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BlackBerry attempts its (presumably) last comeback

Technology for Lawyers

Published: April 7, 2017

BlackBerry invented the idea of the smartphone. Mobile access to email was so addictive that the phone’s nickname became “crackberry,” and everyone seemed to have one.

Then a funny thing happened (not so funny to the Canadian company). First the iPhone, then the Android phone, took over the market. BlackBerry tanked, tried to revive itself with an Android version, tanked again, and then licensed the hardware part of the company to the Chinese company TCL Communications.

TCL, which sells its phones in over 150 countries, is the maker of Alcatel handsets and ranked as the world's No. 7 phone maker, according to recent data from research group IDC.

TCL had manufactured phones for BlackBerry, but now has its own license.

With its hardware licensed away, BlackBerry is now concentrating on its security software business.

Once ubiquitous in the pockets of professionals, the last smartphone survey found BlackBerry’s market penetration at zero percent.

But now, TCL is introducing its version of the BlackBerry, and is looking to bring the fabled brand back into consumer awareness and the marketplace.

The new BlackBerry is the KEYone, introduced at Mobile World Conference (MWC) in Barcelona at the end of February. It has the familiar physical keyboard, upgraded to include programmability, Android 7.1 operating system, and a scratch resistant 4.5 inch screen.

The phone has aluminum backing and two cameras.

It will retail for around $550, making it close to a top-of-the-lines Android handset. This is in contrast to most of TCL’s current products, which are on the less expensive side.

The KEYone will feature strong security. It comes with BlackBerry’s security software, and will be updated with all of Google’s security patches, which is not true of all Android phones.

KEYone has had generally positive reviews, to this point, although it isn’t a live product on a network yet. There is no word about what networks will be handling this phone—in fact, no word yet about what countries it will even be selling in, to start.

In other resurrection news from MWC, Nokia is also back, with a new version of its cheapo 3310. And there you go. Almost like actually being in Barcelona, isn’t it?