BlackBerry is parting ways with its licensing partnering TCL Communications, with whom it had entered into a brand licensing and technology support agreement back in December 2016. Under the arrangement, BlackBerry-branded phones were being manufactured and distributed by TCL Communications, including the KEY series.
The TCL partnership gave the company rights to manufacture and sell BlackBerry-branded smartphones in all countries, except India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia. In India, BlackBerry had signed a deal with Optiemus Infracom Ltd, which gave the Delhi-based telecom company to manufacture these Android phones. In Indonesia, the licensing deal was with PT BB Merah Putih.
However, the deal will come to an end from August 31, 2020 after which TCL will no longer be selling BlackBerry-branded mobile phones.
In post on Twitter, BlackBerry wrote, “TCL Communication has no further rights to design, manufacture or sell any new BlackBerry mobile devices, however TCL Communication will continue to provide support for the existing portfolio of mobile devices including customer service and warranty service until August 31, 2022 – or for as long as required by local laws where the mobile device was purchased.”
— BlackBerry Mobile (@BBMobile) February 3, 2020
TCL and BlackBerry’s partnership saw the introduction of phones like BlackBerry KEYone, BlackBerry Motion, BlackBerry KEY2 and KEY2 LE. These were all Android smartphones, though they also come with BlackBerry’s specific features such as the BlackBerry Hub, BBM and Calendar and the DTEK app for security. The phone also included Google’s apps given they supported Android as well as support for apps provided by Google.
For customers who are still using any of the BlackBerry KEY devices, the support will continue till August 31, 2022, which is another two years.
It is not clear whether BlackBerry will partner with another company in order to once again license and allow manufacturing of its phones for other countries, but this looks like it could be the end of the BlackBerry smartphone line for now. The company continues to offer enterprise and security software.
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