In the mid-Noughties, a BlackBerry handset was a real status symbol.
These smartphone precursors combined email, 3G web access and basic productivity tools with normal cellular connectivity.
This futuristic amalgam of office computer and mobile phone earned them the nickname ‘crackberries’, with users seemingly glued to the contents of those small, square screens.
Little did we know at the time that this was the future, rather than simply a fad.
A series of entirely avoidable missteps led BlackBerry to the brink of obsolescence throughout the 2010s, as we recently discussed.
Selected ‘highlights’ included boardroom wrangling, unreliable infrastructure, the demise of BlackBerry OS, and dated handsets lacking the on-screen real estate of Android or iOS phones.
Yet the company has refused to give up, and it was recently confirmed that BlackBerry will be launching a new handset in 2021.
So what can people expect?
Fade to Black
The first thing you’ll note about current handsets like the Key2 is how much the screen has taken over from the QWERTY keyboard that denoted BlackBerry handsets in their pomp.
The keyboard is still present, but it’s a far smaller part of the overall chassis – and harder to type on as a consequence.
The next thing you’ll notice is that BlackBerry OS has been replaced with Android. At the start of 2020, BlackBerry OS held just 0.02 per cent of the UK smartphone OS market.
Android is a smooth and stable operating system, and it has a long track record of debuting new technologies before Apple’s rival iOS platform.
The accompanying Google Play Store is stocked with leisure and gaming apps that never made it to the more business-focused BlackBerry World.
By abandoning an operating system that was increasingly neglected by developers, BlackBerry managed to stay in existence, albeit in rather diminished form.
Letters and numbers
The2021 BlackBerry range will include a new handset offering 5G connectivity alongside a clickable QWERTY keyboard.
Since Apple has only just started selling 5G handsets, BlackBerry loyalists won’t be far behind the market leaders.
And 5G remains frustratingly patchy across the UK, so there’s hardly a sense of urgency about upgrading an existing 4G mobile.
We know that the 2021 BlackBerry Android smartphone will be released in the first half of next year, manufactured by a subsidiary of Foxconn.
Given Foxconn’s track record of manufacturing everything from iPads and iPhones to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the new BlackBerry handset should be very well-made.
If the as-yet-unnamed handset offers the latest version of the Android operating system, this would also represent a significant draw for many consumers.
Key features of Android 11 include screen recording functionality, a dedicated night-time mode, wireless Android Auto and integration with numerous smart home gadgets.
As such, the 2021 BlackBerry range might have more than just nostalgia in its favour.