Can BlackBerry make a comeback? T-Mobile CEO thinks so

T-Mobile CEO John Legere and COO Mike Sievert share their thoughts on the wireless world via a word association game.

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Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
2 min read

T-Mobile CEO John Legere sees a light at the end of the tunnel for BlackBerry.

Sarah Tew/CNET

T-Mobile CEO John Legere doesn't believe struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry is down for the count.

"On a comeback," Legere said last week when asked his thoughts on BlackBerry.

The words of support, rare at a time when many are skeptical about BlackBerry's prospects, represent a remarkable turnaround between two companies that severed ties during a spat in 2014. The pair started to make up earlier this year when T-Mobile customers were given the chance to buy a BlackBerry Classic in May.

BlackBerry, which has seen its smartphone sales plunge over the last several years, this month released the Priv , its first smartphone powered by Google's Android software. AT&T is the first US carrier to sell the device.

"While we don't carry the Priv right now, we may have something to report soon," a T-Mobile spokeswoman said. "We are definitely talking with BlackBerry."

BlackBerry is pleased with the support. "I'm energized about our renewed relationship with T-Mobile and I'm excited about what 2016 will bring we continue to move forward together," BlackBerry CEO John Chen said Sunday in an e-mail.

Legere's response about BlackBerry was the most insightful answer to come out of a word association game that he and Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert played with CNET last week. Legere held back his well-known sarcasm in most of his responses, instead letting his lieutenant take on the role of heavy.

His response on Verizon? "Red." His suggestion for Sprint? "School bus."

That's a far cry from the first time Legere played the word association game with CNET in September 2014 when he said AT&T "sucks" and Verizon was "worse."

Sievert, however, was the candid one this time. In this latest round, he called AT&T "greedy" and said Sprint was "in a tough spot."

Watch this: T-Mobile CEO thinks BlackBerry is poised for a comeback

AT&T declined to comment. Sprint couldn't be reached for comment.

On Net neutrality, the principle of equal treatment of Internet traffic, Legere responded "supportive." That response comes in the context of critics who assert that T-Mobile is hurting Net neutrality with its unlimited-streaming program Binge On, which kicked in Sunday.

Sievert answered "lots" in response to "spectrum," the radio frequencies critical to carrying YouTube videos, phone calls and text messages through the air. T-Mobile plans to participate in next year's government auction of spectrum, which could eventually boost its coverage.

While all of the carriers are busy finishing the deployment of their 4G networks, some are looking ahead to 5G. When asked about the next-generation wireless technology, Sievert said "2020."

On a lighter note, Legere is a well-known comic book fan. (He's previously said he believes he's Batman.) But Sievert apparently is not. He was stumped by Green Lantern. Sievert's response of "superhero" prompted Legere to quip, "You suck at this."

Legere revealed his abiding loyalties when asked about Superman. "He gets killed by Batman," Legere said.