BlackBerry Mobile: 'we understand we are not for everyone' but 'we're here to stay'

"We feel like it's mission accomplished."

It's a statement you may not expect to hear from BlackBerry Mobile, but that's exactly what the firm's Global General Manager, Francois Mahieu told us at MWC 2018.

That accomplishment in a little more detail is "in terms of establishing BlackBerry and KeyOne over the past year. If you look at our global footprint, we're everywhere. It's hard to find somewhere where the KeyOne is not available," Mahieu explained.

Our BlackBerry reviews

BlackBerry KeyOne
A sophisticated-looking smartphone that resurrects a physical keyboard in the modern Android era.

BlackBerry Motion
An all-screen Android offering the BlackBerry experience in a more modern, water-resistant package. 

The KeyOne is a year old itself, launched on this exact date in 2017, during MWC in Barcelona, and it's now in most major markets around the world. Not bad for a physical keyboard form factor that many raised eyebrows at when it was first unveiled.

While in the grand scheme of smartphone shipments, the new BlackBerry Mobile proposition (owned by TCL, which licences the name for use on phones) of the KeyOne and the full-touch BlackBerry Motion are no more than a drop in the ocean, but the firm is keen to narrow its parameters to the premium tier to show you its success.

Not in a race to the top

"3-5% market share in the premium tier is a nice share," Mahieu says, "and it shows we are heading in the right direction. We know grabbing market share from the two big giants is not easy."

"We understand it takes time to rebuild an operation, and we understand BlackBerry is not for everyone"

Francois Mahieu, BlackBerry Mobile

Trying to topple the likes of Apple and Samsung isn't the plan here though, rather BlackBerry Mobile wants to take its time and build a stable business that's relevant.

Looking forward to the next mission, Mahieu said "our ambition is to firmly establish ourselves above our current market share in premium tier. 

"We are not in a race for volume. We understand it takes time to rebuild an operation, and we understand BlackBerry is not for everyone.

"We will be firmly staying in a premium category, innovating around keyboards, materials and areas to show people we’re here to stay. It’s a marathon, not a sprint."

It's not all about the 'board

While BlackBerry Mobile still has a staunch physical keyboard loving fan base, it's aware handsets such as the KeyOne have a limited appeal and that it needs to offer choice.  

"You don't need a thousand be a success"

Francois Mahieu, BlackBerry Mobile

"You don't need a thousand phones in your portfolio to be a success, but you need a few" Mathieu told us. 

We've seen the likes of OnePlus and Honor have decent levels of success with a limited number of hardware offerings, and the door is open for BlackBerry Mobile to do the same. 

This is especially true in the enterprise world, where the BlackBerry brand is once again seeing traction after some years back in the wilderness. 

"You can't just offer a keyboard option to employees, you have to offer them a choice between full touch and keyboard."

It's not just the BlackBerry faithful who are buying the handsets either, as the firm claims that 50% of sales are to people coming from other Android or iOS devices.

Do you miss the physical keyboard?

Do you miss the physical keyboard?

It's trying to gain back the users it lost when BlackBerry handsets of old feel behind times in terms of the screen, form factor and app offering of rivals. It forced users off the platform, even if they did like the physical keyboard.  

There's still a certain level of promotion required though, as BlackBerry Mobile is finding that in some markets people still don't know the newest phones run Android and thus have all the apps they need. 

"We are patiently building the BlackBerry brand on the handset side," Mahieu concludes. 

"We don't think the timing is quite right yet to take us to a much bigger level, but the seeds of success have been planted."

Whether those seeds are enough to truly reinvigorate the brand remains to be seen. It's unlikely to see the same success it had pre-iPhone, but with a more strategic outlook, and some honest self-realization, the BlackBerry phone brand looks to be back on track. 

Update: We've updated the headline of this piece to read "BlackBerry Mobile" rather than "BlackBerry" to avoid conflict between the software business (BlackBerry) and the hardware business owned and operated by TCL (BlackBerry Mobile).

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2018 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.

John McCann
Global Managing Editor

John joined TechRadar over a decade ago as Staff Writer for Phones, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He's interviewed CEOs from some of the world's biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and has appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. Originally specializing in phones, tablets and wearables, John is now TechRadar's resident automotive expert, reviewing the latest and greatest EVs and PHEVs on the market. John also looks after the day-to-day running of the site.