Last year, BlackBerry released their first consumer device running Android, the PRIV. This handset, priced alongside high end flagship devices with a high end specification, has received a mixed reception. BlackBerry's sales figures have not been as high as the company was hoping for, but given the high pricing of the PRIV and BlackBerry's relatively small marketing budget, this is perhaps understandable. Meanwhile, the company has worked hard to release software patches for the PRIV in order to give the device Google's critical vulnerability updates in a timely fashion – some months, BlackBerry released the updates quicker than Google did for its Nexus range of devices.
We know that BlackBerry are working on at least two other Android-powered devices to complement the high end PRIV. Depending on the source, one is expected to be an entry-level smartphone and the other, perhaps predictably, will be a mid-range model – or we will see two mid-range models. These two models should address one of the main criticisms of the BlackBerry PRIV, which is that it's an expensive device, although high-end BlackBerry devices have traditionally been expensive. However, what the new devices will be in terms of size, pricing and specification remains to be seen, but we have seen some clues dropped from BlackBerry as to how the business will manage their new devices going forwards. In BlackBerry's most recent earnings call, the Chief Executive Officer, John Chen, explained "I do design, I don't really make hardware." This alludes to how BlackBerry are planning to use a third party to manufacturer their next devices.
Today's story concerns the Chinese manufacturer, TCL, which owns Alcatel. The rumor is that TCL are reportedly a BlackBerry hardware partner as a Wi-Fi Alliance certification dated at the end of last week was picked up by a German website. This documentation showed a device number STH100-2, although unfortunately the certification cannot be found on the Wi-Fi Alliance website, which means the product is not a public one. The reason for the association is because the new device's product name is showing as "DTEK 50™," which bears relation to the BlackBerry privacy application that was released with the PRIV handset. This is different to the three codenames believed to be related to BlackBerry's next two devices, Argon, Neon and Mercury. Perhaps TCL will be manufacturing a new BlackBerry smartphone or perhaps another of their hardware customers has licensed BlackBerry's specialist security software? John Chen has promised to detail BlackBerry's smartphone plans next month so we do not have long to wait.