LIVE FROM CES 2018, LAS VEGAS: TCL Communication detailed plans to launch at least two new BlackBerry smartphones during 2018.
In a statement, the company said it will launch an unlocked version of its existing BlackBerry Motion smartphone in the US via Amazon and Best Buy on 12 January for $450. TCL also plans to extend its BlackBerry KeyOne line-up with a bronze coloured version, which it said will be released in select markets through Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
Senior manager of communications Jason Gerdon told Mobile World Live BlackBerry wants to take advantage of maturing smartphone markets to differentiate itself with a value proposition centred on security. But, he explained the company also wants to change the narrative around BlackBerry devices, taking the products beyond their traditional enterprise market into the consumer sector.
“Traditionally security has always been an enterprise conversation. But it was important to us to start transitioning that conversation, especially in today’s modern era where our smartphone is our lifeline to a lot of things. It controls a lot of our personal information, we keep a lot of banking information on there, personal photos, personal documents.”
“So that’s where we really start transitioning that conversation away from just security and start talking about practical privacy.”
Gerdon said BlackBerry devices address the latter through features including privacy shading, digital lockers and an application allowing people to see how other apps on the device are accessing their information. Though these are obviously things which appeal to enterprise clients, Gerdon said they’re also catching the eye of consumers.
The executive said the expanded focus is a response to demand from the consumer segment, noting around half of customers buying new BlackBerry phones are coming from other devices, primarily Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s flagship Galaxy line. The company will play up traditional BlackBerry features, such as the classic keyboard design, by adding new functionality (for example, the keyboard on the BlackBerry KeyOne already features a fingerprint sensor in the space bar button).
TCL separately revealed its total smartphone shipments fell by almost 25 million year-on-year in 2017 to 43.9 million units. The company provided no explanation for the decline and did not break out shipments by brand: TCL sells devices under its own name, and Alcatel and BlackBerry brands.