In a world where foldable phones are pushing the limits of smartphone design, there are still those that prefer a good old-fashioned hardware keyboard. Unfortunately, your options are pretty limited and practically non-existent. However, some hope was sparked back in 2020, as Onward Mobility announced a partnership with BlackBerry in an effort to bring a 5G-enabled phone with a hardware keyboard back onto the market.
Onward Mobility got everyone in a frenzy as it debuted its “pre-commitment” program, which made it possible for you to receive regular updates on the progress while also allowing interested parties to be among the first to pre-order the device. The original goal, it seemed, was to release a new BlackBerry model before the end of 2021. Just last month, the company provided an update, stating that the plans were still to release a device, but it could not provide a concrete timeframe for a release.
Now, it seems that the fabled 5G BlackBerry is all but dead, as reports from the likes of CrackBerry and Android Police state that the BlackBerry license being used by Onward Mobile was outright canceled. This comes on the heels of BlackBerry getting rid of its patent portfolio for a cool $600 million, which likely played some type of a role in BlackBerry’s decision.
The entire situation is just bizarre, and not only because of last month’s blog post from Onward Mobility. CrackBerry founder of Kevin Michaluk tells an interesting story from just recently:
OnwardMobility appeared to be very much alive last week when I spoke with them, relaying an upbeat outlook even though it was clear they would no longer be able to bring their keyboard-touting phone to market under the BlackBerry brand. They even offered me up an NDA after the call so they could show me more of their plans. Though the former BlackBerry fanboy in mewantedto see what they were working on —rumor was the new phone would take a BlackBerry-esque approach more like a new and improved PRIV2 vs a KEY3— I sent an email this weekend to OnwardMobility letting them know I was declining to sign their NDA.
What remains to be seen is whether OnwareMobility will venture forth, continuing development on a 5G-enabled smartphone complete with a hardware keyboard. It’s not outside the realm of possibility for the company to take on a different name, but it’s very obvious that using the BlackBerry branding would have gone a long way in picking up sales. Or maybe, BlackBerry saw what was in the works, decided that it didn’t want the branding attached to the phone, and we’ll never actually see what was being worked on. We don’t want to say it’s so, but this definitely feels like a bit of a case of vaporware.