RIP BlackBerry? Manufacturer on silent about whether the full-keyboard phone is dead

BlackBerry has announced today it will end its partnership with its hardware producer TCL Communication, despite an apparent revival in the global smartphone market.

The companies’ brand licensing and technology support agreement began in December 2016, bringing together BlackBerry software and security features with TCL hardware. TCL also handles tech and customer support.

The partnership is scheduled to end on August 31, 2020.

According to BlackBerry’s statement, TCL “has no further rights to design, manufacture or sell any new BlackBerry mobile devices”, but “will continue to provide support” services until August 21, 2022.

However, BlackBerry is staying silent on plans for future products or developments, despite a surge of questions from Twitter, where the smartphone brand announced the split.

Once the first choice of the business world, BlackBerry’s sales fell dramatically after the release of the first Apple iPhone.

Under the partnership with TCL, BlackBerry returned to the smartphone market in 2017 with the release of the KEY Series smartphones.

The new line put a heavier emphasis on the BlackBerry software, while combining BlackBerry’s classic physical keyboard with the larger touchscreens now inherent in smartphones.

However, the timing of the release of the first model, KEYone, coincided with the global slump in the global smartphone market, with sale numbers stagnating across the industry.

On the other hand, major brand names saw a modest growth in the final two quarters of 2019, and are expecting to see the trend continue into 2020.

A report from tech research firm Canalys says this signals the next phase of the smartphone market.

“When we saw the first declines in global volume a couple of years ago, Canalys said the industry was moving from the growth era to the cyclical era. This is it,” Canalys senior analyst Ben Stanton said.

“This growth spurt will not last forever, but will be one of a series of peaks and troughs as the customer refresh rate for smartphones reaches its new equilibrium point.”

Last year also saw a rise in low-tech phones as consumers become increasingly aware of smartphone addiction. The older phone models or minimally designed phones — sometimes called dumbphones — typically only offer the bare-bone features of phones, such as calling and, sometimes, texting. To achieve this, the phones intentionally reduce network capabilities and features, while extending battery life.

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