BlackBerry has recently announced that it is moving away from building smartphones, but there's no need to worry: the name will live on as the manufacturing and distribution of BlackBerry-branded devices has been passed on to TCL, a Chinese smartphone manufacturer. TCL have manufactured devices for Alcatel and some own-brand Vodafone devices, as well as the newer DTEK 50 and DTEK 60 BlackBerry devices based around the Android platform. To date, TCL's devices have been competitive on the hardware front and when combined with BlackBerry's software knowledge and expertise, this should be good news for the BlackBerry brand going forward.
Of course, one of the questions was when might we see a BlackBerry-branded device again? That question appears to have been answered by TCL North America's President and General Manager, Steve Cistulli, who has Tweeted that TCL are to be announcing new devices at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (known as CES 2017). This trade show kicks off in early January so we are only a few weeks away. The BlackBerry DTEK 50 and BlackBerry DTEK 60 devices are essentially very similar to Alcatel-branded devices, using similar screens and underlying hardware but, of course, the BlackBerry devices run their own software version, which includes BlackBerry's platform hardening and some of their special software. This approach could be successful going forwards, as BlackBerry's take on software is biased towards productivity and efficiency. BlackBerry have also very consistently applied Google's security patches to their portfolio of devices, as the company takes mobile security very seriously and shows the rest of the industry up for not being as efficient. It remains to be seen if this approach changes going forwards, but the terms of the arrangement are that TCL will build the hardware and BlackBerry will build the software, so we wouldn't expect any significant change.
In 2017, we are also expecting to see a return of Nokia-branded devices, now manufactured and distributed by HMD Global. Both BlackBerry and Nokia are former market leaders in a particular type of device, but both have fallen from grace because the company failed to move and keep up with the times. It is difficult to imagine either BlackBerry or Nokia taking a significant market share this time next year, but at their respective heydays it was difficult to imagine BlackBerry or Nokia devices being lumped into the "Others" slice of a market share pie chart.