BlackBerry phones will live on for die-hard fans in Indonesia

An Indonesian company is planning to introduce its own version of the BlackBerry for users who want to continue using a keyboard-equipped device.
An Indonesian company is planning to introduce its own version of the BlackBerry for users who want to continue using a keyboard-equipped device.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG/COLE BURSTON

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - BlackBerry may have decided to stop making its iconic handsets, but that doesn't mean the gadgets will disappear, especially in places where they're still popular. Case in point: an Indonesian wireless company is already hatching plans to introduce its own version of the keyboard-equipped smartphone for those who can't live without the device.

Tiphone Mobile Indonesia, an affiliate of operator Telekomunikasi Indonesia Persero, has struck the first deal with BlackBerry to form a local joint venture called BB Merah Putih to make its devices in Indonesia. While the Canadian company is shifting its focus to software, Indonesia remains one of BlackBerry's biggest markets. BlackBerry in the past launched dedicated phones and apps for the Indonesian market, home to 240 million people.

Under the preliminary deal, Blackberry phones will be manufactured at a factory owned by a subsidiary of Tiphone Mobile for domestic sales, said Tan Lie Pin, Tiphone's chief executive officer. Another local company is in talks to join the venture and details are being negotiated, she said in an interview.

"More than six million people still use BlackBerry in Indonesia and we believe that BlackBerry can still grow in the Indonesian market," Mr Tan said. "We are very optimistic and excited."

BlackBerry CEO John Chen said this week the company would stop making phones and focus its attention on the more profitable and growing software business. The company plans to negotiate manufacturing agreements with multiple overseas partners. While Tan said Tiphone will manufacture phones for the Indonesian market, discussions on the venture are continuing with BlackBerry.

BlackBerry's popularity in Indonesia stems from its hugely popular instant-messaging app, BlackBerry Messenger, known as BBM. Many Indonesians still stick to BBM in order to connect with their curated groups of friends and family, even though some of them no longer use BlackBerry devices.

BBM for iOS and Android devices ranked No. 1 in terms of downloads among chat apps in Indonesia in August, ahead of rival WhatsApp and Line, according to market researcher App Annie. Emtek Group, one of Indonesia's biggest media and technology companies, signed a licensing agreement with BlackBerry in June in order to bring video content onto BBM and begin developing new applications and services for the messaging app.