What just happened? It appears that BlackBerry phones are dead. TCL Communication, the current manufacturer of the devices, has confirmed that it will no longer be selling BlackBerry-branded hardware from August 31 this year.
Back in 2016, BlackBerry announced that it would stop manufacturing its own phones, and instead concentrate on software and services while relying on partners to design and build future hardware. A few months later, it reached a “long-term” deal with TCL that would see the Chinese company design, build, sell, and support all future BlackBerry handsets.
In an announcement posted by BlackBerry Mobile to Twitter, the company wrote: "TCL Communication has no further rights to design, manufacture or sell any new BlackBerry mobile devices." It will continue to support existing devices with customer and warranty services until 2022, but no word on software updates.
We’ve seen a handful of BlackBerry phones from TCL over the last three years, including the keyboard-equipped KeyOne, Key 2, and Key 2 LE, all of which brought some fairly mixed reviews, and we haven’t had a new device since the Key 2 LE launched in October 2018.
It’s not specified why the licensing agreement ended, but it could be that TCL decided not to renew—its BlackBerry-branded devices failed to find the popularity they enjoyed ten years ago when BlackBerry and Nokia were responsible for 70 percent of smartphone operating systems.
We’ll have to wait and see if a new company takes on the license for BlackBerry mobile products, and it’s unlikely that BlackBerry itself will start manufacturing them again, so this could be a final goodbye for the handsets.