Plans to revive the Blackberry brand with a new 5G Android keyboard device have been shelved, according to reports from AndroidPolice and CrackBerry† Development on the device was announced in 2020 by Texas-based startup OnwardMobility, after it licensed the Blackberry brand name. The device was rumored to use a similar design to the 2015 Blackberry Priv — which featured a physical keyboard that could be revealed with a slide of the screen — with a release date slated for some time in 2021.
That didn’t happen, of course, but there were signs of life earlier this year when OnwardMobility published a blog post titled “Contrary to popular belief, we’re not dead.” While the company admitted it had “experienced several delays that prevented us from shipping in 2021”, it said it hoped to provide an update on its “ultra-secure 5G enterprise smartphone” soon.
Now the situation seems to have changed radically. CrackBerry reports that “multiple sources” have confirmed to the publication that “OnwardMobility and their dream of a BlackBerry 5G keyboard phone are dead.” AndroidPolice adds that OnwardMobility’s license to use the Blackberry branding was recently revoked and BlackBerry CEO John Chen was reluctant to use the brand name on any other smartphone. The ongoing supply chain problems are unlikely to have helped the sector.
OnwardMobility did not immediately respond to The Verges request for comment. AndroidPolice notes that it’s unclear whether the company will move to release a non-Blackberry smartphone, or cease trading entirely. But, perhaps most notably, last month’s update doesn’t mention the name Blackberry.
Blackberry itself exited the consumer smartphone market in 2016 to focus on enterprise cybersecurity products and services, and proprietary software products stopped working earlier this year. The brand name has been licensed over the years to smartphone manufacturers such as TCL and Optiemus Infracom, although each of these companies eventually distanced themselves from the brand.
Given the number of ups and downs BlackBerry smartphones have had over the years, calling this the final nail in the coffin feels presumptuous. But the body has been cold for a while.