Technologic

‘Somebody should make’ a new BlackBerry-like phone, says BlackBerry CEO John Chen

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Not him. But somebody.

Hey, here’s some good news for Kim Kardashian (and everyone else who used to be glued to a BlackBerry): The CEO of BlackBerry, John Chen, wants to see a new version of the BlackBerry Bold 9900.

The bad news is that he’s not planning to be the one to build it. On the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Chen said the company has happily pivoted to helping enterprise companies secure their devices and creating technology for embedded cars. But he is intrigued by the idea of a “retro” revival of the device.

“I would never say never,” Chen said. “For the foreseeable future, I think our strategy works really well. But I think there might be a need in this world for a phone that is very simple and just focused on secure email, secure texts and a basic browser.”

Later in the interview, he returned to the topic, saying, “I think I should find a hardware partner to do this.” In recent years, after BlackBerry hardware sales fell off a cliff amid the rise of Android and iPhones, all phones bearing the BlackBerry branding have been farmed out to Chinese firm TCL.

“You remember the 9900, the Bold?” Chen asks. “It fits right in your palm. I think somebody should make that.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

So, playing along: Why would anyone buy a new version of the Bold when they could get a Galaxy S8 or the iPhone X? Chen said mobile security is “the biggest threat” for many professionals, and “nightmarish” for companies trying to secure their workers’ data.

He envisioned that this hypothetical device would let an employer access the texts, email and web browsing that happens on it, but they’d also be able to recover or wipe that data easily.

“I think there’s a lot of professionals who’d say, ‘Okay, if I know my stuff is going to get leaked, I’ll take that,’” Chen said. “Regulated industries like doctors and lawyers and people who make deals — for example, investment bankers — and government employees, I think they would love that. You don’t make it too fancy and you don’t make it too expensive, either.”

“I’m making this up as I go: Let’s say $199 or $150 a phone,” he added. “You could make it a very nice phone if you had very limited functionality, but it’s highly secure.”

So, would you buy this phone? Let us know in the poll below.

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • On Too Embarrassed to Ask, also hosted by Kara Swisher, we answer the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.

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