TCL Teases First BlackBerry-Branded Smartphones

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Chinese electronics giant TCL teased its first BlackBerry-branded phones Thursday, in a bid to win a bigger share of the US premium smartphone market.

BlackBerry scaled the heights of smartphone quality and innovation a decade ago, only to be dethroned by Apple's iPhone. The Canadian company announced in September that it would shutter its smartphone division, but word came earlier this month that it would license its name to TCL.

Perhaps hoping to generate buzz through secrecy, TCL remained mostly quiet about its plans for BlackBerry-branded phones. The company isn't giving up many more details with today's announcement, which only mentions that it will unveil new BlackBerry phones at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next month as a compliment to the company's current device lineup.

"We'll unveil more news at CES around our plans, showcasing the legacy of the BlackBerry smartphone brand, while also giving a glimpse into what new BlackBerry smartphones will offer as part of our bold new brand portfolio," TCL North America President Steve Cistulli said in a statement.

BlackBerry and TCL previously teamed up on two BlackBerry-branded Android handsets: the DTEK50 and DTEK60. The current licensing agreement will see BlackBerry continue to develop its security and software products—including self-driving cars—while TCL will sell new BlackBerry-branded devices.

The agreement is also a sign that TCL wants to take on Samsung and Apple in North America. It's currently the fourth-largest handset manufacturer in North America, but it wants to become a "tier one portfolio brand," according to Thursday's announcement.

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