Yes, you can still walk into a store and buy a BlackBerry in 2020, but those days may soon be over given a recent announcement from BlackBerry phone maker TCL.
TCL says that as of August 31, 2020, it “will no longer be selling BlackBerry-branded mobile devices … (and) has no further rights to design, manufacture or sell any new BlackBerry mobile devices.” That’s pretty much a death blow to the company’s slim hopes of mounting a revival.
If you own a BlackBerry KeyOne or Key2, TCL says it will continue to provide support for phones through August 2022, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for an Android 10 update anytime soon.
Granted, TCL’s investment in BlackBerry was always an uphill struggle. When it announced it was licensing the brand back in December 2016, it was met with an equal mix of quizzical stares and snickers, as BlackBerry’s heyday was long in the rearview mirror. The launch of the iPhone and the proliferation of Android handsets made the hardware keyboard seem quaint and antiquated, and the mere thought of trying to use one again made our thumbs hurt.
But nonetheless, TCL persisted, and to be honest, we didn’t hate the BlackBerry Key2. But in a world of six-inch screens and powerful cameras, BlackBerry's vision was a tough sell to anyone but a hopeless nostalgic. Even the once-popular BlackBerry Messenger service called it quits in May.
So it’s not at all surprising that TCL has opted not to renew its BlackBerry license. Any BlackBerry phone is destined to be a niche product, and as Android phones pick up more cameras and pixels, that niche seems to be ever-shrinking. So pour one out for BlackBerry and the physical keyboard, both of which will likely never be seen again.