BlackBerry Ltd. showed off the last phone it will market itself before completely outsourcing design, production and distribution to partners: A 5.5-inch touchscreen device that rivals the size of the iPhone 7 Plus and Google Pixel XL, but at a lower price.
The DTEK60 isn’t exactly a full BlackBerry phone. Like the DTEK50, which BlackBerry released in July, it was partly designed and manufactured by Chinese electronics company TCL Corp. and uses BlackBerry’s version of Alphabet Inc.’s Android software. It’s geared toward companies and government departments that don’t want their employees using personal phones for sensitive work business.
BlackBerry has been winding down its shrinking smartphone unit ever since Chief Executive Officer John Chen took over three years ago and began focusing more on software. Last month, BlackBerry said it would completely stop designing its phones and instead license out the BlackBerry brand to other manufacturers.
“This phone is somewhat of a bridge to that world,” Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard said in a phone interview. With future phones, BlackBerry won’t hold inventory or sell the devices itself. The DTEK60 is available now on Amazon.com and at BlackBerry’s website. It retails in the U.S. for $499. Aside from the larger screen, other upgrades from the DTEK50 include a higher-megapixel camera, new fingerprint sensor and a memory card slot.
BlackBerry is still working on forging licensing deals with other manufacturers and so far only has an agreement with an Indonesian telecommunications consortium to build BlackBerry-branded phones. Last month, Chen said he was working on other deals in China and India.
The licensing agreements could extend beyond phones though, Beard said. The company has been talking up the potential for its security software to protect any device that communicates through the internet, and began selling a truck-tracking gadget in September. It’s possible that soon you could see similar devices built and sold by other companies, but running BlackBerry’s software and carrying its brand, Beard said.
“We’re not restricting ourselves to just phones,” he said. “There are other segments that are interesting and where both our management capability and our security capability and our software — which is great — would be useful.”