BlackBerry ends partnership with T-Mobile following iPhone promo feud


In a rare, but perhaps not-so-surprising move, BlackBerry announced late last night that it will not renew the T-Mobile (US) license to sell its products when it expires later this month, effectively ending the 10 year (or longer) partnership between the two companies.

The announcement comes after a spat broke out between the sides following the carrier’s iPhone offer that suggested BlackBerry users trade-in their phones for Apple handsets. T-Mobile tried to reconcile the matter with the Canadian firm, but it obviously didn’t work….

As a quick refresher, here’s the ad that kickstarted this whole feud:

tmobile iphone

And here’s an excerpt from BlackBerry CEO John Chen’s response to the ad:

“I want to thank our loyal customers for your commitment to BlackBerry. By expressing your outrage directly to T-Mobile ‎through tweets, calls and comments in the media and on blog posts, you sent a powerful message that T-Mobile could not ignore. […]

I can assure you that we are outraged too. What puzzles me more is that T-Mobile did not speak with us before or after they launched this clearly inappropriate and ill-conceived marketing promotion.”

Following that blog post, T-Mobile announced that it would be offering a $200 credit towards the purchase of a new device to all BlackBerry users, and an additional $50 for those getting new BB handsets. Some saw it as an insult to the company, but it was still a good offer.

But not good enough apparently. Here’s the press release regarding the split:

Waterloo, ON – BlackBerry® Limited (NASDAQ: BBRY; TSX: BB), a world leader in mobile communications, today announced that it will not renew the T-Mobile U.S., Inc. license to sell BlackBerry products when it expires on April 25, 2014.

BlackBerry customers on the T-Mobile network should not see any difference in their service or support.  BlackBerry will work closely with T-Mobile to provide the best possible customer service to any customer remaining on the T-Mobile U.S. network or to any customer purchasing devices from T-Mobile’s existing inventory. 

BlackBerry is also working closely with other carrier partners to provide consumers and business users with alternatives should they decide to transition to another carrier and remain with BlackBerry for their long-term device and service needs.  For additional details, offers and assistance, business customers and consumers can go to 

“BlackBerry has had a positive relationship with T-Mobile for many years.  Regretfully, at this time, our strategies are not complementary and we must act in the best interest of our BlackBerry customers.  We hope to work with T-Mobile again in the future when our business strategies are aligned,” said BlackBerry CEO and Executive Chair, John Chen.  “We are deeply grateful to our loyal BlackBerry customers and will do everything in our power to provide continued support with your existing carrier or ensure a smooth transition to our other carrier partners.

I can’t remember the last time a handset manufacturer publicly cut ties with a carrier over a disagreement, so it’s a bold move to be sure. But, with BlackBerry’s user base just a small fraction that it once was, I’m not sure this will send the intended message to T-Mobile.

As for T-Mobile, it hasn’t publicly commented on the announcement yet. But it’s been several months now since the company offered BlackBerry devices in its US retail stores, so it’s hard to imagine that this change will have much, if any, impact on its core business.

So what do you think about all of this? Smart move or dumb move on BlackBerry’s part?