TCL, a somewhat prominent all-around Chinese manufacturer, caught the attention of US smartphone firm BlackBerry when they decided to make an exit from the hardware market. TCL wound up manufacturing BlackBerry’s recent DTEK50 and DTEK60 smartphones, and could be the manufacturer behind a rumored upcoming BlackBerry keyboard phone. They have thus far been the only third party manufacturer to make BlackBerry branded smartphones containing BlackBerry’s licensed security and enterprise software, and it seems that it will stay that way for the foreseeable future. BlackBerry has announced that they’ve made an exclusive long-term agreement with TCL for them to be the only ones to have access to BlackBerry’s exclusive software and security suites, as well as the right to make BlackBerry-branded phones.
Per the terms of the deal, BlackBerry will supply the software for the phones, including any and all BlackBerry user experience apps like BBM, along with security software. BlackBerry will be responsible for keeping the apps and firmware for the phones up to date. TCL, meanwhile, won’t just manufacture the phones; they will also take care of selling them, and offering customer support, should something go wrong. According to the press release put out by BlackBerry, there will be a dedicated team within TCL meant to handle the logistics, publicity, and sale of BlackBerry-branded devices. It isn’t explicitly stated in the press release, but it seems that future BlackBerry devices manufactured by TCL will be Android-based, though since no OS is mentioned, the continued manufacture of handsets with BlackBerry’s own OS is a possibility.
This agreement, which will be BlackBerry’s first ever global contract, will see the Canadian smartphone maker relegated permanently to the role of software creator and maintainer, while TCL fulfills every other obligation associated with creating and selling smartphones. According to BlackBerry Chief Operating Officer Ralph Pini, the change will help BlackBerry to focus more on their software chops, allowing their phones to stand out in a crowded consumer market. He called TCL the “natural choice” for the continuation of the BlackBerry legacy, and is fully confident that the phones that they manufacture hand in hand with BlackBerry will please old school BlackBerry fans.