The BlackBerry handset revival is real with the KEYone and it has been accomplished by putting right a few key factors.
John Chen always believed that there was a loyal following of BlackBerry brand and they just needed it to click. Which did not happen with recent phones that BlackBerry put out. Trick was to then accept the fact and do something about it before it was too late, and John Chen did just that by licensing the brand to 3 manufacturers.
BlackBerry strength was always in Enterprise, Security and Physical Keyboards. That is rule number 1 and should never be forgotten. Enterprise has more money to spend and values security and rewards productivity gains i.e. fast and accurate typing, battery life, e-mail and other communication management and durability.
What TCL did next was awesome. They brought back Kevin from CrackBerry to promote the KEYone. Kevin knows the product well to be able to answer any questions thrown at him by media and fans. He has always been able to answer questions with facts which then are being appreciated more by those who asked the question i.e. device is heavy, “yes it has the best battery life and it's a tool in your hand not a toy.”
The CrackBerry meet ups have been a great way to win back old customers by showing them the new features on a BlackBerry device.
The main drawback for BlacKBerry has been the lack of apps and by going the Android route John Chen made sure that is taken care of for good. BlackBerry went the Android route and secured it plus made it their own with their unique software features like the Hub, Security, Smart in the phone.
If you walk into an office people still use desktops, laptops and Bluetooth keyboards, they still love a physical keyboard and BlackBerry is the only mobile phone company that can provide a physical keyboard, they have to capitalize on it. The BB10 phones did not have the apps and when BlackBerry went the Android route the new phones lacked the iconic physical keyboard. I have been very critical about it and I say it again, if BlackBerry Keyboard is one of THE main addictions of BlackBerry lovers, make sure you put in all your efforts to make it the most compelling feature on the phone, not a cheap piece of plastic with some buttons to represent the keyboard like they did with the PRIV. PRIV should have had the iconic physical keyboard like what they had with the BlackBerry Torch and recovery would have started then, but a missed step with PRIV and then with DTEK50/DTEK60 BlackBerry tried to follow what everyone else was doing on Android. However just when they were about to give up on hardware they designed the KEYone in-house and gave the prominence to the iconic keyboard, which has now helped revive the brand.
Going forward TCL & BlackBerry should focus more on the phones with Physical Keyboards and put in every effort to make that experience even more refreshing by adding new features. I think they have found a base model that is well received by the BlackBerry fans, now they have to work around it for the next 10 years like what Apple did with the iPhone.
The next KEYtwo should come in 5’ and 5’5 sizes with Physical Keyboard extending beyond that screen size without encroaching on the screen real estate. This way Android will work at its best based on 5’ & 5.5’ screen sizes which it is used to without any modifications required.
They can come out with full touch BlackBerry phones as they are planning to do next month to cater to and bring back some of the users who want it and to compete with others in that space. But the focus should be on Physical Keyboard phones. As we have seen from the 3 manufacturers that licensef the BlackBerry brand, TCL has been the most successful due to the iconic keyboard in the KEYone.
A feature that they should try is to allow users of KEYone devices to be able to use the Keyboard as a Bluetooth Keyboard for other devices using a switch to flip which device you want to control. Imagine typing on a KEYone paired with a tablet?
Best wishes to BlackBerry, TCL and CrackBerry on the revival of the BlackBerry brand. What an amazing turnaround.
John Chen has led the company well with some great partnerships and there are more coming I am sure. The future looks bright.
BlackBerry is back for good!
Disclosure: I am/we are long BBRY.