At the end of 2016, it was confirmed that TCL Communications would be taking over the manufacturing of BlackBerry devices. By February 2017, the KEYone was revealed at Mobile World Congress as the first device under the new partnership. But now, that brand licensing agreement is about to come to an end leaving BlackBerry's future in question.
In a statement posted to its official Twitter account today, BlackBerry Mobile writes that as of August 31, 2020, TCL Communications will no longer sell BlackBerry-branded mobile devices. "TCL Communication has no further rights to design, manufacturer, or sell any new BlackBerry mobile devices," the company writes, adding that TCL will continue to provide support for the existing portfolio of mobile devices, including customer and warranty services. These services will be provided through to August 31, 2022 "or for as long as required by local laws where the mobile device was purchased."
"The future is bright for both TCL Communication and BlackBerry Limited," the statement ends, "and we hope you'll continue to support both as we move ahead on our respective paths."
No reason was given for the ending of the agreement. BlackBerry notes that the KEY series devices were great not only because of their hardware but also the critical security and software features provided by BlackBerry "to ensure these were genuine BlackBerry devices."
Loyal supporters have already commented on the announcement asking when a new BlackBerry device would be coming out and what company would be making them. Others seem to believe this might signal the official end of the BlackBerry brand, when it comes to hardware, at least. And some are chastising the company for the secrecy and lack of communication about future plans.
As it stands, the BlackBerry Key 2 Le is the last BlackBerry phone that will be made by TCL. The company also produced the KEYone, as noted, as well as the Key 2. At CES 2020, TCL announced three upcoming smartphones of its own, including the 10L, 10Pro, and 105G. The promising 5G devices will notably all sell for under US$500. Details about the upcoming phones will be revealed at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month.