BlackBerry is back: New 5G Android keyboard phone coming

BlackBerry is coming back, with a new BlackBerry 5G smartphone promised that will once again drag the brand out of the history books. This time around its OnwardMobility that has licensed the BlackBerry name, after TCL's agreement with BlackBerry the company came to an end in February of this year.

TCL – which also produces Alcatel and Palm smartphones, as well as a more recent range of aggressively-priced handsets under its own brand – had made several generations of BlackBerry device. All stuck closely to the sort of formula that built BlackBerry its original following, with a physical keyboard and emphasis placed on lengthy battery life.

What it never got around to was making a 5G BlackBerry, so it'll be OnwardMobility doing that. The company has been in stealth for more than a year, made up of mobile and enterprise industry veterans aiming to build "the most comprehensive, secure mobile device solutions."

"Enterprise professionals are eager for secure 5G devices that enable productivity without sacrificing user experience," Peter Franklin, CEO of OnwardMobility said in a statement. "BlackBerry smartphones are known for protecting communications, privacy, and data. This is an incredible opportunity for OnwardMobility to bring next-generation 5G devices to market."

The device itself is still fairly broad-strokes in terms of what we can expect. It'll be Android based, and have a physical keyboard, along with its 5G connection. There'll be a companion suite of security software, with secure workflow management, encrypted document storage, and other features likely to be appealing to the enterprise users that once made RIM's BlackBerry such a powerhouse brand.

Actually designing and building the phone, meanwhile, will be FIH Mobile. A subsidiary of Foxconn – obviously no stranger to the smartphone world – it will take OnwardMobility's product planning and market development for a new BlackBerry device in North America, and then come up with a device to fit that brief.

Part of that will be the promise of a handset free of security loopholes. "FIH Mobile will design and manufacture the BlackBerry devices under strict guidelines to ensure component, device and supply chain integrity," OnwardMobility says.

We'll have to wait until the first half of 2021 to see what, exactly, the two companies come up with. Certainly, the idea of a new Android phone with cutting-edge connectivity and that all-important physical keyboard is likely to please long-time BlackBerry fans, though OnwardMobility will face the same of challenges that TCL did around balancing screen size with overall dimensions, competing with increasingly security-minded rivals, and hitting pricing goals with middling carrier support. That was enough to count the BlackBerry brand out before, but it certainly seems to be one of the more tenacious badges in the mobile space.