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BlackBerry unveils Android phone, touts physical QWERTY

  • Author:Abby
  • Release on:2015-11-04

BlackBerry is positioning itself as unique among its competitors by securing users’
privacy and offering physical QWERTY keyboards 

BlackBerry announced recently its first Android phone called the BlackBerry Priv, which has a screen that slides up to reveal a physical QWERTY keyboard. Most Android phones have moved away from physical keyboards after the success of the original Motorola Droid waned. However, it has been a sticking point with BlackBerry thanks to business users that sustain the company, many of whom prefer typing with physical buttons.

It is too soon to say that physical keyboards are making a comeback in mobile. In fact, BlackBerry has had a hard time reviving its ailing business, and CEO John Chen said if the company does not sell 5 million units in the next year, it may get out of making hardware altogether. BlackBerry is worth watching, though, and not just because of its hardcore devotees who love physical keyboards. The company is also known for its security, with governments, hospitals and other security-conscious organizations continuing to rely on BlackBerry phones. US president Barack Obama has even famously been limited to using a highly modified BlackBerry for security reasons.

An assortment of Android phones with physical QWERTYs have been available for a while, even among China ODM and OBM manufacturers, but they have not found wide acceptance as people got used to the idea of typing on screens. If the Priv is as successful as BlackBerry hopes, which is relatively modest compared with other smartphone companies, it could signal a resurgence in popularity for the physical QWERTY on smartphones. BlackBerry might also be smart to position itself as a security-first smartphone company. Silent Circle's Blackphone 2 is another example of the push to make more secure Android phones, though its starting price of $800 is not likely to make the device a hit.

However, the phone did make a lot of headlines, showing that many people are increasingly concerned about smartphone security. With this in mind, BlackBerry's success or failure by positioning itself as a secure smartphone maker could signal which way the winds are blowing in the market. If the QWERTY is not enough to save BlackBerry's hardware business, security software might be enough to redeem the rest of it.