It's no secret that BlackBerry, the once-dominant smartphone heavyweight until it was lapsed by its contemporaries, has thrown in the towel in the hardware department. Last September, the company said that it would "end all internal hardware development" and shifted its focus to software development instead.
That's not to say the brand will cease appearing on hardware. The famous logo will still be plastered onto phones manufactured by TCL, the company where BlackBerry outsourced its brand to. This partnership birthed the DTEK lineup of Blackberry phones, most recently with the DTEK60, an Android-powered smartphone laden with high-end specs.
It seems like the DTEK60 won't be BlackBerry's last phone in the wild, as suggested by a teaser. A new phone nicknamed "Mercury" will take the brand forward, poised to be the last in-house-designed BlackBerry phone the world will ever see. Specs have not been disclosed as of yet, and the name Mercury may very well end up being scrapped when the phone is officially revealed. At this year's CES, TCL is showing off what's looking to be an Android phone with BlackBerry's signature QWERTY keyboard.
The phone in question is due for a more proper unveiling in this year's Mobile World Congress, rolling around late February.
"We look forward to unveiling details around this distinctly different and impressively designed BlackBerry smartphone around the Mobile World Congress timeframe next month," said Steve Cistulli, TCL Communication North America's president and general manager.
BlackBerry Mercury Features
TCL, while unable to provide pricing and availability information as of this time, did share three core features of the forthcoming BlackBerry handset.
There's the previously mentioned QWERTY keyboard, which also doubles as a trackpad and promises an alternative navigational input, a fingerprint scanner housed beneath the spacebar, and preloaded proprietary BlackBerry apps such as BlackBerry Messenger, Hub, and a DTEK app for greater convenience and security. On the DTEK50 and DTEK60, the DTEK app provided detailed information on how apps are accessing the user's data. It'll likely function similarly for the Mercury.
Thankfully, the phone will run Android 7.0 Nougat off the bat, adding to the very scant list of phones that come preloaded with Google's most recent OS.
Let's go back to that keyboard-slash-trackpad for a moment. The feature was previously seen on the BlackBerry Passport, but this time, it's poised to be more useful. Sure, the space taken up by the keyboard is slightly annoying — think of the screen real state that's occupied — but there's a tradeoff: Users can use the keyboard as an alternative navigational input. For example, users can swipe right, left, or scroll up and down when viewing webpages, lessening the need to do the same functions on the screen.
Ultimately, so little can be said of the Mercury as of this time that to declare its potential to reinvigorate the brand is simply guesswork, if not a haphazard forecast, but as it stands, the prototype has definitely piqued the interest of CES onlookers, one of them being Engadget, and it takes a lot for tech aficionados to get worked up over a phone.
What's your opinion of the BlackBerry Mercury? Can it push the company back on the radar? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!