Eyebrows were raised when TCL – the firm licensing the BlackBerry name for smartphones – launched the BlackBerry KeyOne at the start of 2017.
It boasts a physical keyboard in a world where mobile devices have almost universally moved to full touchscreen offerings, but the firm believes it’s a form factor that’s here to stay.
TechRadar sat down with Francois Mahieu, BlackBerry Mobile's Global GM (Chief Commercial Officer) at IFA 2017 to talk about the firm’s latest phone, the KeyOne Black Edition, as well as what’s in store for the BlackBerry phone brand going forward.
“The [physical keyboard] form factor is here to stay” Mahieu told us. “I don’t know what [the next phone] will be called, or what specs it’ll have, but the form factor is here to stay for a very, very long time.”
That means we can expect another physical keyboard-toting device bearing the BlackBerry name in the near future, although Mahieu wouldn't be drawn on what else the handset may offer.
What it won’t be though, is a budget BlackBerry phone.
Not in the 'cheap BlackBerry' mindset
"Adding a keyboard to a phone adds cost to the phone” Mahieu explains.
“There’s a moment in time where you have to think, what am I trying to do here? Am I trying to make a cheap BlackBerry, or am I actually trying to say BlackBerry is here with a certain mindset and DNA.
"We don’t thing we’re expensive, we don’t think we’re cheap... We are in a sweet spot in the market that in a way screams value already, what we call premium smart value. We are not in the mindset of building of a cheap BlackBerry."
Whether or not you agree that the BlackBerry KeyOne, at £499, screams premium value is up to you, and there are fair arguments to say it doesn’t – but BlackBerry remains buoyant about its chances.
In fact, the KeyOne has performed better than the firm was expecting, which has given it encouragement to continue on its way of offering secure productivity devices.
Will physical keyboards on smartphones return to the mainstream? No, not really, but there’s clearly a market who’s enjoying the current offering from BlackBerry and it’ll be interesting to see what comes next.
- IFA 2017 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced.