BlackBerry Launches Leap All-Touch Smartphone

BlackBerry ditches the physical keyboard of its past smartphones and drops a surprise at Mobile World Congress--a new Leap smartphone that has an all-touch screen.

BlackBerry Leap, smartphone, MWC

BlackBerry has launched a surprise smartphone, the Leap, at Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona, introducing a new smartphone that replaces the traditional BlackBerry physical keypad with a touchscreen aimed at getting the company's devices into the hands of younger mobile professionals.

The Leap, which was announced March 3, includes a 5-inch HD display with 1280 x 720 resolution, the latest BlackBerry 10 OS 10.3.1 operating system, a Qualcomm MSM 8960 1.5GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of onboard flash storage (expandable up to 128GB via a micro SD card), and a 2800 mAh battery for long life. The Leap is built to run on 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks.

The Leap will retail for $275 unlocked when it becomes available in April through, according to BlackBerry.

The new smartphone also includes the enterprise security and management tools and features that are part of the continuing BlackBerry business mantra, with support for encryption, built-in malware protection and back-up, wipe and restore capabilities.

What sets the Leap apart is its design, which is very different from BlackBerry's two latest smartphone models, the Classic and the Passport. Both of those phones have traditional BlackBerry physical keyboards with individual and clickable small keys. The Leap takes BlackBerry into a different part of the market, where the company is working to attract younger users who are more acclimated to touchscreen devices that don't have physical keys.

The hope for BlackBerry is that younger professionals who are more attuned to touchscreen displays would consider the Leap when shopping for new devices like the latest touchscreen Apple iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S6 and other new smartphones. For BlackBerry, a key attraction with the Leap also has to be the smartphone's super-low price, which is less than half the cost of any of those competing models.

BlackBerry launched its $449 BlackBerry Classic in December 2014, just a few months after unveiling its $599 BlackBerry Passport smartphone for enterprise users in September 2014.

"In today's mobile world – influenced by trends like BYOD – where personal and corporate data are frequently under attack from hackers, companies and everyday consumers are finding out the hard way that mobile security is paramount," Ron Louks, the president of devices and emerging solutions at BlackBerry, said in a statement. "BlackBerry Leap was built specifically for mobile professionals who see their smartphone device as a powerful and durable productivity tool that also safeguards sensitive communications at all times."

The Leap also includes a built-in 8MP auto-focus rear camera with 5x digital zoom and 1080p HD video recording with video stabilization, as well as a front-mounted 2MP fixed-focus camera with 720p HD video recording and 3x digital zoom.

The Leap weighs 6 ounces and measures 5.67 inches in length, 2.87 inches in width and is .37 inches thick.

Several key BlackBerry applications are also included, such as BlackBerry Blend, which allows users to blend their messages and content from their BlackBerry smartphone to their computer and tablet devices. BlackBerry Blend works with Mac OS X 10.7 or newer, Windows 7 or newer and with Android tablets running at least Android 4.4, using cellular, USB or Wi-Fi connections. Also included is BlackBerry Assistant, a digital assistant that can be used with voice and text commands to help users manage work and personal email, contacts, calendar and other native BlackBerry 10 applications.

A wide range of apps for the BlackBerry Leap can be found in two app stores—BlackBerry World, which offers business and productivity apps including Box, Evernote, Cisco WebEx Meetings and Documents to Go, and the Amazon Appstore, where popular Android apps and games can be downloaded.