BlackBerry phones are back, baby

Startup OnwardMobility plans to release a new 5G BlackBerry next year.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

It looks like BlackBerry hardware is back from the brink of extinction once again. Today, the security startup OnwardMobility announced plans to release a new 5G BlackBerry smartphone with a physical keyboard. It could arrive in North America and Europe as soon as the first half of 2021.

This may sound familiar. A few years ago, BlackBerry seemed to be a thing of the past. Then, TCL agreed to manufacture two BlackBerry-branded phones. In February, TCL decided not to renew the deal with BlackBerry, and this month, it stopped selling the devices. Thanks to OnwardMobility, BlackBerry may get one more chance.

OnwardMobility CEO Peter Franklin says the newest Blackberry will be both sleek and secure. The company plans to work closely with BlackBerry and FIH Mobile Limited, a subsidiary of Foxconn Technology Group.

“BlackBerry is thrilled OnwardMobility will deliver a BlackBerry 5G smartphone device with physical keyboard leveraging our high standards of trust and security synonymous with our brand,” BlackBerry CEO John Chen said in a statement.

It seems like licensing deals are the only way to get new BlackBerry devices. The last deal BlackBerry struck with a hardware maker was in 2016 to release phones in India. TCL was easily BlackBerry’s best shot, to date, at a comeback.