BlackBerry has forged a partnership with TCL to push its Android hardware forward. We've seen a few phones come out of this association so far, but they've been recycled Alcatel designs. The KEYone is all new and all BlackBerry. This phone was pre-announced as the Mercury, but now it's official and coming to the US and Canada in "early Q2" and elsewhere shortly thereafter.

Here are the specs for BlackBerry's latest smartphone. We don't have all the details yet, but these are the basics.

Specs

SoC Snapdragon 625
Display 4.5-inch 1620x1080
Battery 3505mAh with Quick Charge 3.0
Camera 12MP, 8MP
Software Android 7.1.1 with Blackberry Hub

The centerpiece of the KEYone is the BlackBerry-style keyboard, which takes up the bottom of the device. That's why it has a smaller screen with an odd resolution (it's a 3:2 ratio). The keyboard will certainly make some BB fans happy, and it's backlit, which is neat. BlackBerry says the keyboard actually gives you more overall space when inputting text than you'd have on a standard 5.5-inch smartphone with an on-screen keyboard. There's also a fingerprint sensor built into the space bar, which is super-clever.

The KEYone will launch with Android 7.1.1 and BlackBerry's light customizations. The UI will be mostly stock. It includes the DTEK security monitoring suite, as well as the Hub apps. The device will also support custom app shortcuts triggered by the keyboard. For example, you could launch Maps by pressing M on the keyboard.

The KEYone will sell unlocked for $549. That's maybe a little high, but you don't have a lot of options for phones with a keyboard. There will also be some carrier deals, but no details on that are available right now.

Press Release

BARCELONA – February 25, 2017 – Today, TCL Communication, a leading global smartphone manufacturer, unveiled a new BlackBerry smartphone to the world – the BlackBerry KEYone. This launch represents the first BlackBerry smartphone released from TCL Communication under a new brand licensing agreement signed in December 2016 with BlackBerry Limited. Offering users all the great smartphone features you’d expect – like great camera, display and design – in a distinctly different experience, the KEYone pairs the best of BlackBerry Limited’s software and security with TCL Communication’s commitment to delivering high-quality, reliable smartphones to customers around the world. The BlackBerry KEYone will be available globally beginning in April and will be priced at or under €599 EUR/£499 GBP/$549 USD.

“Impressively designed to be distinctly different, the BlackBerry KEYone reimagines how we communicate by offering unmatched productivity and the world’s most secure Android smartphone experience,” said Nicolas Zibell, CEO for TCL Communication. “We’re humbled to play such an important role in the future of BlackBerry smartphones, which have been so iconic in our industry, and we’re eager to prove to the BlackBerry community that their excitement around this new BlackBerry smartphone is something they can be proud of as well.”

“We want to congratulate TCL Communications on the launch of KEYone,” said Alex Thurber, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Mobility Solutions for BlackBerry. “We have worked closely with TCL to build security and the BlackBerry experience into every layer of KEYone, so the BlackBerry DNA remains very much in place. We couldn’t be more excited to help bring it to market and introduce it to BlackBerry fans.”

DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT

Tucked into an anodized aluminum frame and soft touch textured back, this new BlackBerry smartphone is built to offer the best in durability while still remaining easy on the eyes. Featuring a 4.5-inch display (1620x1080 resolution / 434 PPI 3:2 aspect ratio) with Corning ® Gorilla® Glass 4 that offers greater impact and scratch resistance, the KEYone combines a touch display with a physical keyboard to give users more useable space for typing than a typical 5.5-inch all-touch smartphone.

With BlackBerry KEYone, you can forget what you knew about keyboards. The device’s Smart Keyboard responds to touch gestures mimicking the heritage of the BlackBerry trackpad making web browsing, reading emails and writing messages with flick typing a much smoother and intuitive experience. This Smart Keyboard can also be easily programmed to launch up to 52 customizable shortcuts, such as pressing “I” for your inbox or “M” to access maps; providing even greater ease of use. In addition, KEYone is the first smartphone to provide the security of a fingerprint sensor built directly into the keyboard spacebar, for added functionality and security.

DISTINCTLY BLACKBERRY

Beyond the iconic BlackBerry design that’s been curated for the modern user, the BlackBerry KEYone comes with a number of features and security enhancements making this smartphone distinctly BlackBerry. Out of the box, the device runs Android 7.1 – giving users access to the entire Google Play store and apps - and will
receive Google security patch updates. It comes loaded with BlackBerry Hub®, bringing all your messages into one consolidated place; including emails, texts and messages from any social media account. Another benefit of BlackBerry Hub, is the ability to manage multiple email accounts without switching between apps, with support for Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook, Microsoft Exchange accounts, and many other IMAP and POP3 email providers.

What really sets a BlackBerry smartphone apart from any other Android device are the enhanced security features built into every device right from the start. From a hardened operating system to BlackBerry Limited’s proprietary technique for establishing a hardware root of trust adding security keys to the processor, the
BlackBerry KEYone is intentionally designed to offer the most secure Android smartphone experience possible. This device comes pre-loaded with DTEK™ by BlackBerry, offering constant security monitoring and protection of your operating system and apps by letting you know when your privacy could be at risk and how you can take action to improve it. A quick glimpse lets you see the overall security rating for your device and provides simple access allowing you to easily improve your security status. This BlackBerry security application monitors your other apps, alerting you if one is accessing your camera to take a picture or video, turning your microphone on, sending a text message, or accessing your contacts or location.

THE BLACKBERRY KEYONE EXPERIENCE

Beyond the design and security features making the BlackBerry KEYone so distinct, these additional features truly reinvent mobile communications for the business and enterprise user. At the core of this new BlackBerry smartphone is the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 625 mobile platform with the Qualcomm® Adreno™ 506 GPU. This means BlackBerry KEYone users will enjoy long battery life thanks to more efficient battery usage and fast LTE speeds for super-fast file sharing. It includes Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0 technology, making it possible for the 3505 mAh battery on the KEYone – the largest ever in a BlackBerry device, to receive up to 50 percent charge in roughly 36 minutes. And for when you only have a few moments to grab a fast charge, BlackBerry’s Boost can turbo charge your battery to get you the most charge with the limited time you have.

“We are proud to be working with TCL on the BlackBerry KEYone,” said Enrico Salvatori, senior vice president and president, Qualcomm EMEA. “The Snapdragon 625 mobile platform with X9 LTE and the Adreno 506 GPU is purpose-built for users who demand superior performance and connectivity coupled with outstanding battery-life.”

The BlackBerry KEYone experience would not be complete though without a great camera. That’s why it includes a 12MP rear camera with the industry leading Sony IMX378 camera sensor. With a large pixel size(1.55μm) and Phase Detect Auto Focus, moments captured on the BlackBerry KEYone will be ultra crisp and clear. And for when you have to take a video conference on the go, it includes an 8MP front camera with fixed focus and 84-degree wide angle lens.

 

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