Once the desire of every tech enthusiast, BlackBerry vanished from the scene gradually owing to its lack of design innovation and failing to understand the evolution of consumer-driven market trends. A major contributing factor to its downfall was not being flexible enough to evolve the QWERTY keyboard design in times when the likes of Apple advanced to the full touchscreen interface.
Now the brand is resurrecting with fresh energy under Texas startup OnwardMobility and Foxconn (Taiwanese tech conglomerate) subsidiary FIH Mobile. Yes, a BlackBerry 5G smartphone is coming in the first half of 2021 and it promises to be more than just another run of the mill Android device with best in class security technologies that’ll aim to attract enterprise professionals. The core value of the brand is to safeguard communications, personal data and ensure privacy, and it is going to be the unique selling proposition of this intriguing device that will launch initially in North America and Europe.
A fascinating design
So far not much is known of the mystery device but according to Peter Franklin, CEO of OnwardMobility, the phone is going to use a clean-sheet keyboard which will be designed keeping in mind the current trends. Whether there will be the popular capacitive coating for swipe gesture typing – found on some of the BlackBerry models – is just anyone’s guess as of now.
Another intriguing query brewing up is if we are in for a slider mechanism or the sublime candy bar design. Practically speaking, the former is going to be a more flexible option, while the latter would satiate strict QWERTY fans. Sarah Tatsis, BlackBerry VP of Advanced Technology Labs confirmed that the smartphone’s form factor is yet to be finalized and it will reflect the brand’s unique keyboard typing experience.
The overall design language of the phone has to be different from most of the Android-powered devices that nearly look the same and if it weren’t for the branding, identifying one from the other would be quite difficult. Of course, the physical keyboard will stand out in the crowd and make a distinct statement, but BlackBerry needs to think out of the box for the phone’s dimensions and form factor. Since it’s going to be targeted toward corporates and professionals, the design is going to make or break the deal in the first place.
An amalgam of security, productivity, and entertainment
The phone will certainly run on the Android platform, which will leave Blackberry with one less thing to worry about. Of course, the OS skin on top will have the security features and UI tailored for the demanding users who settle for nothing less than the best. Natively, Blackberry phones are known to be strictly centered on getting things done. With this device, they are going to have a balance between security, productivity, and entertainment because it’s the need of the hour.
Bringing in 5G connectivity is going to be a catalyst for the ultra-productive apps that assist business executives in getting things done without much fuss. Premium processing power and the snappiness of the UI will be determinant in enhancing the overall experience, which needs to be right on point for the targeted users. Perhaps, BlackBerry could draw some inspiration from OnePlus, Google Pixel, and iPhone to get that visual snappy factor when multitasking.
Besides this, the phone will leverage the new age hardware at disposal to be a daily driver and a multimedia device in one. While getting things done seamlessly will be at the core, professional users won’t mind the odd binge-watching session or maybe even an intense RPG event with pals. Also, the phone is likely to have enterprising cameras onboard since the brand is going to need the specs sheet well packed if it is looking to challenge the competition.
BlackBerry will need a very aggressive mix of marketing, supply chain management and of course a winning product to penetrate the intensely competitive market. Even in the niche segment where security and productivity are at the core, there are already some good options available. Samsung and Apple will be the direct competitors who already have a chunk of the overall flagship segment dominated. They have come a long way as far as security is concerned and the productivity features are impressive, to say the least.
The likes of Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Galaxy Z Fold 2, and Apple’s upcoming iPhone 12 are going to be hard pushovers. Even if we deviate a bit from the core smartphone segment, the upcoming Surface Duo also promises the firepower. For BlackBerry, it will ultimately boil down to making the phone compete shoulder to shoulder with the high-end offerings while keeping the price tag appealing enough to overshadow them all. One more thing to consider is the ongoing innovation by OEMs and to stay abreast of any technological leaps during the period from now to the actual release date.
The question to be asked then is, have the users already forgotten the physical feel of a keyboard and moved on to the virtual keyboard? Is BlackBerry coming prepared to make the end-user get out of this zone and again make physical keyboards a trend? We can expect more developments in the coming months as anticipation for the smartphone rises; until then BlackBerry has its work cut out.