07 January 2020
TCL Communication has announced that it will "no longer be selling" BlackBerry-branded mobile devices as it has no further rights to design, manufacture or sell any of the company's mobile devices. The brand licensing deal that started back in December 2016 will end on August 31, 2020. Furthermore, the technology support agreement will also end in 2022. Thus, TCL Communication will continue to provide support for the existing mobile devices including customer service and warranty until August 31, 2022.
While the end of the licensing deal doesn’t directly mean the end of BlackBerry phones, we suspect this is happening.
BlackBerry has struggled to compete against the biggest market shareholders - Android phones and iPhones. However, it did manage to maintain its momentum in some markets. But eventually, its efforts didn’t really pay off; its market share even fell off in Indonesia despite the launch of the Z3 in 2014. In 2015, BlackBerry launched its Priv Android phone with a belief to regain at least some part of the market share it had lost. The device received mixed reviews but the critics weren’t really happy with the experience and some even said that "Priv’s performance is not up to par with other devices using the same system-on-chip" (via Wikipedia). It was also criticized for being too expensive than similarly-equipped devices in its class. Well, the revenue did go up from a year earlier but it was all due to software sales.
In September 2016, BlackBerry took a decision that it will continue to invest in the segment in which it is good at and it was the software services and security products. The company took the decision it will end all internal hardware development and will only outsource that function to the partners.
BlackBerry had been experiencing the dip in sales of its own manufactured phones since 2011 and it just made the right decision in 2016 after doing many struggles in the business. Thus, in December 2016, it decided to make a deal with TCL Communication, though none of the new Android phones were the blockbuster hits. However, this move, at least, heaved a sigh of relief to BlackBerry as it was no longer bearing the burden of making phones in-house.
Without TCL, it’s possible that the BlackBerry brand will disappear for a moment or even completely. Whatever, it is, we will get to know in the coming weeks or months. TCL will, at least, continue to provide its support to the existing portfolio of mobile phones till August 31, 2022.