TCL announces 4.5-inch BlackBerry KEYone smartphone at MWC 2017

BlackBerry is back: Partner TCL took to Barcelona, Spain to announce a new BlackBerry smartphone with a physical QWERTY keyboard. The BlackBerry KEYone will be available globally in April.
Written by Jake Smith, Contributor
BlackBerry KEYone (Image: TCL)

TCL Communication on Saturday announced the 4.5-inch BlackBerry KEYone, the first smartphone from BlackBerry and TCL's licensing partnership. Throwing back to old school BlackBerry, the KEYone features a physical keyboard.

The BlackBerry KEYone will be available globally in April, starting at $549 unlocked. It will run Android 7.1 Nougat out of the box and will be loaded with both Google Play and BlackBerry software.

Key specifications:

  • 4.5-inch display (1620x1080 resolution) with Corning Gorilla Glass
  • 2GHz octacore Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
  • 3505mAh battery with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
  • 8-megapixel front-facing camera with wide-angle lens
  • 12-megapixel rear-facing camera
  • Fingerprint sensor built into keyboard spacebar
  • 32GB of on-board storage
  • 3GB of RAM
  • USB-C
Andrew Hoyle/CNET

TCL is touting the BlackBerry KEYone's security, as it's loaded with DTEK, BlackBerry's security software suite that will notify users if an app is accessing the camera to take a picture or video, turning your microphone on, sending a text message, or accessing contacts or location.

BlackBerry is promising monthly security updates, but didn't detail specifics.

The BlackBerry KEYone's physical keyboard mimics "the heritage of the BlackBerry trackpad" by responding to gestures and can be programmed with 52 customizable shortcuts. For instance, you can press "I" for your inbox or "M" to access maps.

See also: CNET's hands-on with the BlackBerry KEYone

TCL announced the BlackBerry KEYone, dubbed 'Mercury' while under development, before Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. BlackBerry "worked with TCL to build security and the BlackBerry experience into every layer of KEYone," BlackBerry mobility SVP Alex Thurber said in a statement.

BlackBerry ditched making its own smartphone hardware in 2016 and linked with TCL and Alcatel as key hardware partners. As our resident mobile analyst Ross Rubin said recently: BlackBerry and Nokia may be the most interesting brands of 2017.

The BlackBerry KEYone will be available through all four carriers in the US. Pre-orders begin on Saturday.

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