phone market with a new manufacturing partner may kindle a sense of nostalgia among South Africans who remember the glory days of Research In Motion.
And indeed, in its prime, Blackberry presented an excellent value proposition in South Africa.
Why Blackberry was best
For three years in a row — from 2011 to 2013 — Blackberry was voted as the coolest phone brand in South Africa, and its BBM messenger was voted as the coolest app.
BlackBerry’s dominance in South Africa was driven by a symbiosis of three components: BBM, the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS), and the affordable BlackBerry Curve 8520.
BIS allowed unlimited on-device data usage for R59 a month — an extremely popular offering among South African that were used to paying as much as R2 per megabyte of data at the time.
At a time when a 1GB data bundle was R289, the combination of BIS, BBM, and the launch of the Curve 8520 in 2009 made for a near-unmatchable mobile offering.
Yet, though outlasting Symbian and Windows Mobile devices, Blackberry eventually saw the market slip through its fingers.
Standing at the top, Blackberry saw iOS and Android devices slowly rise to meet it.
WhatsApp’s rise as a cross-platform mobile messaging service and BlackBerry’s hesitance to make launch BBM on competitor devices also contributed to its downfall.
The final nail in the coffin was when the BIS network in South Africa became congested, even going offline for extended periods.
These factors combined to knock Blackberry from its pedestal and, eventually, into the wake left by iPhone, Samsung and Huawei.
Nonetheless, despite its fall, Blackberry was a magnificent beast when it was at its best, and a trip down memory lane seems appropriate in the light of its upcoming release.
BlackBerry Curve 8520
Affordable and user-friendly. In its prime, the best bang-for-buck smartphone on the market.
The first BlackBerry device with a camera and media player. A big step towards Blackberry’s prominence.
A true business-oriented device that built on the foundation of the Pearl.
The first touch-screen Blackberry, and the first without the distinctive keyboard. It was not well received.
The iconic corporate Blackberry. Obama — and half of the MyBroadband office — used it.
Blackberry’s shot at the sliding-phone trend, but better-looking than its competitors.
One of the first devices to run on the BlackBerry 10 platform, which was built on top of QNX. A premium smartphone made to compete with the ever-improving iPhone and Samsung full-touch devices.
Also powered by BlackBerry 10, the Q10 struck a balance between the touch-screen trend and the characteristic Blackberry physical keyboard.
The first BlackBerry powered by Android.
A collaboration between Blackberry and TCL (Alcatel). Rebranded version of Alcatel’s Idol 4.
A return to the classic keyboard that was well-received by the industry. Fully manufactured by TCL.
TCL’s final shot at a BlackBerry smartphone before giving up the licence.