BlackBerry phones will still be dead.
In 2020, we reported on OnwardMobility, a startup that licensed the BlackBerry brand for smartphones and planned to launch a new QWERTY Android phone. There was plenty to worry about when the company missed its promised 2021 deadline and had to publish a blog post last month titled "Contrary to popular belief, we're not dead."
Well, 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 trying to further distance itself from its days as a smartphone supplier after selling the rest of its mobile patent portfolio for $600 million earlier this month."
In late January, BlackBerry sold its cellphone and messaging patents to a new company called Catapult IP Innovations, which has no products and went into deep debt to buy the patents. If Catapult's plan is to monetize BlackBerry's patents by suing would-be infringers, BlackBerry understandably wants to distance itself from the years of court battles that are about to begin.
BlackBerry exited the smartphone market in 2016 after gambling and losing the farm on the Android-powered BlackBerry Priv. 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 once that deal expires, OnwardMobility should be next.
OnwardMobility seemed like a company that could deliver on its promises, thanks in large part to a partnership with Foxconn's FIH Mobile, a turnkey smartphone company. OnwardMobility said the phone is "coming in 2021," and its 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 isn't dead. While the site still features multiple BlackBerry logos and branding cues, the latest blog post only says that the plan is to create an "ultra-secure 5G business smartphone (still with a keyboard!)".
OnwardMobility hasn't confirmed the loss of BlackBerry's license, but its latest blog post seems to be doing its best not to mention BlackBerry. We would contact OnwardMobility for comment, but the company does not have a public email address. So far, nothing has gone according to plan for OnwardMobility, and it wouldn't be surprising if the company died quietly. Really, the most authentic "BlackBerry" thing OnwardMobility could do is get out of the smartphone market.