A joint presentation between BlackBerry and TCL reintroduced us to the Mercury with a new name and additional details.
The KeyOne, as it’s now called, will go on sale this April throughout the world.
BlackBerry’s third device since signing an agreement for TCL to develop hardware became officially official with a name, specifications, a release window, and a price. You’re right if you say you’ve already seen this phone. The KeyOne debuted at CES 2017 under a different name. Now both companies are ready to tell you exactly what its phone is all about.
While every other company in the mobile industry continues implementing on-screen keyboards, BlackBerry is letting TCL embrace its history. The KeyOne does have a touch-enabled screen with on-screen navigation buttons, but a full physical keyboard is present as well. It’s actually the method of text communication that they want you to use. After all, if you didn’t care for physical keyboards you wouldn’t be buying this phone or even consider it.
That physical keyboard isn’t without its own advantages by the way. It’s touch-sensitive! So you can run your fingers all over it for navigation and, with support for assignments and gestures, quick access to different apps and services.
Let’s put physical keyboard aside for a moment to acknowledge the rest of this device. Like previous devices from the brand, TCL managed to create a phone that looks truly unique. You’re not going to see the KeyOne and think it’s similar to anything else on the market. The build quality is premium as a soft-grip textured back and a metal frame creates the body’s exterior.
Software has always been BlackBerry’s strong suit, at least for enterprise consumers. The KeyOne ships with everything the DTEK 50 and DTEK 60 offer. BlackBerry Hub is on this phone. It’s the central hub for productivity on BlackBerry devices — Calendar, Password Keeper, Contacts, Device Search, Notes, Tasks, BlackBerry Launcher, and more. BlackBerry’s software sits atop Android 7.1 Nougat in stock-like form.
When it comes to hardware, TCL didn’t exactly blow anyone away. But the people who are being targeted to buy the KeyOne likely don’t need high-end specifications. It features a 4.5-inch Full HD display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage (with a microSD card slot), a 12MP rear camera that is the same one the Google Pixel has, a 3505mAh battery with fast charging, and a USB-C port.
The BlackBerry KeyOne will become available globally in April for $549; however, there’s no word yet on which carriers and retailers plan on offering the device. We know for sure that it’s an unlocked GSM phone and thus both Verizon and Sprint customers will not be able to buy and use the KeyOne properly.
BlackBerry and TCL are going to need a number of strong distribution partners if they expect to bring the brand back to life.