by Agence France-Presse
Chinese electronics company TCL unveiled its first BlackBerry-licensed smartphone Saturday, bringing back the device’s signature physical keyboard. The KEYone phone has a larger screen than previous BlackBerry devices and a fast charging battery as TCL sets its sights on businesses and tries to rekindle BlackBerry’s strong reputation for productivity and security.
TCL reached the brand-licensing deal in December after the Canadian company announced that it would halt in-house production of smartphones, marking the end of an era for the once-dominant tech firm. Under the agreement, BlackBerry will remain in control of software and security on smartphones, while TCL will handle creating handsets powered by Google Android software.
Officials from both firms unvailed the KEYone in Barcelona in northeastern Spain ahead of the start on Monday of the four-day Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest annual phone expo. BlackBerry worked closely with TCL to build security into the new device, said Alex Thurber, the general manager of BlackBerry’s mobility solutions unit. BlackBerry’s physical keyboard was one of the drivers of the popularity of its earlier phones but it was dropped once touch screens became popular.
The company in 2014 launched a “Classic” smartphone that brought back the keyboard but the device was discontinued in July. In the new Blackberry phone the keyboard can be used for more than just typing. The spacebar on the keyboard also doubles as a fingerprint sensor while individual letter keys can be programmed as shortcuts to open speficic apps.
BlackBerry once dominated the smartphone market but its luster faded after the introduction in 2007 of the Apple iPhone and the large number of low-cost Android devices that followed.