BlackBerry Phones Could Still Succeed, Experts Say

But they will never stand as tall as iPhones

Key Takeaways

  • OnwardMobility is still planning to release a 5G-enabled BlackBerry smartphone.
  • While it may appeal to some looking for nostalgia, experts say the company could have a hard time gaining ground in a Samsung- and Apple-dominated market.
  • If BlackBerry doesn’t go mainstream again, the smartphones could find a place in the niche market alongside many other brands.
black BlackBerry smartphone showing a time of 16:54pm

Alejandro Mendoza / Unsplash

Even if BlackBerry phones make a comeback, experts say the physical keyboard-wielding smartphones will need to make a splash if they want to find a place in today’s smartphone market.

Once the biggest smartphone brand on the planet, BlackBerry quickly fell from grace when the iPhone and Android phones started to take the market by storm. After years out of the market, the smartphone that started it all seems set to make a return, though experts say it will have a hard time maintaining relevance in a world dominated by more-established brands.

"I don't think BlackBerry will ever have as large a market share as it once did," Christen Costa, a tech expert and CEO of Gadget Review, told Lifewire in an email. "Too much of the market is eaten up by Apple and Samsung, and people who have those phones tend to only buy those brands. But I can see BlackBerry making a niche product that appeals to two groups of people: older professionals and people who just flat out hate on-screen keyboards."

Finding Appeal

When BlackBerry took off in the early 2000s, the smartphone was beloved because of how it allowed users to connect to their email. This eventually evolved, letting them connect with one another over features like BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). BBM was similar to features seen on newer phones like the iPhone’s iMessage, and it pushed more users to adopt the smartphone and its sleek physical keyboard. 

That all came crashing down with the release of the first iPhone and Android phones.

"I don't think BlackBerry will ever have as large a market share as it once did."

If BlackBerry wants to make a comeback in 2021, it needs new ways to appeal to the smartphone world beyond its physical keyboard. The iPhone and Android have more than a leg up in the race, with years of app development and features delivered as those experiences continue to grow.

"The tactile/analog keyboard is a good start, but it's not going to do all of the work," Costa warns. Instead, it’s important for BlackBerry to find other ways to stand out, too. Like in specs and overall app support—something Androids and iPhones already are handling well.

Learning From Others

The biggest key to BlackBerry finding success really comes down to whether or not it can pull users away from ecosystems they’ve been invested in for over a decade. 

Sure, the iPhone might not have been much when it first launched in 2007. The App Store launched a year after the first iPhone release, offering several hundred apps. Now, though, the App Store has grown to include over 4.3 million apps for people to choose from. Google’s Play Store—which powers Android devices—has also seen exponential growth since its launch, totaling 2.9 million apps as of November 2020.

Despite Apple and Google, Costa says plenty of other brands have managed to carve out a niche for themselves in the smartphone market, attracting users for a variety of reasons—like great overall specs for a lower price and application support. If OnwardMobility can truly capture the magic of owning a BlackBerry again, it could pull the brand out of the shadows and back into the light. Even if only a little bit.

"Millennials who used a BlackBerry as one of their first professional devices may feel a sense of nostalgia," Costa explained. "The tactile responsiveness is great for providing feedback and it can serve as an organizational tool depending on the apps offered out of the box. Having that keyboard is extremely helpful for people who have to type a lot of emails or other things for their job, too."

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