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MWC: Blackberry Is Back With TCL

TCL Communication has unveiled a new BlackBerry smartphone to the world – the BlackBerry KEYone. This launch represents the first BlackBerry smartphone released from TCL Communication under a new brand licensing agreement signed in December 2016 with BlackBerry Limited.

The BlackBerry KEYone will be available globallyi beginning in April and will be priced at or under £499 GBP.

Nicolas Zibell, CEO for TCL Communication, said “We’re humbled to play such an important role in the future of BlackBerry smartphones, which have been so iconic in our industry, and we’re eager to prove to the BlackBerry community that their excitement around this new BlackBerry smartphone is something they can be proud of as well.”

“We want to congratulate TCL Communication on the launch of KEYone,” said Alex Thurber, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Mobility Solutions for BlackBerry. “We have worked closely with TCL to build security and the BlackBerry experience into every layer of KEYone, so the BlackBerry DNA remains very much in place. We couldn’t be more excited to help bring it to market and introduce it to BlackBerry fans.”

Historically Blackberry has been famous for its keyboard design, the KEYone has a Smart Keyboard which responds to touch gestures. This Smart Keyboard can also be programmed to launch up to 52 customizable shortcuts, such as pressing “I” for your inbox or “M” to access maps; providing even greater ease of use.It also has a fingerprint sensor built directly into the keyboard spacebar, for added functionality and security.

At its peak, BlackBerry shipped 53 million smartphones in 2011 but shipments dropped rapidly to 3.90 million just four years later in 2015 because of the delayed disruption impact of Apple’s iPhone and especially of Google’s Android OS.

Ian Fogg, head of mobile analysis, IHS Markit commented:

“Microsoft’s failure to establish Windows 10 Mobile as the enterprise smartphone OS provides a second chance for BlackBerry to re-establish its mobile market presence. Samsung Knox is widely known, but has had recent security failings, and Knox is often lost in the marketing noise as one part of Samsung’s vast portfolio of phones and software features.

And, even if BlackBerry’s smartphone share remains so low it is hard to quantify, the vast scale of the smartphone market — over 1.5 billion units will ship in 2017 — means even a tiny share would represent significant unit volumes and revenues compared with almost any other device market.

The BlackBerry brand means different things to different countries and segments, it is not as simple a brand to operate as it may appear at first glance. For new brand licensee, TCL, it must decide where to focus its BlackBerry-brand portfolio because the brand must be at the heart of how the range differentiates.

Selling significant volumes of smartphones will be a challenge for TCL, because while BlackBerry has had a continuous presence in the mobile market — unlike other licensed smartphone brands such as Nokia — much of BlackBerry’s sales unit volumes in recent years have addressed other audiences. For example, selling to data-centric and value-centric emerging market consumers in South Africa, Indonesia or south/central Americas, or before to the BlackBerry Messenger-obsessed European and Middle Eastern youth.”

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine