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Death knell for BlackBerry smartphones as manufacturer pulls out

Image credit: Dreamstime

Chinese manufacturer TCL has said it will not make any more BlackBerry phones from this summer, marking the end of a smartphone brand that dramatically fell from popularity after its peak in the late 2000s.

The firm said it would halt sales of BlackBerry-branded handsets at the end of August and would end software support for phones in August 2022.

BlackBerry was once one of the largest smartphone brands on the market, but interest in its devices - which came with physical keyboards - started to decline after the release of the first iPhone in 2007, which set a precedent for the future of smartphone operation.

BlackBerry failed to innovate as fast as competing brands and devices using Google’s Android or Apple’s iOS, while its touchscreen-less interface increasingly became considered old hat by consumers.

In 2013, BlackBerry introduced BlackBerry 10, a major revamp of the platform based on the QNX operating system in an attempt to bring its devices up to date. This late play proved unpopular as it didn’t have the support from app developers necessary to help the platform thrive.

In 2015, BlackBerry re-focused its business strategy and began to release Android-based smartphones, beginning with the BlackBerry Priv slider and then the BlackBerry DTEK50.

By late 2016, though, BlackBerry announced it would cease designing its own phones in favour of licensing to partners, upon which it entered into an agreement with TCL.

In a statement posted to the BlackBerry Mobile Twitter page, the two companies said that “As of August 31, 2020, TCL Communication will no longer be selling BlackBerry-branded mobile devices”.

The statement continued: “TCL Communication has no further rights to design, manufacture or sell any new BlackBerry mobile devices. However, TCL Communication will continue to provide support for the existing portfolio of mobile devices, including customer service and warranty service until August 31 2022 - or for as long as required by local laws where the mobile device was purchased.

“The future is bright for both TCL Communication and BlackBerry Limited and we hope you’ll continue to support both as we move ahead on our respective paths.”

BlackBerry has since moved into cyber security and technology around the internet of things, including software designed to be used in connected cars. TCL is best known as a TV manufacturer, but also makes a number of other appliances and mobile phones.

Neither company has commented further and it is not yet known if BlackBerry plans to enter into an agreement with another firm to continue manufacturing mobile devices carrying its name.

In a similar tale, Microsoft announced in 2017 that it would stop making Windows Phones after years of declining consumer interest in its handsets, leaving just iOS and Android as the primary smartphone operating systems.

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