In brief: It seems that the BlackBerry smartphone brand is well and truly dead. A startup that announced plans in 2020 to release an Android-powered 5G device with a physical keyboard has reportedly given up on those ambitions.
It was August 2020 when Texas-based OnwardMobility announced its intention to launch a new BlackBerry after it licensed the brand name. The 5G handset, which reportedly took a lot of design inspiration from the 2015 BlackBerry Priv, was due to arrive last year, but we're still waiting.
Early last month, OnwardMobility published a post titled "Contrary to popular belief, we are not dead." It admitted that the company encountered various delays preventing it from shipping in 2021, but it would still be bringing an ultra-secure enterprise phone to market. Notably, the post doesn't mention the BlackBerry name.
According to CrackBerry, "OnwardMobility and their BlackBerry 5G keyboard phone dream are dead." Android Police have reportedly confirmed this, adding that the company's license to use the BlackBerry name has been canceled. BlackBerry CEO John Chen is apparently looking to distance the firm from its smartphone past after selling the remainder of its mobile patent portfolio for $600 million earlier this month.
Whether OnwardMobility plans to release a non-BlackBerry-branded smartphone or shut down completely is unclear.
OnwardMobility isn't the first company to license the BlackBerry name in a failed attempt to capture the popularity that the brand enjoyed in the 2000s---in 2010, BlackBerry and Nokia were responsible for 70 percent of smartphone operating systems. TCL backed away in 2020 after delivering several devices to mixed reviews, as did Optiemus Infracom, a licensee for the Indian market.