BlackBerry phones remain dead.
In 2020, we reported on OnwardMobility, a startup that licensed the BlackBerry brand for smartphones and planned to release a new QWERTY Android phone. There was much to worry about when the company failed to meet its promised 2021 deadline, and last month it had to post a blog post titled “Contrary to popular belief, we’re not dead.”
The company’s plans are now dead. Both Daniel Bader of Android Police and Kevin Michaluk (the founder of Crackberry) independently report that OnwardMobility has lost its Blackberry license. Bader says: “According to sources, BlackBerry is looking to move away from his days as a smartphone salesman after selling the rest of its mobile patent portfolio for $600 million earlier this month.”
In late January, BlackBerry sold its mobile and messaging patents to a new company called “Catapult IP Innovations,” which has no products and took on a lot of debt to buy the patents. If Catapult plans to monetize BlackBerry’s patents by suing would-be infringers, it’s understandable that BlackBerry wants to distance itself from the years-long courtroom battles that will soon begin.
BlackBerry pulled out of the smartphone market in 2016 after betting the farm on the Android-powered BlackBerry Priv and losing. However, smartphone brands never really die; they are simply licensed to other companies and become zombie brands. Chinese company TCL licensed its name from 2016 to 2020, and after that contract expired, OnwardMobility would be next.
OnwardMobility seemed like a company that could deliver on its promises, especially thanks to a partnership with Foxconn’s FIH Mobile, a turnkey smartphone operation. OnwardMobility said the phone would “come in 2021,” and the website continued to make that claim for several days into 2022. The company eventually added a blog post to the site on January 7, stating that the device was not dead. While the site still features several BlackBerry logos and trademarks, the latest blog post only says the plan is to create an “ultra-secure 5G business smartphone (still with a keyboard!)”.
OnwardMobility has not confirmed the loss of the BlackBerry license, but the latest blog post seems to be doing its best not to mention BlackBerry. We would ask OnwardMobility for comment, but the company has no public email addresses. So far, nothing has gone according to plan for OnwardMobility, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the company die quietly. Really, the most authentic “BlackBerry” that OnwardMobility can do is quit the smartphone market.