With CES 2017 fully underway, TCL used this opportunity to preview the fruits of their licensing deal with BlackBerry – an as of now unnamed Android smartphone with a physical keyboard.
Curiously, TCL has not revealed much information at all about this phone – no specifications or even a name were given. The company is opting to instead wait until Mobile World Congress to unveil further details about the phone. Today, all we’ve been given is a teaser press release video of the new device, which at least gives us an idea of what the phone will look like.
Previous leaks have uncovered that the device is code named Mercury, although again TCL has yet to reveal the official name. In the video, the device looks fairly unconventional, what with its sleek metallic body, the soft touch dimpled back, and most importantly the physical keyboard plastered the front.
Yes, a device in 2017 will have a physical keyboard. And unlike previous iterations of physical keyboards on smart devices, this unnamed BlackBerry device will not feature a slide-in form factor – providing a sleeker design at the cost of some screen real estate. The BlackBerry device will also have a fingerprint scanner which is cleverly hidden as the spacebar key. You also retain the navigational swipe gestures on the physical keyboard interestingly enough. The phone, like most flagship smartphones these days, utilizes a USB Type-C port for data transfer and charging. BlackBerry has also shied away from removing the headphone jack like some competitors, thankfully.
Along with the physical keyboard, the main draw of the unnamed BlackBerry phone would be its security suite. This would include apps that form part of BlackBerry’s Android experience like BlackBerry Hub. TCL would naturally be pitching the secure Android experience as an alternative to Samsung’s KNOX and other competitors, hoping to fill the needs of a corporate environment.
We haven’t seen a physical keyboard on a flagship smartphone in quite a bit of time thanks to the proliferation of touchscreen keyboards. However, if there’s one brand that can revive the physical keyboard – it’s definitely BlackBerry. We’ll be waiting for Mobile World Congress 2017 to learn more about the specifications and pricing for the device.