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BlackBerry Debuts ‘Fan League’ for Enthusiasts

Tuesday, 9:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry Mobile today kicked off the BlackBerry Fan League, a way for BlackBerry smartphone enthusiasts to connect with the brand. BlackBerry says participants will have the opportunity to win prizes, including smartphones, as well as participate in surveys and beta programs, and interface directly with the BlackBerry Mobile team. Members can earn points by re-sharing official BlackBerry social media posts, creating their own BlackBerry-themed content, and recruiting new members. Points are what allow members to enter drawings for the weekly prizes. The BlackBerry Smartphone Fan League is available to all BlackBerry owners in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. BlackBerry Mobile handsets are designed and sold by TCL.

BlackBerry and Microsoft Partner On Mobile Services

Tuesday, 8:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry and Microsoft announced a new partnership that will see the two deliver mobile software and services to businesses customers. A new solution, called BlackBerry Bridge, lets business users access Microsoft mobile apps from within BackBerry Dynamics. This means corporate employees will have the same experience opening, editing, and saving Microsoft Office documents on any Android or iOS device. It gives mobile workers a secure way to access their files that are immediately backed up in Microsoft's cloud. Microsoft says the partnership also brings new powers to the IT department, which will better be able to secure company data and maintain privacy while remaining compliant with regulatory statutes. In order to make this work, the companies have integrated BlackBerry UEM Cloud, Workspaces, Dynamics, and AtHoc into the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Microsoft and BlackBerry didn't specify how quickly these new services will be available to their customers.

Class Action Against BlackBerry Over Handset Sales Can Proceed

Tuesday, 7:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry's hope to squash a lawsuit has been dashed by a U.S. judge who says the legal proceedings can move forward. Plaintiffs allege BlackBerry "inflated its stock price and defrauded shareholders" by suggesting sales of BlackBerry 10 handsets were much better than they really were. The case was originally dismissed in March 2015, but new evidence suggests there's merit to the accusations. A retailer called Wireless Zone compiled data that showed a high return rate for BlackBerry 10 handsets. James Dunham, former CEO of Wireless Zone, sold that data to Detwiler Fenton, which generated a report detailing consumers' general dissatisfaction with BlackBerry 10 phones. BlackBerry's executives publicly said at the time that Blackberry 10 owners were in fact "satisfied" and the company insisted that return rates for Blackberry 10 handsets were “at or below our forecasts and right in line with the industry." It is these statements, in light of evidence to the contrary, that the plaintiffs say misled investors and eventually led to shareholder losses when BlackBerry 10 collapsed. BlackBerry did not comment on the matter, which now heads to trial.

BlackBerry to Keep John Chen As CEO Through 2023

Mar 15, 2018, 8:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said it has extended its contract with CEO John S. Chen, who will serve as chief executive through November 2023. BlackBerry brought Chen on board in 2013 and he oversaw the company's transformation from a hardware business to a software and services business. Chen was responsible for deep spending cuts that helped keep the company from going under. It is now focused on selling mobile device management services to business customers. The company also develops device-side software for Android handsets that allows them to offer secure email, messaging, and other core communications. "The BlackBerry Board of Directors has tremendous confidence in John Chen. John engineered a successful turnaround and has the company repositioned to apply its strengths and assets to the Enterprise of Things, an emerging category with massive potential," said board member Prem Watsa. BlackBerry-branded handsets are designed and sold by TCL, which also designs devices under the Alcatel brand.

BlackBerry Sues Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp Over Patents

Mar 6, 2018, 3:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry has filed lawsuits against Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, claiming all three violate its patented messaging technology. "Defendants created mobile messaging applications that co-opt BlackBerry’s innovations, using a number of the innovative security, user interface, and functionality enhancing features," said the company in its filings. BlackBerry says it has spent years negotiating with all three companies without coming to terms, leaving it no choice but to take legal action. Patent litigation has become part of BlackBerry's business strategy under CEO John Chen. The company recently filed suit against Nokia over 3G/4G patents and late last year settled litigation against Qualcomm for $940 million. BlackBerry has some 40,000 technology patents it hopes will generate income. Facebook was the only company that responded to the lawsuit publicly. "Blackberry’s suit sadly reflects the current state of its messaging business,” said Facebook General Counsel Paul Grewal. "Having abandoned its efforts to innovate, BlackBerry is now looking to tax the innovation of others." BlackBerry's core business is selling enterprise-grade software and services. TCL now manufactures BlackBerry-branded handsets.

FTC Wants Mobile Industry to Be Better At Security Updates

Feb 28, 2018, 11:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The current state of mobile device security patches is lacking, according to a new report issued today by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC studied how Apple, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, and Samsung support their devices over time. "Our report found significant differences in how the industry deploys security updates and that more needs to be done to make it easier for consumers to ensure their devices are secure," said Acting Director Tom Pahl. The agency notes that many devices are updated infrequently, if at all, and that manufacturers often fail to deliver on promises. It wants phone makers and carriers to improve the situation. The agency suggested each does a better job of explaining mobile device security to consumers (i.e., make it clear to them that the updates are important and worth installing). The FTC also recommended that phone makers consider issuing security patches as stand-alone updates, rather than bundled with general OS upgrades. The FTC noted that companies that make their own operating system, in this case, Apple and Google, are often better at providing timely updates for a longer period of time. The FTC is calling for members of the mobile industry to find a way to bring clarity to consumers and more rapid security updates.

Android Messages with RCS to Reach More Phones On More Carriers

Feb 23, 2018, 10:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google says its Android Messages app is on the upswing thanks to new RCS-based tools and growing support from phone makers and wireless network operators. To start, brands now have more power to interact with consumers thanks to RCS business messaging. Google says brands can "send more useful and interactive messages" to their customers with photos, videos, and links for purchasing. A number of companies have been testing RCS business messaging via Google's Early Access Program. Some include 1-800 Contacts, 1-800-Flowers.com, Booking.com, SnapTravel, and Subway — all on Sprint in the U.S. Google says more businesses will be deploying richer messaging via the Android Messages app over the coming months. The Android Messages app has gained a lot of traction with phone makers and carriers, and more support is on the way. Moving forward, Alcatel, BlackBerry, Transsion, Blu, Positivo, Multilaser, Mobiwire, Azumi, and Essential will all preload Android Messages as the default SMS/messaging app. A number of phone makers already offer Android Messages, including Huawei, LG, HMD Global, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, Sony, and ZTE. The app has a growing footprint with carriers, as well. Google says America Movil, AT&T in Mexico, Celcom Axiata Berhad, Freedom Mobile, Oi, Telia Company, and Telefonica have joined Deutsche Telekom, Globe Telecom, Orange, Rogers Communications, Sprint, and Telenor in their commitment to launch RCS messaging. Sprint is the lone U.S. carrier to go all-in with Google's RCS and Android Messages. AT&T and Verizon each offers its own RCS-based messaging client for Android handsets. Google believes this new momentum for RCS and Android Messages will eventually mean a better messaging experience between people, brands, and more.

Google Highlights Phones It Recommends for Business Users

Feb 21, 2018, 12:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced the Android Enterprise Recommended program and an initial batch of handsets that meet the qualifications. Google says the Android Enterprise Recommended program “establishes best practices and common requirements for devices and services, backed by a thorough testing process conducted by Google.” In order to qualify, devices have to meet a number of specifications concerning their hardware, deployment, security updates, and user help programs. For example, devices approved must run at least Android 7 Nougat, and receive security updates no later than 90 days from their release from Google. Further, device makers must commit to offering security patches to unlocked devices for a minimum of three years. Some of the initial devices that meet the requirements — and are thus recommended for business users — include the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL; the BlackBerry KEYone and Motion; the Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro; the LG V30 and G6; the Motorola X4 and Z2 ; the Nokia 8; and the Sony Xperia XZ1, XZ Premium, XA2, and XA2 Ultra. Google says it will update the requirements with each new Android platform release to “raise the bar to ensure we are delivering the best experience for our enterprise customers.”

TCL Promises Two New QWERTY BlackBerries as Motion Hits U.S. Stores Jan. 12

Jan 9, 2018, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL Communication today said it plans to introduce two new BlackBerry-branded handsets this year, both of which will feature physical QWERTY keyboards. They will serve as successors to last year's KEYone handset. TCL didn't share any details about these new BlackBerry devices other than to say they'll arrive later in 2018. TCL today also said it plans to sell the BlackBerry Motion smartphone in the U.S. starting January 12. The device has been available overseas since late last year. The BlackBerry Motion will be sold unlocked for $450 from Amazon.com and Best Buy. It supports GSM networks, such as those operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. Later this quarter TCL plans to release a bronze edition KEYone smartphone. Other than the color, the KEYone Bronze Edition changes memory to 4 GB and storage to 64 GB, and adds support for a second SIM card. Exact pricing and availability was not disclosed. Last, BlackBerry and TCL are working to bring Android 8 Oreo to the KEYone and expect to do so in the months ahead.

BlackBerry to Cease Monthly Updates for the Priv, Launch Trade-Up Program

Dec 15, 2017, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry said this week that it will no longer provide monthly system and security updates to its BlackBerry Priv smartphone. The company originally committed to providing updates for a period of two years. "Having now stepped outside the original two-year window, we will no longer be delivering monthly updates for the Priv moving forward," said the company. That doesn't mean all support for the phone will stop. The company said it will still honor any warranty obligations it has for hardware repairs. Moreover, BlackBerry claims that its handsets are inherently more secure than most other Android devices thanks to the hardened core and monthly updates up until this point. BlackBerry said if a critical vulnerability is exposed in the Priv, it will work to correct the problem as needed. Last, BlackBerry said it has partnered with BlackBerry Mobile to help legacy BlackBerry owners upgrade to newer hardware. Customers still using the Priv or other BB10 or BBOS devices will soon be able to upgrade to a BlackBerry KEYone or BlackBerry Motion smartphone. Specific details regarding the trade-in program are still in the works.

BlackBerry KEYone $100 Off from Amazon and Best Buy

Dec 11, 2017, 12:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Both Amazon and Best Buy are rolling back the price of the BlackBerry KEYone starting today. The GSM and CDMA variants of the keyboard-equipped smartphone are on sale for $449, a savings of $100 off the normal retail price of $549. The KEYone has a 4.5-inch screen, 12-megapixel camera, Snapdragon 625 processor, Android 7.1 Nougat, and advanced security software. BlackBerry Mobile said the promotion will run though December 24, or as long as supplies last.

BlackBerry to Pay Nokia $137 Million to Settle Dispute

Dec 1, 2017, 9:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said it has agreed to pay Nokia a fee of $137 million over payments due for licensing certain patented technology. The decision was reached in the International Court of Arbitration and is binding. This particular disagreement did not pertain to allegations of patent infringement, though BlackBerry is pursuing Nokia for patent infringement in separate cases in Germany and the U.S. BlackBerry said it was disappointed with the court's decision.

Researchers Say WiFi Vulnerability Impacts Nearly Everything

Oct 16, 2017, 7:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Researchers say they've found a serious gap in the WPA2 security protocol that can allow hackers to use key reinstallation attacks (KRACKs) to compromise most WiFi devices. The researchers say the method allows hackers to read encrypted information transiting via WiFi, including passwords, emails, photos, credit card numbers, and more. KRACKs can access nearly all WiFi traffic and, depending on the individual network safety configuration, insert code and alter data, such as send malware. The researchers claim the weakness is in the WiFi standard itself, and not in individual products, which is why the vulnerability is so widespread. Devices running Android, iOS, Linux, Windows, macOS, and other platforms are impacted. The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) agreed with the researchers' assessment and warned, "The impact of exploiting these vulnerabilities includes decryption, packet replay, TCP connection hijacking, HTTP content injection, and others. Note that as protocol-level issues, most or all correct implementations of the standard will be affected." In other words, even if WiFi devices are being used properly, with passwords, they are still vulnerable. Google said it is aware of the issue and will patch the vulnerability in a future security update. The WiFi Alliance has not yet responded to the researcher's revelations.

BlackBerry Motion Eschews the Keyboard, Packs Huge Battery

Oct 9, 2017, 1:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today announced the BlackBerry Motion, a follow-up to the KEYone that drops the keyboard in favor of a larger touch screen. The Motion boasts a 5.5-inch full HD screen that's covered in a nano-diamond coating to prevent scratches. TCL says the phone is the first BlackBerry to carry an IP67 rating for protection from dust and water. The Motion ships with the largest-ever battery for a BlackBerry. The power cell rates 4,000mAh and TCL says it is good for two full days of use. It supports Quick Charge 3.0 for rapid recharges when needed. Other notable hardware features include a programmable convenience key, fingerprint sensor, USB-C, and a standard headphone jack. Under the hood, the BlackBerry Motion is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, with support for microSD memory cards. The rear camera has a 12-megapixel sensor with an f/2.0 lens, flash, and phase-detection autofocus, while the front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with an f/2.4 lens, flash, and wide-angle field of view. The Motion runs Android 7.1 Nougat with BlackBerry's hardened DTEK software, BlackBerry Hub, and other business-friendly apps on board. A new tool called Locker allows Motion owners to protect photos and other files in a locked folder that can only be opened with a password or fingerprint. The BlackBerry Motion is initially going to be sold in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for about $460. TCL said the phone will eventually be sold in other regions, though it didn't specifically say if that includes the U.S.

BlackBerry KEYone Coming To AT&T

Aug 24, 2017, 11:06 AM   by Rich Brome

TCT Mobile and AT&T today announced that the BlackBerry KEYone phone will launch with AT&T on Friday, September 1st, in an exclusive Space Black color. The KEYone was previously only available unlocked or from Sprint. AT&T is selling the phone for $500. The last BlackBerry-brand phone offered by AT&T was the Priv, released in late 2015. The KEYone is the first phone designed and marketed by TCT Mobile — a division of TCL — under an exclusive arrangement with BlackBerry. BlackBerry is involved in the design and software of the phones, but the effort is led by TCT. TCT also operates the Alcatel brand for mobile phones.

Sprint to Sell BlackBerry KEYone from July 14

Jul 13, 2017, 1:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said that the BlackBerry KEYone smartphone will go on sale July 14. It will initially be available online and via telesales. The phone won't reach stores until later this month. Sprint is charging $528 for the handset, or $22 per month on a payment plan. The KEYone, made by TCL, the parent company of Alcatel, combines a 4.5-inch touch screen with a physical QWERTY keyboard. Other features include a Snapdragon 625 processor, 12-megapixel camera, 3,505mAh battery, and Android 7.1 Nougat with BlackBerry's DTEK security suite.

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BlackBerry Says CDMA Version of KEYone Now At Best Buy

Jun 13, 2017, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry Mobile today said the Verizon-ready, CDMA model of its KEYone smartphone is available at Best Buy stores. The phone is sold unlocked with support for Verizon's 3G and 4G networks. Earlier versions of the KEYone supported only GSM-based 3G service. The KEYone runs Google's Android operating system with BlackBerry Mobile's security and communications software on board. The phone's defining feature is the physical QWERTY keyboard. It costs $549.

BlackBerry KEYone Goes On Sale Today for $549

May 31, 2017, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today announced that the BlackBerry KEYone, a smartphone it developed with BlackBerry Mobile, is now available for purchase online. The handset includes a 4.5-inch touch display, full QWERTY keyboard, Snapdragon 625 processor, 12-megpixel camera, LTE, and Android 7.1 Nougat with BlackBerry Hub and BlackBerry Messenger. Both the unlocked GSM and CDMA variants of the phone are available online from BestBuy and Amazon. TCL says a limited number of KEYone's will be at select Best Buy retail stores around the country. Sprint plans to sell its own branded variant of the BlackBerry KEYone later this summer.

Qualcomm Must Pay BlackBerry $940M to Settle Royalty Spat

May 26, 2017, 2:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today announced the final award in an arbitration case between it and Qualcomm that was tentatively settled in April. Qualcomm must repay BlackBerry of a total amount of $940 million, including interest and attorneys' fees — a number that's $125 million more than the original award announced last month. The two were disputing "whether Qualcomm's agreement to cap certain royalties applied to payments made by BlackBerry under a license agreement between the parties." The binding arbitration settlement determined that Qualcomm's agreement did in fact apply to such payments, resulting in BlackBerry paying Qualcomm too much money over several years' time. The agreement is final and Qualcomm cannot appeal. Qualcomm will make the full $940 million payment May 31.

BlackBerry Offering Privacy Shade Tool to All Hub+ Subscribers

May 15, 2017, 3:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today outlined several changes headed to its suite of Android applications, including the general availability of the Privacy Shade. The Privacy Shade was first made available only to BlackBerry-branded handsets, but will soon be available to any Android handset that relies on the BlackBerry Hub+ service. The Privacy Shade lets users adjust the transparency of the filter to suit their surroundings and activate it from the convenience key. Along with the wider availability, Privacy Shade users will also be able to re-size the window. Other new tools include Quick File for moving messages, Google Hangouts notifications, GroupWise mail server out-of-office messages, enhanced message previews when roaming, and the dark theme for the Hub widget. The updates will hit Hub+ in the Google Play Store in the days ahead.

Unlocked BlackBerry Keyone Goes On Sale May 31; Sprint Version Arrives This Summer

Apr 27, 2017, 5:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today announced that the BlackBerry Keyone, a smartphone it developed with BlackBerry Mobile, will be available to U.S. buyers starting May 31. The handset includes a 4.5-inch touch display and full QWERTY keyboard. Other features include a Snapdragon 625 processor, 12-megpixel camera, LTE, and Android 7.1 Nougat with BlackBerry Hub and BlackBerry Messenger. TCL plans to sell both the unlocked GSM and CDMA variants of the phone directly to consumers online for $549. The company noted that Sprint will sell the phone with service plans later this summer. TCL said more details about the Sprint version will be shared towards the end of May.

BlackBerry Wins $815M from Qualcomm for Overpaying Royalties

Apr 12, 2017, 8:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said it received a favorable outcome after arbitrating a royalty payment issue with Qualcomm. The two companies entered into arbitration on April 20, 2016, over a dispute concerning "whether Qualcomm's agreement to cap certain royalties applied to payments made by BlackBerry under a license agreement between the parties." The binding arbitration settlement determined that Qualcomm's agreement did in fact apply to such payments, resulting in BlackBerry paying Qualcomm too much money. BlackBerry was awarded $814.8 million in royalty overpayments. Qualcomm said it was disappointed with the decision, but it cannot appeal. BlackBerry CEO John Chen said, "BlackBerry and Qualcomm have a longstanding relationship and continue to be valued technology partners."

BlackBerry Overhauls Productivity Tab for Android

Mar 30, 2017, 3:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today pushed out a brand new version of the Productivity Tab application for Android handsets, including the Priv, DTEK50, and DTEK60. BlackBerry says the Productivity Tab is now cleaner and more user friendly thanks to the addition of features such as Quick Triage for items in the Hub. It also introduces a new Quick Actions tool for entries in the contacts app. BlackBerry says Android device owners who use this app will be notified of the update over the next few days. It should appear automatically. The Productivity Tab will be installed on BlackBerry's newest handset, the KeyOne, when it is released later this year.

BlackBerry Sending March Security Patch to Its Android Phones

Mar 8, 2017, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry is pushing the March security patches from Google to its BlackBerry Priv, DTEK60, and DTEK50 smartphones. Google made the security patches available to its own Nexus and Pixel devices earlier this week. The combined March 1 and March 5 patch plugs a significant number of vulnerabilities, including at least 10 classified as critical. Critical holes can lead to remote code execution, which means hackers can take control over devices from afar. BlackBerry says Priv, DTEK60, and DTEK50 owners should see the update appear over the next few days. Alternately, users can seek the update manually via their phone's system settings.

TCL Reveals the BlackBerry KEYone Smartphone

Feb 25, 2017, 2:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today announced the KEYone, a BlackBerry smartphone that combines a large screen, full QWERTY keyboard, and hardened Android software in an aluminum body. TCL first teased the phone at CES last month, but has now shared all the KEYone's details. To start, the phone is a large slab with a 4.5-inch full HD screen with Gorilla Glass 4 filling the top two-thirds of the face. A physical keyboard below the screen offers trackpad functionality, app shortcuts, and a fingerprint reader in the space bar. The phone has rugged aluminum frame and a soft-touch faux leather rear panel. Internal specs include a Snapdragon 625 processor with 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and space for a microSD card up to 1 TB. The battery measures 3,505mAh for beyond a full day of use, and it charges rapidly (50% in 36 minutes) thanks to support for Quick Charge 3.0. The rear make makes use of the 12-megapixel IMX378 sensor from Sony with large pixels, f/2.0 lens, PDAF, 4K video capture, and two-tone flash. The front camera boasts an 8-megapixel sensor with an 84-degree field of view, selfie flash, and full HD video capture. The phone runs Android 7.1 with BlackBerry Hub+ and the company's DTEK security software. The KEYone will be sold in several variants around the world. TCL says two versions of the phone will work well in the U.S., including on the networks operated by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. The company plans to launch directly to consumers in Canada first, with the U.S. to follow shortly thereafter. TCL hopes to sell the device through carrier partners late in the year. The BlackBerry KEYone costs $549.

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Hands On with the BlackBerry KEYone

Feb 25, 2017, 2:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The BlackBerry KEYone is here, a big smartphone that includes a large display, physical keyboard, and BlackBerry's hardened version of Android. The phone is big and has middling specs, but are importantly, it pulls at the heartstrings of those raised on BlackBerry's old corporate mini-machines. Here are our initial impressions of the KEYone.

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BlackBerry Sues Nokia Over Patents

Feb 15, 2017, 8:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Nokia this week. BlackBerry claims Nokia is using its patented technology in select telecommunications equipment that Nokia sells to network operators, such as T-Mobile, without the proper licenses. The 11 patents in question were originally held by Nortel Networks and, in a bankruptcy sale, later sold to Rockstar Consortium, a patent-holding collective including Blackberry, Apple, and Microsoft. Many of the patents are said to be standard essential. BlackBerry isn't looking to block Nokia's use of the patents. Moreover, BlackBerry is obligated to license them at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms. "BlackBerry seeks to obtain recompense for Nokia’s unauthorized use of BlackBerry’s patented technology," said the company in a statement, but it didn't specify what sort of recompense or damages it is seeking. BlackBerry filed the complaint in Delaware.

BlackBerry Hub Adapts to the Dark

Feb 7, 2017, 10:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today pushed out an update to its BlackBerry Hub application for Android devices. The most obvious change is the addition of a dark theme. The Hub has long been limited to a white screen with black text. Now, users can change the background to black and view white text. This is easier on the eyes and, on devices with OLED screens, saves battery life. BlackBerry Hub also gains support for an attachment view to make it easier to find and open emails with attachments, and adds support for WeChat and Line notifications. BlackBerry Password Keeper, a separate app from the Hub, also gains the new dark theme. BlackBerry Hub and Password Keeper for Android are free to download from the Google Play Store.

BlackBerry Signs Licensing Deal with India's Optiemus

Feb 6, 2017, 8:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said it has licensed its smartphone brand to Optiemus, a smartphone maker based in India. The deal represents the third such agreement forged by BlackBerry with other hardware manufacturers. The most notable licensing deal is with TCL, the parent company of Alcatel, though BlackBerry has a similar deal in place with a joint venture in Indonesia called PT BB Merah Putih. Like the first two agreements, this third licensing deal means Optiemus will design, build, and sell Android-based, BlackBerry-branded handsets in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh. BlackBerry says the deal conforms with India's "Make In India" program, which requires the creation of local jobs and facilities. Optiemus did not immediately announce any new smartphones under the BlackBerry brand. The move is strategically important for BlackBerry because it now has distribution channels into the world's three largest smartphone markets: China, India, and the U.S. TCL, which distributes BlackBerry devices to North America, is expected to fully reveal the BlackBerry Mercury smartphone later this month at the Mobile World Congress trade show.

Hands On with TCL's New BlackBerry Smartphone

Jan 4, 2017, 11:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 4, 2017, 11:41 AM

TCL today showed off a unique BlackBerry smartphone that includes both a physical QWERTY keyboard and a touch screen. This large slab is meant to help reinvigorate sales of BlackBerry smartphones to businesses. Here is a quick look at the latest from TCL.

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TCL Outlines Alcatel and BlackBerry Handset Strategy

Jan 4, 2017, 11:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL, the parent corporation of Alcatel, unveiled its new handset strategy moving forward. The company will continue to build its Alcatel-branded smartphones that target the low/value end of the market. These devices will run Android and will generally be sold via carriers and the open market. The company will also work closely with BlackBerry to design BlackBerry-branded handsets for North America and other markets. TCL will make the hardware, but it will rely on BlackBerry's hardened version of Android with government-grade security and business software on board. TCL sees its new partnership with BlackBerry as a way to get its phones into the high-end and enterprise segments of the market. BlackBerry and TCL hope to regain the trust of corporations that have in recent years turned to Apple and Samsung for employee devices. TCL plans to work with BlackBerry's sales team to sell BlackBerry-branded handsets directly to businesses, but it also intends to forge new carrier deals to reach consumers via carrier stores over time. TCL's Steve Cistulli says the BlackBerry DTEK50 and DTEK60, which are rebranded variants of the Alcatel Idol 4 and 4S, are performing well and have helped level off the decline of BlackBerry sales in North America. TCL believes it can reverse that decline over time with a range of unique BlackBerry handsets. The company also revealed its first entirely new BlackBerry smartphone that is scheduled to debut later this year. The phone is a slab with a physical QWERTY keyboard and touch screen. TCL did not announce the phone's name, nor its specs. BlackBerry said it will continue to support BBOS 10, and pointed out that it recently released BBOS 10.3.3 for older phones such as the BlackBerry Classic.

TCL to Be Sole Maker of BlackBerry Phones

Dec 15, 2016, 12:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said moving forward TCL Communications, the parent company of Alcatel, will be responsible for designing, manufacturing, selling, and supporting all BlackBerry-branded smartphones. The companies struck an agreement that sees TCL licensing BlackBerry's security software and service suite along with the BlackBerry brand. TCL has already made two BlackBerry smartphones, the DTEK50 and DTEK60, which are variants of the Alcatel Idol 4 and Idol 4S, respectively. BlackBerry said it will continue to control and develop its security and software solutions, as well as serve enterprise customers' needs. BlackBerry called the agreement "a key step in our strategy to focus on putting the 'smart in the phone' by providing state-of-the-art security and device software on a platform that mobile users prefer and are comfortable with. We are confident that BlackBerry-branded products developed and distributed by TCL Communication will address the needs of BlackBerry users and expand the availability of BlackBerry Secure products throughout the world." BlackBerry has been winding down its own hardware business for some time and in September announced plans to halt making smartphones altogether. At the time, BlackBerry had not yet named a manufacturing partner.

BlackBerry Pushing Updates to Priv, DTEK50, DTEK60

Dec 1, 2016, 12:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry's trio of Android smartphones can now download a series of system and software updates that add features and bolster performance. BlackBerry Hub+, for example, now allows users to hide specific accounts or stop them from syncing, as well as create custom views for emails from specific contacts. The BlackBerry Keyboard app has been improved with easier switching between languages, expanded Chinese language input, and support for fingerprint authentication (DTEK60 only). The BlackBerry Launcher has a new dark theme, and BlackBerry Password Keeper introduces a built-in browser, autofill tweaks, and support for non-Latin characters. Google says Priv, DTEK50, and DTEK60 owners should receive notifications once the updates are available to their handset.

Verizon's Priv Lands Marshmallow Update

Nov 7, 2016, 8:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today made Android 6.0 Marshmallow available to its version of the BlackBerry Priv. The new system software makes a significant number of changes to many apps and services on the phone. To start, it adds WiFi Calling, Now On Tap, and the Marshmallow runtime permissions. It also improves the BlackBerry Keyboard, floating phone icon, launcher, camera, and contact apps. The launcher, in particular, now allows owners to separate their work and personal apps from one another. Android 6 Marshmallow for the BlackBerry Priv is free to download via WiFi. AT&T updated its Priv to Marshmallow in July.

Google's Daydream VR Headset Ships Nov. 10

Nov 1, 2016, 12:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its Daydream virtual reality headset will go on sale November 10. The goggles will cost $79 and will be available at Best Buy and Verizon Wireless stores. Daydream is Google's new virtual reality push. Only a few handsets are initially compatible with Daydream, including the Pixel and Pixel XL, and the Nexus 6P. A number of Google's partners have prepared content for Daydream ahead of launch, such as the Wall Street Journal, Star Chart, YouTube, the New York Times, Google Play Movies, and several gaming companies. People who preordered the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones from Google in October will be given a promotional code for a free Daydream VR headset.

T-Mobile Outs Windows 10 VR Phone From Alcatel

Oct 26, 2016, 9:39 AM   by Rich Brome

T-Mobile today listed the "Alcatel IDOL 4S with Windows 10 VR" on its web site. The unique version of the Idol 4S not only runs Windows 10, but sports many of the upgrades available in the related BlackBerry DTEK60, such as the high-end Snapdragon 820 processor, 21-megapixel camera, and USB Type-C connector, none of which are in the standard Idol 4S. The Idol 4S with Windows 10 also includes free VR goggles (for a limited time) for use with "pre-loaded games and videos". Curiously, while the standard Idol 4S includes a Quad-HD display ideal for VR, this version steps down to a full-HD display, according to T-Mobile's specs. The Idol 4S with Windows 10 also supports Windows Continuum, which lets you connect a screen and keyboard to turn the phone into a full Windows 10 computer. Other features of the phone include a memory card slot, stereo speakers, 8-megapixel front camera, and 4 GB of RAM. T-Mobile's specs do not mention NFC. Pricing and release date have yet to be announced. Microsoft is

BlackBerry DTEK60 Boasts Fingerprint Sensor and Top Specs

Oct 25, 2016, 8:21 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 25, 2016, 8:23 AM

BlackBerry today announced the DTEK60, the company's new flagship non-keyboard phone. The DTEK60 is based on the Alcatel Idol 4S and looks similar, but actually has significantly upgraded specs in nearly every respect. (The DTEK50 is essentially a rebranded Alcatel Idol 4.) The DTEK60 sports a fingerprint sensor, Quad-HD 5.5-inch display, 3,000 mAh battery, NFC, and a memory card slot. Unlike the Idol 4S, it also packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 21 megapixel camera, and a USB Type-C connector with Quick Charge 3.0. The DTEK60 maintains the same 7mm thin profile as the Idol 4S, although with a larger camera bump for the upgraded sensor. As with all of BlackBerry's new phones, the DTEK60 runs Android with BlackBerry messaging and security software added. The phone supports LTE networks including those of T-Mobile and AT&T (including band 29.) The DTEK60 is available today directly from BlackBerry for $500 unlocked. Customers who order within the next two weeks will receive a free "soft shell" case and rapid charger.

BlackBerry Updates Hub+ and Other Android Apps

Oct 20, 2016, 9:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today announced an update to its Hub+ subscription service for Android devices. Hub+ users will now be able add Facebook Messenger to Hub+ and manage Messenger communications directly in the Hub. Hub+ also makes it easier to save inline images and improves support for admin-defined signatures for business users. Beyond Hub+, BlackBerry updated the BlackBerry Android Keyboard, BlackBerry Launcher, and Password Keeper apps. The Keyboard gains new ways to switch languages and global gesture support. The Launcher now includes a dynamic calendar icon that will show the current date. BlackBerry's Password Keeper adds secure lists and support for fingerprint sensors, and makes organizational changes to the settings panel. In addition to the new features, all the apps gain performance improvements. BlackBerry's own Priv and DTEK50 handsets will see speed enhancements in the camera app. BlackBerry's Hub+ and other Android apps are available from the Google Play Store. Hub+ requires a monthly subscription.

T-Mobile Giving Away Free LTE Roaming Until 2017

Sep 28, 2016, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said its postpaid customers will have access to free, high-speed mobile data throughout South America and select European countries for the rest of 2016. T-Mobile customers will not have to take any action to enjoy free international roaming in these countries. Travelers will have unlimited high-seed data, unlimited texting, and low-cost voice calls when abroad. The free roaming applies to all of South America, as well as Armenia, Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom in Europe. The promotion runs through Dec. 31, 2016. T-Mobile's Simple Global program has given travelers free access to 2G mobile data since 2013.

BlackBerry to Kill Off Smartphone-Making Business

Sep 28, 2016, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said it will no longer make and sell its own smartphones. Instead, it will rely on original device manufacturers to design and make devices that will carry BlackBerry branding and software. The company employed this strategy earlier this year with the DTEK50, which was a rebranded Alcatel Idol 4. BlackBerry uses Google's Android platform as a base and hardens it with respect to bugs and security. It then packages this with its BlackBerry Suite of apps and services. "We are reaching an inflection point with our strategy," said CEO John Chen. "Our financial foundation is strong, and our pivot to software is taking hold. Under this strategy, we are focusing on software development, including security and applications. The company plans to end all internal hardware development and will outsource that function to partners." BlackBerry calls this its Mobility Solutions strategy. The company has already forged a licensing agreement with a telecom joint venture in Indonesia. BlackBerry announced the news along with its fiscal 2017 second quarter earnings report. The company generated $352 million in revenue, of which $156 million came from its software business.

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