The BlackBerry is Back! (But Does Anyone Still Care?)

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BlackBerry abandoned its own operating system last year in favour of the infinitely more popular Android OS. And while the company is no longer manufactures its own phones, this isn’t the end of BlackBerry. In other words, BlackBerry is back — again. While the specifications and software are not yet finalized, the BlackBerry ‘Mercury’ is a promising Android phone targeted towards people who prefer physical keyboards, as well as BlackBerry’s suite of secure apps such as BBM. Let’s take a closer look.


BlackBerry has spent the last three years in a virtual death spiral, launching phones that failed to resonate with consumers captivated by Apple’s iPhones and Samsung Galaxy S phones. Even BlackBerry’s embrace of Google’s Android software, starting with the BlackBerry Priv, turned few heads. Chinese tech giant TCL’s mobile branch is planning to reinvigorate the classic smartphone brand for 2017. BlackBerry has partnered with TCL to release Android phones under the BlackBerry brand name. The latest device, revealed behind closed doors at CES 2017, doesn’t have a name yet, so we’re relying on its internet code name ‘Mercury’. TCL obtained a global smartphone software and brand licensing agreement in December, and the company was also behind the poorly-received BlackBerry Android offerings from last year, which were the last handsets thought to be produced with the branding.


According to reports, Mercury will be focused on three core features: security, productivity and reliability. If you’re familiar with previous BlackBerry handsets, the first thing you will notice is the Mercury’s similarity to the Passport. However, unlike the Priv, there is no sliding display, and it doesn’t have the traditional smartphone shape with a full-faced touch-display. As you’d expect, the quintessential physical QWERTY keyboard keys are sculpted to make them easier to type on and the space bar doubles as a home button and fingerprint scanner. Other Mercury spec rumours suggest the device may pack a Snapdragon 821 featuring a 4.5-inch display and a resolution of 1,680 x 1,080-pixels, as well as 3GB RAM and 32GB storage. It looks as though the Mercury will run on Android 7.0 Nougat, making it the first BlackBerry device to be loaded with the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system. It may also have a huge 3,400mAh battery, which could make the phone last up to two days on a single charge. Other rumours suggest the front camera could be an 8-megapixel sensor and an LED flash on the rear, with maybe an 18-megapixel rear sensor. The Mercury (if it keeps that name) is expected to be released before the end of the first quarter of 2017 with a potential retails price of around $500. Colour variations will probably be silver, grey, green and red.


TCL’s intention is to stabilize the BlackBerry business by the end of 2017 and get it back to a growth trajectory by 2018. They plan to retains BlackBerry’s dwindling hardcore fans and tap into business customers who are coming up for their 24-month phone upgrades. TCL expect to come out with two BlackBerry devices at different prices this year, and more next year. BlackBerry misfired with the high-priced Priv: they need a smartphone with a better operating system at an affordable price. They need to not only retain their business customers and die-hard fans of the physical QWERTY keyboard, but branch out and siphon off customers from the Big Three – Apple, Google, and Samsung. This is another valiant effort by BlackBerry, but time will tell if this is indeed a resurgence of their fortunes, or just the final death throes of a once-dominant software giant.

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