The latest BlackBerry-licensed smartphone, the KEYone, is now on sale in the United States after being launched by China’s TCL Communications on May 31.
TCL, which licenses the BlackBerry name and produces the new handsets, is selling the devices online through Amazon.com, at select Best Buy stores or through BestBuy.com.
The BlackBerry KEYone is available in two unlocked versions for U.S. customers—a GSM model for use on networks such as AT&T or T-Mobile and a CDMA version for use on networks such as Verizon, according to TCL. A version that will run on Sprint’s network is expected later this summer.
The KEYone includes a 4.5-inch IPS LCD touch-screen display (1620 x 1080 resolution) which is covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 4, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core 2.0 GHz processor, 64-bit Adreno 506 graphics processor, 3GB of memory, 32GB of onboard storage and a hot-swappable microSD memory card slot for additional storage.
The phone, which has an aluminum frame and has a soft textured rear cover, runs on the Android 7.1 Nougat mobile operating system. The KEYone is 5.8 inches long, 2.8 inches wide, 0.37 inches thick and weighs 6.34 ounces.
For security, the phone runs BlackBerry’s DTEK security systems to protect against malware threats and to provide live warnings when a user’s privacy is threatened. The KEYone will also receive regular monthly Android security updates to keep the device secure for users.
The handset also features a 12-megapixel auto-focus rear camera with 4K video recording at 30 fps, Phase Detect Auto Focus and an HDR 6-element f2.0 lens, and a front-facing 8MP fixed-focus camera with an f2.2 lens.
The handset’s physical keyboard, the defining feature for BlackBerry handsets and a favorite with many business users for many years—includes a Smart Keyboard capability that offers contextual auto-correction, next-word prediction and a personalized learning engine that gets to know how users type, according to TCL.
The Smart Keyboard can be set up to use 52 customizable shortcuts, transforming each letter key to provide quick access to favorite apps and contacts. Also included are touch navigation features which let users quickly scroll through web pages or emails as you would with a track pad.
Also included is “flick typing,” which accelerates predictive typing by giving users the ability to “flick” words onto the device’s screen as they type. The keyboard also includes an embedded fingerprint sensor in the spacebar for device security.
The 4G LTE smartphone also includes WiFi, Bluetooth and Near-Field Communication connectivity options, a 3,505mAh non-removable lithium battery and quick-charging, as well as a USB Type-C port.
BlackBerry’s approach toward smartphones is quite different today than a decade ago, when it was still the clear leader in enterprise mobile devices. BlackBerry’s fall from dominating the enterprise smartphone market was swift and stunning. In early 2006, before the first iPhones appeared from Apple, half of all smartphones sold were BlackBerry models. By 2009, though, its share of the global smartphone market was down to 20 percent.
Then in September of 2016 the company announced it was dropping its production and sales of handsets to focus on its mobile security services, while licensing its handset designs and production to third-party manufacturers.
A month later, in October of 2016, BlackBerry announced its first licensing agreement for its then-new DTEK60 Android phone, which is also being built and sold by TCL.
The $499 DTEK60 is a high-security handset which includes a 5.5-inch quad HD display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of memory, 32GB of on-board storage, a 21-megapixel auto-focus rear camera, an 8-megapixel front camera, a fingerprint reader, BlackBerry’s Intelligent Keyboard and a 3,000mAh rechargeable battery.