BlackBerry has signed over (mostly) global rights to use its branding on phones to Chinese manufacturer TCL. The news follows an announcement by the Canadian company in September that it would stop making its own phones and concentrate instead on services and software.
Under the terms of the agreement, TCL will “design, manufacture, sell, and provide customer support for BlackBerry-branded mobile devices,” while BlackBerry will chip in with the software and services. The deal is being touted as “global,” but there are some limitations: it won’t apply in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, or Indonesia. According to Bloomberg, this is because Blackberry already has a licensing agreement in place in Indonesia, and is currently working on another deal with an Indian company. Details on agreements in the other markets aren’t clear.
The long and the short of it is that any new BlackBerry phone you contemplate buying in the future won’t be made by BlackBerry. But, this isn’t really news when you consider that the last two BlackBerry phones that went on sale — the Android-powered DTEK50 and DTEK60 — were also made by TCL using parts previously found in the Alcatel Idol 4. In our review of the $300 DTEK50 we thought it was an acceptable-looking but ultimately unimpressive device, outclassed by other Android phones in the same price range.
This latest bit of news is really just the continuation of a familiar story for BlackBerry. In 2009, the company held 20 percent of the global smartphone market; that’s now shrunk to a barely-perceptible 0.1 percent. As this deal suggests, the brand still holds a certain appeal for some consumers (or name recognition at the very minimum), but as a phonemaker, the company’s last rites were read long ago.