The latest Android smartphone from BlackBerry, the KEYone, is set to hit the market in the U.S. and Canada on May 31, according to device manufacturer TCL. Like the classic BlackBerry devices, the KEYone will feature a physical keyboard below the 4.5-inch front display. However, rather than running on BlackBerry’s own operating system, the KEYone is built on Android 7.1 Nougat.
Pre-ordering will be available in Canada first, while buyers in the U.S. can pre-register now to receive updates and offers ahead of the KEYone’s release. An unlocked version of the phone will be priced starting at $549 in the U.S. In 2015, BlackBerry released the Priv, its first Android smartphone, as part of its shift away from its proprietary operating system.
‘Smart’ Keyboard with Shortcuts
“Anyone who is an Android loyalist and values the mobile security and productivity that BlackBerry software brings will love this smartphone,” BlackBerry’s general manager of mobility solutions Alex Thurber said in a statement released today.
The BlackBerry KEYone will feature an aluminum frame and a touch display made of Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The company said the “smart” physical keyboard will offer contextual auto-correction and next-word prediction capabilities, as well as up to 52 customizable shortcuts that can provide users with one-key access to apps and contacts.
The phone also comes with a personalized learning engine that “gets to know the way you type with on screen flick typing,” BlackBerry said.
First Product of New Licensing Strategy
Unveiled in February at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the KEYone is the first smartphone to come out under a new brand- and device-licensing strategy announced by BlackBerry in September.
That strategy marks BlackBerry’s “first significant step toward leading as a software company” rather than as a hardware development company, chief operating officer Ralph Pini wrote in a blog post last year.
“This is what the future looks like for our business, and it is the right move as we progress towards profitability,” Pini noted. “This will enable our resources to focus all efforts on providing state-of-the-art security software for devices and the enterprise of things, as well as work on other critical areas of the company.”
Based in China, TCL Communication Technology Holdings announced its plans to develop mobile devices for BlackBerry and other companies in January at the CES 2017 in Las Vegas. TCL said its first smartphone for BlackBerry would focus on three key features: security, productivity and reliability.
Other features of the KEYone include a 3505 mAh battery, which Thurber said is “the largest ever in a BlackBerry device,” a combination of Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 and Adreno 506 GPU processors, and BlackBerry’s DTEK security app for “constant security monitoring.” It also comes with a 12MP rear camera and an 8MP front camera.