BlackBerry launches the KEYone with QWERTY keyboard and Android Nougat OS

BlackBerry KEYnote launched at MWC

BlackBerry recently launched a new device on saturday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The BlackBerry KEYone would be running on the latest Android Nougat. The KEYone has been previously codenamed Mercury.

BlackBerry manufactured the KEYone with its new hardware manufacturer Chinese TCL. This new device is targeted at those who like physical keyboard and BlackBerry security features. The smartphone will be going global as early as April worldwide, selling at $549 but first will be sold online, BlackBerry officials said.

BlackBerry is well known with smartphones with built-in QWERTY keyboards. The company’s first Android smartphone, the Priv, had a slide-out keyboard. As in case of KeyOne, this phone too features a physical QWERTY keyboard but without a Priv-like slider.

At an event days before the start of the Mobile World Congress trade show, TCL officials called the KEYone the world's most secure Android phone. It will run Android 7.1 but will add on traditional BlackBerry security, including an on-phone security tool called DTEK.

This is the third version of DTEK, it lets a user check if apps running meet the security permissions authorized by the phone user. If the app is trying to access some features on the phone like the user's camera to grab a picture or turning on the phone's microphone, the user would be alerted of such actions by the app.

TCL's goal is to make BlackBerry more attractive in the US and Canada,  improving the BlackBerry market share in the US from 1% to 3% by 2020 and beefing up Canada's current market share from 5% to 10%, Cistulli said.

"We'll compete directly with Apple and Samsung," he said, making mention the top two smartphone makers in the world. TCL will start by taking the KEYone directly to BlackBerry customers, who number about 275 million globally.

The keyboard comes with some special features, similar to the BlackBerry Passport. Each can be customized to create up to 52 shortcuts with all keys on the keyboard. Like you can press the "F" key to open Facebook. There’s a fingerprint scanner built into the space bar, and with dragging your finger across the physical keys, you can scroll to new screens on your phone. Above the keys, below the display, there’s the traditional Android trio of capacitive buttons.

BlackBerry is also working on the security with the KeyOne, launching the phone with Android 7.1 and committing to issuing Google’s monthly security patches. Among BlackBerry mainstays like BBM and the BlackBerry Hub, the KeyOne comes with the same BlackBerry DTEK software pre-loaded on TCL’s earlier BlackBerry devices; it monitors the phone’s status, analyzes how secure it is, and gives you granular control over how services are able to use its functions.

Even with the special features of the hardware and software new KEYone and all the security claims behind it, Cistulli conceded that the toughest challenge will be marketing the device in a crowded and competitive smartphone market.

"Marketing is the next challenge," he said. "We'll take it that we walk before we run."

Here are some Specifications of the KEYone;


Processor: Although KEYone is a high-end phone and looks very premium, it uses Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, which is usually meant for mainstream phones. For example, the Redmi  Note 4 uses the same processor.


Internal storage: 32GB. Option to add a microSD card of up to 2TB has been provided.

Screen: The KEYone has a 4.5-inch screen with FullHD (1080) display. Although the exact resolution is 1620x1080 that is lower than what we associate with FullHD (1920 X 1080).

Rear camera: The KEYone uses a 12-megapixel camera. BlackBerry says the image sensor behind the camera has large pixels, which should help the phone click good photos even in low light. Interestingly, this seems to be the same camera that is inside Google Pixel phones. So, the KEYone could be one of the best when it comes to clicking photos. The phone has a lens with aperture of F2.0.

Front camera: 8-megapixel camera with F2.2 aperture lens

Weight: 180 grams, which is on the heavier side.

Software: Android Nougat customized with BlackBerry's security-related tweaks.

Battery: 3,505 mAh with quick charging. BlackBerry calls the feature "boost," which puts the phone in battery saving mode while charging, so it charges even faster.

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