Remember BlackBerrys from the time before Android and iOS domination? They were good business productivity phones with workable keyboards. The parent company behind BlackBerry stopped making phones long ago. But in 2016, TCL, the company behind some of the best budget TVs, picked up the slack and gave us new Blackberrys. All good things come to an end though, and TCL (via Blackberry Mobile) announced today that it’s moving on to other things.
If you thought BlackBerry was already dead an in the ground, that’s understandable. The company (officially called BlackBerry Limited) once hailed for its keyboard-focused phones, pivoted away from hardware years ago. Now it creates security software for other companies.
But TCL took up the torch for keyboard warriors and released three BlackBerry-branded phones in the past four years—the Keyone, Key2, and then the Key2 LE. Despite being powered by Android, the phones still evoked a BlackBerry soul, thanks to portrait screens and full QWERTY keyboards.
While reviewers and BlackBerry fans liked the Keyone, the Key2 was a significant step forward, adding dual-cameras (a first for BlackBerry phones), a fingerprint scanner hidden in the spacebar, a touch-sensitive hardware keyboard, and USB-C. The Key2 LE sought to reach a more affordable price by giving up some features, like Key2’s aluminum structure and touch-sensitive keyboard.
But despite TCL’s efforts, the new iteration of BlackBerry never took off, and the company hasn’t announced a new BlackBerry phone since October 2018. That’s a long time in the smartphone world.
More tellingly, TCL’s recent phone efforts bear the company’s name instead of BlackBerry. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to see that TCL is letting go of the keyboard past.
In a tweet today, the company explained that it would no longer be selling BlackBerry-branded phones after August 31, 2020. It goes on to say it has doesn’t have the right to design and manufacture any new BlackBerry Mobile devices.
It’s a sad tale for anyone who loved what BlackBerry had to offer. But the smartphone wars have moved on, and hardware keyboards are one of the casualties of the battle.