BlackBerry devices return, with a replacement focus.
Image credit: Blackberry

BlackBerry, FIH Mobile, and OnwardMobility have signed an agreement to deliver a replacement BlackBerry-branded smartphone within the half of 2021.

The new handset will support 5G connectivity, come equipped with a physical keyboard, and supply class-leading security, a singular combination of features for governments and enterprises.
But apparently there's one feature that tops all of them.

The handset

Under the terms of the agreement, OnwardMobility will plan and sell the upcoming 5G BlackBerry smartphone, FIH Mobile will engineer and produce the device, whereas BlackBerry will provide enterprise and the government level security technologies for the upcoming handset.

The merchandise are going to be available in North America and Europe, so for other markets BlackBerry might choose another manufacturing partners.

The handout issued by the three companies doesn't disclose any details about the upcoming BlackBerry 5G smartphone aside from saying that it'll feature a QWERTY keyboard, a 5G-enabled mobile platform, use Google’s Android OS, and support enhanced security technologies.

Meanwhile, the PR states that the merchandise will become available within the half of 2021, which can indicate that development of the handset is well underway.

“Enterprise professionals are looking forward to securing 5G devices that enable productivity, without sacrificing the user experience,” said Peter Franklin, CEO of OnwardMobility. “BlackBerry smartphones are known for shielding communications, privacy, and data.

This is often a fantastic opportunity for OnwardMobility to bring next-generation 5G devices to plug with the backing of BlackBerry and FIH Mobile.”

Uneasy business

Historically, businesses, governments, and enterprises were happy-enough with their BlackBerry smartphones offering secure communication services, a physical keyboard, and other advantages premium handsets featured at the time. But it's not getting to be easy to form a 5G BlackBerry smartphone popular.

Firstly, most of the people lately are wont to touchscreen handsets, but to not physical keyboards, it's not just like the latter are less comfortable to use, people are just fining with virtual ones. Secondly, there aren't numerous loyal BlackBerry owners left, which suggests that OnwardMobility may need to deal with a distinct segment market.

Thirdly, if OnwardMobility and FIH Mobile manage to return up with a singular selling feature, it'll need to be a feature which will outshine capabilities offered by tens of smartphones available today.

“Assuming they're within the £500 – £800 (₹50000-₹80000)space, they're getting to facing phones just like the iPhone 11, and devices packing six cameras and therefore, the latest Qualcomm chipset,” Ben Wood, an analyst with CCS Insight, told The Register. “That's a really, very tough space, and they are getting to need something extraordinary.”

Apparently, there's such a feature

FIH Mobile may be a subsidiary of Foxconn Technology Group, the world’s largest contract maker of electronics. One important thing to notice about FIH Mobile is that it owns a former Nokia manufacturing facility in Hanoi, Vietnam. Keeping in mind tensions between the USA and China, Foxconn’s base of operations, producing BlackBerry 5G smartphones in Vietnam makes tons to sense, especially considering that natural customers for BlackBerry handsets are governments and corporations working in various regulated industries.

Image credit: Blackberry

Governments tend to impose additional regulations quickly, lifting them may be a different matter and should take years. Therefore, if at some point the United States government and its allies in Europe decide not to use smartphones made in China for sensitive communications, this is often where OnwardsMobility and FIH Mobile may win big.

FIH specifically noted within the handout that it might manufacture the 5G BlackBerry devices ‘under strict guidelines to make sure component, device also as supply chain integrity.’

Not using Chinese parts is comparatively easy: there are chips and displays produced in South Korea and Taiwan, there are smaller components made elsewhere. Meanwhile, ensuring a really strict integrity and an end-to-end protected supply chain is complicated.

So far, OnwardMobility and FIH have said nothing about following US Department of Commerce’s NIST SP 800-193 platform firmware resiliency guidelines or the newest international Common Criteria standard (ISO 15408, CC Version 3.1) for manufacturing secure products.

Meanwhile, while not stated directly, it's completely possible that the 2 companies have plans to create BlackBerry smartphones following all the safety standards. Certifications of production facilities take time, but OnwardsMobility and FIH have months before announcement of the primary BlackBerry 5G handset (which is probably going getting to happen at Mobile World Congress 2021) and over half a year before shipping it.

If this is often the case, the 2 companies might capture a really lucrative market segment by offering unique products featuring extended security.

Another win for Foxconn

At present, FIH Mobility produces Nokia-branded smartphones developed by HMD Global. The affect BlackBerry and Onward Mobility gives FIH Mobile a further brand and a replacement market segment to deal with, which lowers reliance Jio of Foxconn on Apple, its largest customer, a win for the corporate.

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