TCL says it’s committed to BlackBerry brand despite tough 2017

“Our deliberate approach is working.”

blackberry keyone bronze

It appears to be business as usual for TCL, the Chinese manufacturer behind the Alcatel and BlackBerry phone lines. New devices are coming, and its smartphone business won’t be slowing down, according to company executives.

In an interview with MobileSyrup, those executives talked about the new devices, while also dispelling any notion that BlackBerry was about to die.

Some of the speculation centred on a Kia Investment Research report suggesting TCL was divesting 49 percent of its smartphone business due to poor sales. Numbers seemed to back up the claim, with drops in unit sales and revenue indicating a tough 2017 for the company.

BB Keyone Bronze

However, rather than sell off half the business, the company says it is staying the course with a methodical approach to achieve its growth strategy.

“This wasn’t a sale, it was looking at partners that we can bring in who are investing in us to help us move this House of Brands portfolio strategy forward, as we look at our global expansion,” said Jason Gerdon, associate director of global communications at BlackBerry Mobile. “There are some details on this that we can’t go on the record about right now. As we go throughout the year, we’ll be able to start giving some more detail and add much more clarity as to why we’ve done this.”

Gerdon, along with Christian Gatti, President of Alcatel Business Division, and Eric Anderson, the new senior vice president and GM for TCL, North America, all noted that the original story was “out of context.”

That news was apparently misinterpreted and “written for the Chinese media market.” Though portrayed as a divestiture, they claimed the lack of context only served to give the story legs.

“This wasn’t a sale, it was looking at partners that we can bring in who are investing in us to help us move this House of Brands portfolio strategy forward, as we look at our global expansion.”

Not much was revealed in the interview regarding the 49 percent stake. TCL hasn’t disclosed who the investors are, nor what specific roles they may play in forging the company’s growth strategy. All they would say was that it was a strategic move to maintain the current growth plan, not a tactical one to unload depreciating assets. They also didn’t cut the deal for a cash infusion, either, according to the executives on hand.

So, where does that leave BlackBerry? TCL did announce a new KEYone Bronze Edition, with dual-SIM on board, but will not be releasing it in North America. It is currently slated for launch in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, with no current plans for Canadian availability.

In other news, the BlackBerry Motion will launch in the U.S., with it also available unlocked from Canadian carriers who currently offer the device. That’s less a specific perk, and more a reflection of the recent changes to the Wireless Code of Conduct.

Gerdon did confirm TCL will launch two new BlackBerry devices this year, but wouldn’t say much about what those devices will look like or whether they will be mid-range or premium models.

He also didn’t reveal any sales numbers. TCL has been tight-lipped about how many BlackBerry units it’s been moving since the partnership kicked off last year.

“Those folks who left BlackBerry at some point are now coming back to us because they cherish and honour this brand and what it represented to them.”

“The KEYone only launched in a handful of markets,” said Gerdon. “The device was so popular, and the demand and business case was so great, we not only expanded the portfolio with different variations, we’ve been able to launch in over 50 countries worldwide. That includes China, which had never had a BlackBerry launch there before.”

If the rollout has grown that much, who is buying the devices? Again, without any sales figures, including breakdowns, it’s hard to know, and easy to speculate.

Gerdon says half of its customers are “existing BlackBerry users from a variety of older BlackBerry devices.” The other half is coming from some other device, and “the vast majority of those were using an iPhone or Samsung device.”

“Those folks who left BlackBerry at some point are now coming back to us because they cherish and honour this brand and what it represented to them,” Gerdon said. “They really are looking for a smartphone that is a true modern messaging device offering those privacy and productivity reliability features, like two-day battery life.”

BB Keyone Bronze front

He adds that the company’s methodical approach, and the media’s focus on North America, can impact the perception of how well the brand is doing. With Apple and Samsung setting the bar high for numbers alone, the smartphone market is pretty cutthroat at the best of times.

“There is this expectation of an immediate windfall return, that somehow in less than a year we would ship millions upon millions of devices,” he said. “We had said from last year we would be patient, deliberate and purposeful in how we build this out. Partnering with BlackBerry Limited is a long-term strategic investment for us, and we believe in the value of BlackBerry as a premium tier within our house brand strategy under TCL Communication. It’s proven a very worthwhile investment on our part to build that premium tier in our portfolio.”

The focus is still on enterprise and business customers, though TCL has noticed an uptick in consumer adoption too. There won’t be a shotgun approach or “splashing cash” to push the brand’s visibility with massive advertising and sponsorship campaigns.

For Gerson, it’s as simple as this: “Our deliberate approach is working.”

Comments

  • Marshall Davidson

    TCL is just covering their azz here. They admit 2017 sucked but can’t admit they bought into a dead brand of phones and are trying to paint lipstick on a pig
    They should’ve done their due diligence before getting into bed with Chen.
    Now they’re stuck trying to salvage abusiness that at best will flatline but likely stagnate. Idiotic

    • CanadaJoe

      Blackberry sales are “crap” as you seem to believe, then why is TCL releasing the bronze version of the KEYone and is planning on rolling out 2 additional devices in 2018? And you do also realize that TCL has more than just Blackberry as a brand in its portfolio of devices…

    • ToniCipriani ✓pǝᴉɟᴉɹǝʌ

      >why is TCL releasing the bronze version of the KEYone

      Using up the parts because Optiemus cancelled the order on them? This isn’t a new phone. It’s just the Limited Black that TCL built for Optiemus with a new colour.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Actually Optiemus is a major joke. This is a company with experience manufacturing phone chargers and accessories but has zero background actually making phones directly. Anyone suggesting such an outfit is gonna make BB smartphones of any quality needs to pull their head out of their backside.

    • CanadaJoe

      Based on your logic, companies like Apple, Samsung, Google, Amazon, etc. shouldn’t ever make new products in different segments because they have zero background in actually making said product directly.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Do you have any idea what you’re talking about? Comparisons to Apple, Google, Amazon et al is plain silly when it comes to Blackberry but every touter loves to draw parallels where none exist to bolster their ludicrous arguments.

      The simple fact is a company with ZERO background making hardware is not one that any investor should put a great deal of faith in to advance an entirely new product, especially when the history is one of making a phone charger or cases. Making a phone requires far more expertise and Optiemus is far from that. Go look at their website and you’ll get the idea but the truth is something you can’t face either.

    • CanadaJoe

      I was talking about Optiemus, not BlackBerry… do try to keep up. And I wasn’t comparing them to Google, etc… I was pointing out that based on your logic, no company should ever move into new product categories (ie Apple’s watch or Homepod, etc) because they don’t have direct experience.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Did you read the second part of my comment above? You have the attention span of a fly.
      Do you honestly believe a company whose background is in making phone chargers and carrying cases suddenly has the expertise to manufacture an actual smartphone? lol! Have you looked at Optiemus’ Mickey Mouse website? If you did you’d get a pretty clear picture of the kind of company this is.
      Your argument is akin to saying a company making winter mats and seat covers for cars is suddenly capable of manufacturing an actual car itself. Unreal….I think you better just stop because you’re seriously embarrassing yourself and demonstrating you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

    • CanadaJoe

      Yes, I did read the second part of your comment… I also read the first part of your comment:
      “Comparisons to Apple, Google, Amazon et al is plain silly when it comes to Blackberry but every touter loves to draw parallels where none exist to bolster their ludicrous arguments.” of which I made no mention of BlackBerry in my comment.

      So you’re basing a company’s “expertise” and overall quality on the look of their website? Wow…that is absurd.

      And I never claimed Optiemus currently has the manufacturing expertise to make a phone but I’m not saying they don’t either. My point was (that you obviously missed because you’re too busy pushing your narrative or making personal attacks) is that just because a company doesn’t have experience in a particular product doesn’t mean they shouldn’t explore it or that they can’t gain the expertise or prowess to do so. If that was the case, companies like Apple would be a little niche player in the PC space versus the giant player in consumer electronics that it is today.

    • PassportHolder

      How adorable, he up-voted his own comment again with one of his other accounts. Kind of like having a tea party with all your imaginary friends.

    • ToniCipriani ✓pǝᴉɟᴉɹǝʌ

      Well their first phone is actually from TCL…

    • CanadaJoe

      I never said it was anything other than a color variant…

    • Sighmonsez

      Is that you, KIA?

  • Anthony

    All I really want is a high-end spec’d KeyOne.. I use the keyone now and I can tell you for a fact that when you’re switching between apps constantly, you see the slowdown. I just want an 835 snap + 4-6gb of ram and 64/128gb storage…is that so hard to ask? also it should be only 800-900 tops cad..cause let’s be honestly..the price premium for the keyboard is a little redic.

    • ToniCipriani ✓pǝᴉɟᴉɹǝʌ

      If they put the 800-series chip in it, 2 things will happen: battery life will be complete crap, and the price will reach the $1000 range.

    • Anthony

      I agree with the possible 1000$ range. but not with the battery life comment. Let’s take the Oneplus devices as an example, the 5 and 5t are both high spec and use a near stock android experience and you can easily get upto a 1.5 day to 2 day battery use ( I own both devices).

    • ToniCipriani ✓pǝᴉɟᴉɹǝʌ

      BlackBerry’s software isn’t the best optimized one out there… speaking from experience.

    • allsports

      Having used both the original KEYone and the black edition with 4gb ram that 1gb extra makes a huge difference when you have apps open and switching between them.

      I got rid of the OG keyone because of the lag but after using the black one it’s a huge difference and will be buying that one. The day and a half battery life and near stock droid is great.

    • Anthony

      Well then…it looks like I gotta wait till it’s on sale for 650$ again to get the black edition 🙁 darn it.

  • bigshynepo

    Ahhhhh, So refreshing to come to a Blackberry article on Mobile Syrup to see “This User is Blocked” in the comments instead of whatever stupid thing Marshall Davidson had to say about the topic-at-hand.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Yeah no doubt. To a pumper of the brand without the first clue it’s no surprise.

    • CanadaJoe

      how are you any different? You seem to be an anti-pumper but don’t have a clue… which is evident by your claim that TCL owned Alcatel.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Huh? TCL does own Alcatel buddy. Do your homework will ya.

    • Sighmonsez

      TCL owns Alcatel Mobile Phone, not Alcatel-Lucent (which is owned by Nokia) so I’ll give you half credit.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Does it really matter? Alcatel was a suffering brand before and they aren’t much better now with TCL in the picture. Who really cares who owns what. It’s not the point and you know it. Just a lame attempt to cover up your own flawed narrative making strawman arguments. Hilarious.

    • CanadaJoe

      Licensing and owning are two separate things… do you own homework

    • PassportHolder

      You didn’t miss much. He’s even crankier than ever now that the share price is approaching $18.00 while he’ desperately trying to short it. I’ll keep you posted.

  • Mark

    Just such a bloody shame that they stopped supporting the Dtek series especially the Dtek 60. Great sized phone, awesome front facing speakers etc… but stuck on Marshmallow 🤨

    • Bill Patrick

      Totally agree! I love my DTEK60. Probably BB’s best phone ever! But customers were promised Oreo and now I feel ripped off. I felt the DTEK60 was a smart move in the right direction and I really wanted to see BB succeed, but after this betrayal, I will never buy a BB device again. And as a mobility store manager, I will do everything I can to exclude BB from my inventory.

    • Mark

      Hi Bill, I couldn’t agree more, great hardware. It definitely could have been there best phone for sure. I also feel ripped off, no Nougat and no Oreo😡. Not at all impressed by this lack of support. All current focus is on the Motion and meanwhile we are left in the dust. I will never purchase another BB phone 📵. They are off my list. #OnwardsandUpwards

    • AppleBerrySandwich

      If TCL is abandoning hardware like they did with the 60, I’m never buying. Too much money to just be throwing around. Rather load up Blackberry software on my Samsung and enjoy.

  • Sighmonsez

    Hey Ted. I cannot believe you actually referenced KIA. Do you know what KIA stands for? It stands for Know It All. That’s right. The name itself should keep you away from referencing it but, no, you gone ahead and promoted it. KIA’s little self-serving article on Seeking Alpha (because he’s short BB for ever) insinuated that TCL is in trouble due to poor Blackberry sales. Where is the proof of this? There isn’t any but KIA just keeps on talking about how poorly Blackberry is selling. And now, Mobilesyrup scraps the bottom to get clicks. Very poor writing. Check your source before referencing it.

    • Marshall Davidson

      How many shares do you own? Perhaps greed and avarice motivates your messages and anything contrarian is dismissed as conspiratorial. Give your head a shake. KIA has been right more often than wrong

    • Sighmonsez

      Oh, I do smh and also a face palm and eye rolls once in a while. I also think you don’t know what contrarian means.

    • Marshall Davidson

      What is contrarian to you? KIA has always pointed out valid pitfalls about the company that select ïdiot bagholders refuse to acknowledge.
      Sounds to me like you’re up to your eyeballs in shares and still don’t know when to sell.

    • Sighmonsez

      KIA’s view of BB is the dominant view so he can’t be a contrarian. Lol, thanks for the laugh. Good night.

    • Marshall Davidson

      English is quite obviously your second language. You obviously haven’t the first clue what the hell you’re talking about which is par for the course for a Blackberry enthusiast

    • Sighmonsez

      Since you’re so fond of Google, why don’t you look up the definition of contrarian investor and tell me if KIA is one when it comes to BB. Lol, thanks for another good laugh this morning. Just stick to trashing a brand you have no interest in.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Do you understand the meaning of the word contrarian? Its painfully obvious you don’t. What do you define an individual as who takes the bearish opinion consistently versus the bullish thesis? Few people go short on stocks as those that go long so get real.
      The only leg you may have to stand on is that KIA trades both sides of the fence nowadays and the rest is just you splitting hairs pretending to be smarter than you really are.
      Have a good day.

    • Sighmonsez

      You still don’t know what contrarian means when it comes to KIA and BB. Just give it up. Lol.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Neither do you. lol

    • Sighmonsez

      Lol, so you’re saying you don’t know. Just stop.

    • Marshall Davidson

      No. But its pretty clear you don’t.

    • Sighmonsez

      Lol, maybe KIA was right way back when but he hasn’t been for over a year. Also, spike is when the share goes up and quickly comes down (and stays down). BB has been ascending for more than a year. The way you use the words contrarian and spike are both incorrect. That, Marshall, is the painful truth.

    • PassportHolder

      Basic intellectual dishonesty. He’s still hoping they go bankrupt. He’s predicted it too many times to mention. Not going to happen but too arrogant to admit he’s wrong.

    • CanadaJoe

      Sounds to me like you’re up to your eyeballs in something and still don’t know when to quit

    • Marshall Davidson

      What? Does it bother you I challenge the positive narrative here? Are you capable of any critical thinking of your own? I sincerely doubt it.

    • CanadaJoe

      I couldn’t care less that you challenge other posters here, it just seems like you can’t handle any positive comments about this company. I have my own OPINIONS on BlackBerry and the tech industry in general… and yes, I can think critically on my own… hence why I challenged you on your incorrect statement instead of taking your verbal diarrhea as the truth.

    • CanadaJoe

      What motivates your messages?

    • PassportHolder

      Amateur investor. Loaded up on BlackBerry stock at its’ peak, lost his shirt when it crashed. Swore vengeance and has attempted to make his money back by shorting the stock. In vain, he attempts to will the company into bankruptcy by posting negative comments and disinformation on EVERY SINGLE BlackBerry article out there. He has been doing this for YEARS on end. He’s changed his username and account too many times to count (Mozart, Beethoven, various other dead Germans, Shogun etc etc). Very arrogant, little empathy for anyone else. Lives in the greater Toronto area, probably some connection to the Waterloo area (German connection). It’s a shame, he seems very bright but is wasting his time and talents on this misguided quest.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Give it a rest will ya. What? You think because the stock price is up today largely on hype and the that you bought shares at $12-$13 that somehow makes you a smart investor? Anyone holding paper here today that got in cheap got lucky and that’s the bottom line. The fundamentals of the company haven’t changed and they continue to forecast slower growth going forward which is hardly the hallmark of a healthy business. People like you have little understanding of financials nor do you bother to educate yourself beyond the latest corporate press release which you think qualifies as due diligence.
      For the record I’ve never lost money on this stock and your ad hominem attacks really speak to an insecurity on your part when its painfully obvious you can’t address any hard facts.

    • PassportHolder

      I stand by my thesis in regards to your constant attacking of anything BlackBerry. You probably got some of your money back shorting the stock for a while but have not recovered from your devastating loss. You are smart but arrogant. My guess is you thought you knew better than anyone else and that your analysis was air-tight yet you still got burned when they crashed. Nobody is smart enough to time the market perfectly, those who think they are usually get burned. Remember Mr. Market is a manic-depressive, over-enthusiastic on good news and morbidly depressed on bad news.
      “Lucky shot”, that’s what Goliath said to David. Pride goeth before the fall.

  • vn33

    One thing remains the same … the entertainment in reading the comments postings!! LOL!