With the Chinese smartphone maker TCL Communication introducing its first Blackberry-licensed phone with the physical keyboard that was long its key allure, fans of the pioneering email machine need not despair even though Blackberry Ltd may have exited the device business quite a few years ago.
TCL said that in addition to BlackBerry Ltd’s security and software, in order to give users more useable space for typing than a typical 5.5-inch all-touch smartphone, the KEYone combines a touch display with a physical keyboard.
The Canadian company – BlackBerry Ltd., had made sustained success with corporate users in the pre-smartphone era and as the world moved on to smartphones with other features, the company had shifted its focus on making the security software that was another key factor underpinning the Canadian company’s phenomenal success. In December, BlackBerry Ltd. cut the new brand-licensing deal with TCL.
While TCL gains a new brand to shore up its own flagging growth in smartphones, TCL gives BlackBerry a manufacturer that can still compete at global scale following a decade-long slide in BlackBerry sales, and these are the weaknesses of each of the companies that are helped to be addressed by the partnership.
“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,” said Alex Thurber, general manager of BlackBerry Ltd’s Mobility Solutions unit.
Ahead of the Mobile World Congress, Europe’s largest annual trade fair, the new BlackBerry KEYone smartphone was unveiled.
The appeal of TCL’s new product line is limited for the diehard fans of the device once known as the Crackberry by the hefty price that the first fruits of TCL’s new product line carries.
In line with premium phones from Apple, Samsung and Huawei, the KEYone will be available in April and priced around 599 euros, $549 or 499 pounds.
Out of the 160 countries that TCL sells its phones in, the company did not specify which would be first to offer the KEYone.
According to recent data from research group IDC, TCL is ranked as the world’s No. 7 phone maker and is best known as the maker of Alcatel handsets. According to market research firm Strategy Analytics, it is the third-largest maker of simpler, so-called feature phones popular in Latin America and emerging markets.
TCL has now licenses the phone brand and gives the Canadian company a cut of each handset sold and it has acted as contract manufacturer for earlier BlackBerry devices.
The device runs Android 7.1 receives Google security patch updates, which many Android smartphones lack and gives users access to the Google Play store and apps.
Earlier this month BlackBerry had said that it would available for software developers to build into their own products the BBM secure-messaging system, and the new device by TCL would also run that messaging system.
With a scratch-resistant 4.5-inch screen display, the device sports two cameras – 12 megapixels in the rear and eight in front and has an aluminum frame and textured backing.
(Adapted from Reuters)