The year 2021 is ticking down, but there’s still no word from OnwardMobility about its supposed BlackBerry-branded phone—or anything about whether its business is a going concern.
In August 2020, the startup promised a BlackBerry-branded, keyboarded handheld “during the first half of 2021,” and then went pretty dark. By February 2021, it was hiring staff but had no product updates. Its website still says it has a phone “coming 2021,” but otherwise has had no news or blog updates since January 2021.
“Right now, OnwardMobility is unable to share more details or conduct any interviews. Thanks for your patience as they continue developing the world’s most productive, user-friendly and secure mobile device,” a spokeswoman said in an email.
Death of the Keyboarded Phone
I periodically get emails from people with failing, old BlackBerry-branded phones who are keeping the faith and hoping for a reliable new keyboarded device.
But although OnwardMobility says it has a “shared passion for innovation,” it doesn’t seem to have a sense of urgency. The company does seem to still exist—its executive team’s LinkedIn entries all still show OnwardMobility as their current employer—but it’s gone very, very silent.
For me, the shadow of Saygus hovers over this enterprise as well. Saygus was a high-profile “smartphone maker” that never produced a product; its founder was eventually charged by the feds for allegedly defrauding investors in a long scheme to basically use their money to fund his lifestyle. OnwardMobility’s exec team is stacked with experienced hands from Sonim and Kyocera, but the lack of communication is deeply concerning.
With OnwardMobility in perpetual stealth mode, the only remaining prominent maker of keyboarded smartphones is Unihertz, whose Titan and Titan Pocket both have full keyboards. They don’t, however, have the focus on data security, privacy, and enterprise sales that came with the BlackBerry brand, and which OnwardMobility was apparently hoping to capitalize on.