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TCL

Phone launches typically run on a predictable cycle. A new Samsung Galaxy S phone launches in the first quarter, while new iPhones make their debut in September.

But BlackBerry Mobile, run by Chinese consumer electronics giant TCL, is bucking its usual trend this year and won't be launching a new flagship phone in the summer. Francois Mahieu, general manager of BlackBerry Mobile, said that a new version of its BlackBerry Key franchise won't appear for at least six months.

That means its existing Key2 will be on the market for at least 14 months, an unusually long time for a phone. TCL is keeping the line fresh with minor updates, like the introduction of a new red color and boost in storage on Sunday at the MWC Barcelona trade show.

Video: BlackBerry embraces color with the Key2 LE

"We don't want to throw out another BlackBerry for the sake of refreshing it," Mahieu said in an interview a day before the announcement.

BlackBerry Mobile isn't likely to start a trend -- after all, it remains a niche player as one of the few companies offering a phone with a physical keyboard -- but its move reflects a slowing market that's seen declining phone sales and consumers reluctant to upgrade as frequently as they did in the past. Mahieu insists BlackBerry is still growing, but notes that the marketplace is crowded. 

He also noted that BlackBerry customers -- like everyone else -- are hanging on to their phones longer. As such, he didn't feel the need to hit the annual upgrade deadline.

"If we're true to the brand and price segment we're in, we need to find the right driver for the next stage," Mahieu said. "What will make you upgrade?"

Mahieu wouldn't close the door on a new BlackBerry phone this year, so we could see one in the second half.

One key upgrade driver could be 5G, but Mahieu said in a prior interview that there won't be a BlackBerry running on next-generation wireless technology in 2019. He did keep the possibility alive for a 2020 5G BlackBerry though.

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BlackBerry Key2 (64GB, black)
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