Android-powered 5G BlackBerry phone with physical keyboard is coming in 2021

Shawn Knight

Posts: 12,688   +124
Staff member
Editor's take: BlackBerry has been down this road before and we've seen plenty of Android phones launch with a focus on privacy and security. Physical keyboards were great for their time but that was nearly 15 years ago. I'm not saying it can't be done but the odds are certainly stacked against OnwardMobility here.

The iconic BlackBerry brand is getting yet another lease on life. OnwardMobility, a startup created to deliver comprehensive, secure mobile device solutions to government, enterprise and business clients has licensed the rights to develop, engineer and bring a new BlackBerry mobile device to market next year.

The new Android-powered BlackBerry device will be 5G compatible and feature a physical keyboard. Foxconn subsidiary FIH Mobile Limited is also being brought on to help with the design and manufacturing process, we’re told.

OnwardMobility believes there is a need for a secure, feature-rich 5G-ready phone that enhances productivity. “BlackBerry smartphones are known for protecting communications, privacy, and data,” said OnwardMobility CEO Peter Franklin.

“This is an incredible opportunity for OnwardMobility to bring next-generation 5G devices to market with the backing of BlackBerry and FIH Mobile,” the executive added.

The company found early success with its forward-thinking handsets in the early 2000s but as the smartphone revolution started to take shape, the company didn’t take its challengers seriously and failed to innovate. Multiple attempts were made to right the ship with the company going so far as to adopt Android as its primary operating system but BlackBerry was never able to recover.

In 2016, the Canadian handset maker licensed the BlackBerry brand to Chinese phone maker TCL. That experiment ran its course and earlier this year, it was revealed that TCL would stop making BlackBerry devices in August.

Masthead credit: gotvideo

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lipe123

Posts: 945   +520
Wow here we have a prime example of not learning from the past.

I guess someones grandpa will enjoy these or some 70+ year old CEO with nostalgia glasses.
 
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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 3,730   +3,630
Blackberry did two really stupid things:

#1 doubling down on physical keyboards.

#2 not adopting Android fast enough.

And they don't learn.

I used to subscribe to the anti-Apple bandwagon.
I used to have a Nextel i870 and a Blackberry 9000 series. No one phone did "everything".

When a server maintenance guy showed up to help me deal with my server, I saw he had an iPhone and I asked him if I could see it. He reluctantly let me use it. I was sold in 5 seconds. Been with iPhone ever since. Ain't nobody in 2020 going back to Blackberry.
 

Lionvibez

Posts: 2,052   +1,425
As a former blackberry user I upgraded from a KeyOne to an S10.

There is a place for keyboard phones, I still cannot type at the same speed and accuracy that I could on my blackberry. Instead of the hating on the brand other people may have different needs for their device than what you may do.

To each his own.
 
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nismo91

Posts: 1,070   +118
I come from Indonesia, the 4th most populous country on the planet, that was somehow loyal to blackberry from 2009 to 2015. multiple reports as late as 2016 mentioned "blackberry was strangely popular in Indonesia". it was so popular that in 2017 a local company teams with blackberry to create an "indonesian exclusive" Aurora android handset that was mostly mediocre in terms of specs and features.

meanwhile in the US you can see the company's sharp downfall from 2012. yet it took them 3 years to come up with an android device, and another 2 years to create a mainstream device for a big developing country that was so loyal to them.

meanwhile an unheard-of chinese holding company called Transsion started selling featurephone in Africa in 2008. By 2014 they started selling Android based smartphones and within 3 years the company overtook Samsung as the continent's no.1 handset maker.

3 years was enough for them to turn their tale from zero to hero. I guess blackberry could've survived if they dropped their pride and focus on making products for developing Asian markets.

stay dead blackberry, you are not missed.
 
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Uncle Al

Posts: 7,592   +6,109
They might get away with the keyboard issue if they have a blue-tooth connect ability with larger keyboards for us fat fingered fellows, but having both the regular OS and Android models is a must .....
 
It's interesting to me that the editor felt the need to chime in with a failure prediction to open the article. It almost felt like the Surgeon General warning me that the contents are hazardous to my health.

Bashing BlackBerry for being "old school" devolved to the point of being trendy. That opening just felt like more of the same. How was stating your personal bias against a technology really helpful on a product announcement?

Yes, we know BlackBerry failed to move with the times and their hardware division died as a result. This was the culmination of many poor design and marketing decisions. Not simply the physical keyboard.

Like many, I moved on from BlackBerry a long time ago. But, nothing has even come close to being as good a messaging device. Nothing.

For those of us interested to see a modern take on a mobile that prioritizes messaging over media consumption, a physical keyboard makes sense. There are of course many challenges on how to balance this with touch optimized applications and their need for screen area. Even without games/videos being the focus, maps/camera/etc are all still very important. Hopefully, OnwardMobility have some creative solutions in mind.

I for one am happy to see some innovation in mobile devices again. Currently, pretty much everything is just the same slab design with a different logo on the back. Dual screens? Folding phones? Physical keyboards? Yes, please.
 

Nobina

Posts: 2,721   +2,361
Blackberry are sinonymous with phys keyboards and that's not great considering the amount of people that are into it. It will always be a niche market.
 

psycros

Posts: 3,228   +3,473
I for one am happy to see some innovation in mobile devices again. Currently, pretty much everything is just the same slab design with a different logo on the back. Dual screens? Folding phones? Physical keyboards? Yes, please.
What truly amazes me is the casual disdain people have for anyone who doesn't have robot-like motor control, which basically means they need a physical keyboard to type on. I'm one of those folks - I've never been able to type on glass and I cant even comprehend how other people do. I haven't played a game on my phone since my Nokia E62 and that's only because it had a joystick. I despise watching video on tiny screens as well. Seriously, does everyone but me have servo motors in their hands and microscopes in their eyeballs? Did the cyber-revolution happen and nobody informed me? I hope, REALLY hope, that we get a new PRIV-like device with a trackpad and actual dedicated call and hang up buttons like in the old days - preferably physical. The KEY2 was such a letdown I get mad just thinking about it..horrible, HORRIBLE interface and unreliable behavior. Android UIs are always garbage regardless of whether their stock Google or done by some bloatware-peddling manufacturer because you can't fully replace the stupid thing. Apple is miles ahead, but Apple doesn't make phones with keyboards so I'm stuck with Android unless I want to go back to using my BB Bold.
 
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Nobina

Posts: 2,721   +2,361
What truly amazes me is the casual disdain people have for anyone who doesn't have robot-like motor control, which basically means they need a physical keyboard to type on. I'm one of those folks - I've never been able to type on glass and I cant even comprehend how other people do. I haven't played a game on my phone since my Nokia E62 and that's only because it had a joystick. I despise watching video on tiny screens as well. Seriously, does everyone but me have servo motors in their hands and microscopes in their eyeballs? Did the cyber-revolution happen and nobody informed me? I hope, REALLY hope, that we get a new PRIV-like device with a trackpad and actual dedicated call and hang up buttons like in the old days - preferably physical. The KEY2 was such a letdown I get mad just thinking about it..horrible, HORRIBLE interface and unreliable behavior. Android UIs are always garbage regardless of whether their stock Google or done by some bloatware-peddling manufacturer because you can't fully replace the stupid thing. Apple is miles ahead, but Apple doesn't make phones with keyboards so I'm stuck with Android unless I want to go back to using my BB Bold.
I think people usually type short messages and not that often on their phones and with prediction and auto-fill features it becomes even less of an issue hence there's no initiative to change it. I agree that typing on glass is weird and after all this time I still struggle sometimes but I don't do it often and for long so it doesn't annoy me that much. There's gotta be some physical keyboard extension for iPhones.
 
I think people usually type short messages and not that often on their phones and with prediction and auto-fill features it becomes even less of an issue hence there's no initiative to change it. I agree that typing on glass is weird and after all this time I still struggle sometimes but I don't do it often and for long so it doesn't annoy me that much.
Bit of chicken and egg here though. Part of the reason people stick to short messages on their phones is because they aren't very friendly to type on.

I distinctly remember moving from my Bold to a slab phone and avoided typing anything of substance on it as it was just too frustrating. Predictive/Auto-correct is just as often auto-uncorrect. That's an issue that persists to this day.

For example, I'm typing this reply on my computer, but I wouldn't bother doing it on my phone. Back in the day, I would (and did) type much longer replies without issue on my BlackBerry.

I'd love to have that utility back again! However, in this day and age, I'm not willing to compromise on a good camera, software compatibility or a decent screen to get it. That forced compromise was BlackBerry's undoing in the first place.

OnwardMobility has the advantage of being able to learn from BlackBerry's mistakes. Here's hoping they don't repeat the same formula and innovate to give us something new.
 

Nobina

Posts: 2,721   +2,361
Bit of chicken and egg here though. Part of the reason people stick to short messages on their phones is because they aren't very friendly to type on.

I distinctly remember moving from my Bold to a slab phone and avoided typing anything of substance on it as it was just too frustrating. Predictive/Auto-correct is just as often auto-uncorrect. That's an issue that persists to this day.

For example, I'm typing this reply on my computer, but I wouldn't bother doing it on my phone. Back in the day, I would (and did) type much longer replies without issue on my BlackBerry.

I'd love to have that utility back again! However, in this day and age, I'm not willing to compromise on a good camera, software compatibility or a decent screen to get it. That forced compromise was BlackBerry's undoing in the first place.

OnwardMobility has the advantage of being able to learn from BlackBerry's mistakes. Here's hoping they don't repeat the same formula and innovate to give us something new.
Good point, but was typing on a phone ever as easy and comfortable as on a PC keyboard? Maybe for some but even if we got keyboards like those BlackBerry phones I would still keep my self from typing long texts on a phone cause it's just not that great.
 
I am a BB user from Switzerland and at this point an exotic guy because I think we are about 100 user in Switzerland. And the swiss population is about 8 and a half million. Honestly I also think about a lot of times to change ( BB has no future, the Android OS is not up to date and so on). But every time I take an iPhone or a Samsung device in my hand I have no emotions, not at all. There is no MAGIC. Not that these devices are bad. I think they are even better in many ways than a Blackberry. But the KEYBOARD is the MAGIC thing. I think BB User don't care about the cam or the newest processor (by the way, the cam on the BB Key2 or Key2 LE is not bad at all). They only want the keyboard. I even don't care about the Android OS. Actually my Key2 runs Oreo and it works fine and fluid! I can hear music, see videos and films etc. (of course the screen is not so big to have cinema feeling as on a Note 20 or iPhone 11 pro max). I don't need a device for gaming. BB's are productivity devices and perfect for social media (typing on Twitter or Instagramm with a BB is great). It is easy to critizize about the past. Maybe BB was too late to take the train. But it is never too late! Even the new BB 5G will not be the it-can-do-everything device. And yes, it has his price! But the one who buy the new BB 5G knows exactly what they get. A perfect, solid device with great security software and the best feeling to type mesaages! At the end, I like to be the exotic guy. But you can be sure, everytime I take my BB Key 2 out of my pocket everybody looks a little bit jealous and ask what device it is. It's a great feeling :) This never could haben with an iPhone or a Samsung-(Android) device ;-) So everbody who hate Blackberry: It's OK. We will hear us in the first half of 2021.