The Future of Blackberry: an Interview With Steve Cistulli

Blackberry is a brand that is synonymous with mobile technology. The company paved the way for modern smart phones and has helped usher in the use of modern mobile email. Yet, due to some missteps, the company has fallen on some hard times. TCL has stepped in to help revive the brand with a series of devices that push what people love about Blackberry.

With Blackberry no longer manufacturing their own phones, TCL has taken up the mantle and built an exciting new device, the Blackberry KEYone, a phone that takes what people love about Blackberry and modernize it for the smartphone era.

Taking time to talk to CGMagazine, Steve Cistulli, President & GM of TCL Communication North America, dove into what the future of TCL and Blackberry, along with how they hope the KEYone will shake up the mobile market.


CGM: Blackberry is an iconic brand—how does it fit into the modern mobile landscape?

Steve Cistulli: Impressively designed to be distinctly different, the BlackBerry KEYone from TCL Communication reimagines how we communicate by offering unmatched productivity and the most secure Android smartphone experience. Offering users all the great smartphone features you’d expect—like a great camera, display and design—this iconic BlackBerry smartphone is made for the modern user and pairs the best of BlackBerry Limited’s software and security with TCL Communication’s commitment to delivering high-quality, reliable smartphones to customers around the world.

CGM:  Moving over to Android was a big step for Blackberry, do you feel this change has strengthened the brand?

Steve Cistulli: Distinctly BlackBerry, powered by Android, the BlackBerry KEYone offers the convenience and familiarity of Android 7.1 Nougat with BlackBerry’s best-in-class security and productivity tools. What continues to set BlackBerry smartphones apart from any other Android device are the enhanced security features built into every device right from the start. From a hardened operating system to BlackBerry’s proprietary technique for establishing a hardware root of trust adding security keys to the processor, the BlackBerry KEYone is intentionally designed to offer the most secure Android smartphone experience possible.

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BlackBerry KEYone images via CGMagazine

CGM:  The Blackberry KEYone is a return to form for the BlackBerry phone, what are the expectations of the KEYone, and what do you see the company doing in the future to capitalise on this?

Steve Cistulli: The global reception for BlackBerry KEYone has been a tremendous success. Not only did it break the BlackBerry pre-order record at Rogers, it has been continually selling out in the U.K., U.S., and elsewhere. Most recently, KEYone pre-orders sold out in Japan in just one hour. This is still a long term and patient approach for us however, and we look forward to expanding our product portfolio to offer even more BlackBerry smartphone experiences to customers around the globe.

CGM:  How do you see Blackberry winning back some of the business clients they may have lost to other mobile devices?

Steve Cistulli: The BlackBerry KEYone is a smartphone BlackBerry loyalists will love. It is unlike any other smartphone available to consumers today, offering a premium communication experience combined with the features that legacy BlackBerry fans know and love, like best-in-class security, long battery life and great functionality.

CGM: The Blackberry Hub is the big feature for the Android-based Blackberry generation of handsets, how do you see this drawing in new users?

Steve Cistulli: BlackBerry Hub is an irreplaceable tool, bringing all your messages into one consolidated place—including emails, texts, and messages from any social media account. The Hub seamlessly integrates notifications from apps like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Instagram and many others to allow you to manage important notifications and view your communication history. Manage multiple email accounts in the Hub, without switching between apps, including Gmail, Yahoo!, Outlook.com, Microsoft Exchange accounts, and many other IMAP and POP3 email providers. That is a ton of functionality and convenience packed into one application; just a small example of what makes a BlackBerry KEYone so different from anything else available to consumers today.

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BlackBerry KEYone images via CGMagazine

CGM: At present, BlackBerry is positioned as a premium brand; do you think this new set of handsets carry forward this legacy?

Steve Cistulli: The BlackBerry KEYone is a premium mobile handset and boasts an impressive design to be distinctly different. It’s a smartphone that not only looks good, but is also built to perform and keep on-the-go communicators connected.

CGM: Is there any attempt to win over a younger market with the latest set of devices, or are you targeting an older demographic?

Steve Cistulli: The BlackBerry KEYone appeals to anyone who wants a smartphone that’s a communication-first device. While the natural audience for a physical keyboard device is going to enterprise and business users, the overall features and functionality—like an outstanding battery that far exceeds most other smartphones—help the KEYone appeal to a wider audience.

CGM:  Are there any iconic Blackberry features that will carry over to the other TCL products?

Steve Cistulli: The TCL Communication mobility portfolio sets a high premium on versatility and differentiation. This goes into every device we make, whether it’s an Alcatel, BlackBerry Mobile or TCL smartphone.