Last BlackBerry-designed phone with physical keyboard to hit stores
TORONTO — Fans of BlackBerry’s classic physical keyboard will have reason to celebrate when the last product designed in part by the former smartphone leader becomes available in April.
The Waterloo-based firm played a role in developing the KEYone, named for the return of the QWERTY keyboard that other smartphone designers have mostly long retired.
“BlackBerry did have something to say about the industrial design,” said Steve Cistulli, president of the North American division of TCL Communication Technology Hold- ings Ltd. (TCT).
Cistulli said TCT will manufac- ture and sell the smartphone in Canada and several other countries as part of its partnership with BlackBerry.
The deal allows the company to design, manufacture and sell BlackBerry-branded smartphones that operate using the technology firm’s security software. BlackBerry receives a commission for each phone sold.
While the KEYone is the first phone to hit the market under this partnership, Cistulli indicated BlackBerry will no longer play a design role in any future products.
BlackBerry CEO John Chen said last September the company was exiting the hardware business, which struggled with profitability as Apple and others dominated the market, to focus on its growing security software operations.
The KEYone features a 4.5-inch touch screen, fingerprint sensor and rear- and front-facing cameras. It comes with a microSD slot that can extend its built-in memory by up to two terabytes and claims to be able to recharge up to 50 per cent in about 36 minutes.
Cistulli could not provide an exact price for Canadians, but it will retail south of the border for US$549 and he anticipates Canadians will likely pay that plus the exchange rate — roughly C$720.
The company expects it will be sold by most Canadian wireless carriers as well as online.
TCT will likely release at least one more BlackBerry-branded phone this year, and will determine the rollout for the next two or three phones once it sees how the market is doing, he said. TCT unveiled the KEYone at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
The BlackBerry Mercury is shown in a handout photo. The KEYone will also feature a classic keyboard.