Home Mobile BlackBerry shows off ‘Mercury’ Android phone prototype with a full QWERTY keyboard

BlackBerry shows off ‘Mercury’ Android phone prototype with a full QWERTY keyboard

0
SHARE

In spite of the rough last couple of years, BlackBerry is not dead yet. In fact, it’s trying something completely different to remain alive. BlackBerry announced recently that it would partner with phone manufacturer TCL for all its hardware, while it provides the software. The first few examples of this partnership were just re-branded Alcatel phones (a brand TCL owns), but now the union has produced something very BlackBerry-esque. The “Mercury” is a candybar-style phone with a touch screen and a full QWERTY keyboard.

It’s important to note, Mercury is just a pre-release name for the prototype BlackBerry and TCL are showing off at CES. The final hardware will probably have a more boring name, as is BlackBerry’s tradition. The mercury is more like past BlackBerry phones than the DTEK50 and DTEK60, which were rebranded Alcatel Idol handsets.

The Mercury has a 3:2 ratio LCD touch screen (closer to an iPad than a standard smartphone) above a full BlackBerry-style QWERTY keyboard. There are those who swear by the physical buttons on BlackBerry’s keyboards, and they’ve had precious few places to get them as of late. The PRIV was BlackBerry’s first (and only) in-house Android phone. It failed to move many units, which led to BlackBerry’s change in direction. Other than that, there were a few older phones running BlackBerry OS like the Passport, but those phones have now largely been abandoned.

ces-2017-blackberry-mercury-7733

This phone has a more traditional Blackberry aesthetic that goes beyond the keyboard. It has rounded edges and good heft, making it feel expensive. The back has a soft-touch cover with the BlackBerry logo emblazoned in the middle. It looks like a BlackBerry, not a rebadged Chinese smartphone.

I’m not sure the keyboard is enough of a selling point to get BlackBerry back in the game, though. A few years ago keyboards on phones were seen as a big selling point. Remember all those Droid ads that made fun of the iPhone for not having a keyboard? Now, there are no Android phones with keyboards. People just don’t buy them because they’re more interested in having a thinner, lighter phone with a larger screen.

We don’t have a lot of detail on the specs, but TCL has a reputation for aggressive pricing. Its Idol series has been in the same spec and price range as the OnePlus 3. On balance, those Alcatel phones tend to fall a little short comparatively because of the software, but BlackBerry could change that. Release date is a mystery as well, but the first half of 2017 is a safe bet.