Phone brands

Nokia, BlackBerry, Palm — We should stop trying to revive dead phone brands

The old is the new new. This is an adage that has proven itself in several industries. Fashion, for example, always comes full circle. Volkswagen’s revival of the classic camper van is another example of the enduring appeal of certain ideas. But an idea is not representative of a brand as a whole.

A brand is the sum of its successes and failures.

A brand is made up of many ideas, some successful, some failed, and some past their sell-by date. The tech industry, for all its push into the future, has time and again tried to revive brands that are dying, dead or well past their glory days. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found a single example where this really worked.

The most recent example of a failed attempt to revive a brand is Onward Mobility’s affair with BlackBerry. The company announced plans to rebuild BlackBerry in 2020. Two years later, there’s no phone in sight, and Onward Mobility has closed its doors. Nor is he the first to make this attempt.

To go back in time: Dead or alive? This is what happens with BlackBerry

BlackBerry, for young people here, is famous for having released “an Apple” when the iPhone was only a dream. The Canadian manufacturer has built its business around the BlackBerry Messenger service. The chat application, launched in 2005, allowed users to share texts, photos, voice notes and even make calls. If it sounds a bit like iMessage, you’re not mistaken.

BlackBerry Messenger was the glue that kept users glued to BlackBerry phones.

Like iMessage and iPhones, BBM was exclusive to BlackBerry users until 2013. The chat service helped BlackBerry gain and, more importantly, retain millions of users. Of course, that advantage was quickly squandered when the company took too long to transition to the modern BlackBerry 10 platform. In a world of iPhones and Android devices, the older BlackBerry operating system n didn’t stand a chance despite the company’s last ditch efforts to extend BBM to Android and iOS.

When BlackBerry’s parent company Research In Motion finally decided to shut down, it spun off the brand name to TCL, Optiemus Infracom and others. Unfortunately, these companies failed to realize that BlackBerry’s real appeal lay in the then-unique chat service, as well as a form factor designed around communication.

Although a few attempts were made to bring back keyboard-driven design, it was simply too late. Android-based tracking phones were entirely devoid of the BlackBerry soul, and with the company having completely disabled consumer chat services, these phones were BlackBerry devices in name only. The failure was obvious.

The gimmicky Palm companion device had nothing to do with Palm’s heritage as the creator of the modern smartphone interface.

It’s the same story with Palm. Palm’s legacy lies in the wide range of personal digital assistants it has developed. Founded in 1992, the company defined what a smartphone should be and paved the way for modern interfaces when it launched WebOS in 2009. The Palm Pre debuted that year and introduced the world’s first multitasking smartphone. in the world. Its legacy lives on in the map and swipe-based interfaces we’re so used to on iPhones and Android devices these days.

Like BlackBerry, Palm has also gone through a few hands. HP took over the name in 2010 but soon sold it to TCL following the spectacular failure of the WebOS-based TouchPad tablet. And again, TCL hasn’t acknowledged what makes Palm special.

Palm Phone Review

Palm’s attempted relaunch was a bite-sized, crowd-funded smartphone that played on the company’s name. The, ahem, palm-sized phone was designed as a companion for larger phones. In fact, at launch it could only be used when paired with a second device. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the market size for such a product is miniscule at best. This plan to revitalize a business-focused brand as a palm-sized accessory was dead in the water before it launched. It’s been radio silence since 2019.

Our opinion: Palm Phone review: just buy a smartphone

Time and time again it has been proven that it is nearly impossible to resurrect a brand solely on the merit of its name. The refreshed BlackBerry and Palm had little to do with the original devices and what made them great. While it’s obvious that the new owners are playing on nostalgia, the BlackBerry or Palm brands have never really been about hardware.

Instead, it was the apps and services that came with it that were the selling point. By 2016, BlackBerry Messenger was no longer relevant enough to be a selling point for potential BlackBerry users. Meanwhile, the newest Palm phone was just a generic compact phone designed for a market that didn’t exist.

HMD Global Nokia C2 2nd Edition corner in hand

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

It may not have set the flagship world on fire, but cookie-cutter budget phones with a light dash of Nokia magic are a valid business strategy. It might not be the Nokia everyone wanted, and it certainly isn’t the Nokia we were promised, but the company still delivers well-built and reasonably reliable hardware. I can live with that.

The Nokia 8110 4G.

That said, it’s not a strategy that needed the Nokia brand behind it. The only “Nokia thing” about the reinvention is a litany of feature phones that replicate past designs. HMD completely failed to capitalize on the original brand’s use of interesting materials, innovative designs, groundbreaking features, and cutting-edge cameras.

HMD’s struggles with flagships and updates have not helped Nokia’s brand legacy.

In fact, aside from feature phones, HMD’s Nokia is just a steady stream of generic Android hardware. It may have taken a little longer, but I’m sure HMD could have achieved its mediocre success without the need for the Nokia brand. Going further, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that HMD’s struggles with flagship hardware and software updates have done the legacy of the Nokia brand a disservice.

Our opinion: Five years later, HMD Global’s handling of Nokia is a story of wasted potential

Making a smartphone is hard, and nostalgia can only get you so far. Building a business tied to the legendary legacy of a former giant can only work when brands recognize what made these phones so successful. Tapping on a popular brand name on a generic Android smartphone can be a low hanging fruit, but it’s also the easiest way to kill off a brand’s legacy – something we’ve seen time and time again. times. A brand revival can only work if it fills a gap in the market. More often than not, brands cease to exist precisely because they no longer serve any purpose, which makes a return even more difficult.

Maybe it’s time to let dead brands stay dead instead of destroying their legacy in the name of an easy grab on the cash.