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Hands-on with BlackBerry's Android-powered 'Mercury' at CES 2017

Join us as we take a very early look at BlackBerry's upcoming Android-powered 'Mercury' smartphone here at CES 2017!

Published onJanuary 4, 2017

BlackBerry has taken many different forms over the years. It used to be one of the top smartphone manufacturers in the world, then things started going a bit downhill for the company once iOS and Android came around. After years of launching numerous different handsets that weren’t able to steal much marketshare away from the other guys, BlackBerry decided to get into the Android smartphone space itself.

The company launched the BlackBerry PRIV in 2015, followed by the DTEK50 and DTEK60 in 2016. Fun fact: the latter two devices weren’t actually designed or manufactured by BlackBerry; they were actually made by a Chinese company called TCL Communications.

In December 2016, TCL Communications announced it’d be taking care of the designing and manufacturing of BlackBerry phones from now on. That’s good news for BlackBerry fans, as it means TCL can take care of the hardware process, while BlackBerry has time to focus on software and security solutions.

So what’s going to be the first device to see the light of day after the big TCL/BlackBerry announcement? Well, we don’t have an official name for you yet, but you may know it as the BlackBerry ‘Mercury’, that QWERTY keyboard-equipped smartphone that’s been making the rounds on the internet lately.

While details are still very scarce about the upcoming phone, TCL and BlackBerry gave us a very early look at the ‘Mercury’ here at CES 2017. Before we get into any specifics, we should note that the company was very adamant about making sure we know that this device is in its alpha stage for now, so things are likely to change before the device’s official release. Also, we don’t have an official name for it yet – the company kept noting that the ‘Mercury’ name was created by the internet.

Most everything about the handset is a mystery for now – specs, software, additional features, etc. TCL and BlackBerry are staying pretty quiet about the handset at the moment, but we were able to get a good look at the hardware, which you can see in the video attached above.

As we stated earlier, things are subject to change with this device, of course, but we sure hope they don’t. This new ‘Mercury’ handset looks and feels really great. It’s very sleek, and remains one of the more unique handsets we’ve seen in awhile. And in case you were worried about TCL making a bunch of drastic changes to the core BlackBerry design, don’t be. The two companies are working very closely with one another, and they were very quick to squash any fears that the iconic BlackBerry design would be going away. That means QWERTY keyboard-equipped and slider phones are sticking around, too.

As you can see, the ‘Mercury’ features a touchscreen display and, in typical BlackBerry fashion, a full QWERTY keyboard. The physical space bar on the keyboard doubles as a fingerprint sensor, and you can also take advantage of gestures on the keyboard to swipe through menus on the phone. On the right side of the device sits a customizable action key, which you’ll be able to program to perform specific tasks.

The bottom portion of the device houses the USB Type-C port, which is flanked by two speaker grills. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top of the device.

We unfortunately weren’t able to get a solid look at the software.

TCL says the upcoming phone is focused on three core features: security (of course), productivity and reliability. Boasting about unparalleled mobile security and software expertise, the company says its upcoming smartphone will offer “the most complete end-to-end smartphone security available on Android.

So when can we expect the ‘Mercury’ to make its way to retail stores? We unfortunately don’t have that information yet, but we do know we’ll find out much more about the device at MWC 2017.

For TCL and BlackBerry, 2017 is going to be an enterprise-focused year. The companies have a whole product portfolio ready for 2017, including a number of other business-focused handsets in the mid-range and high-end segments.

While the ‘Mercury’ is an enterprise-focused device through and through, it’ll also be sold unlocked in carrier and retail stores for folks who want to take smartphone security more seriously. TCL and BlackBerry aren’t only focused on business customers, though. The company says it’s currently working on a consumer-focused smartphone that’s slated for release sometime in 2018.

So that’s what we know about the upcoming BlackBerry ‘Mercury’. What are your thoughts on this new handset? Are TCL and BlackBerry going in the right direction? Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below.

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