Editors' Note: This article was updated at 7:19 p.m. ET with more photos and information about the BlackBerry phone.
Get ready for the triumphant return of the QWERTY keyboard. Phone maker TCL Communication unveiled the look and feel of a forthcoming BlackBerry release at CES today (Jan. 4), and for BlackBerry fans, it will be a welcome callback to the phone's glory days.
TCL owns the global rights to the BlackBerry brand, as BlackBerry itself is backing away from phone manufacturing to concentrate instead on software and services. At CES, TCL was looking to explain its evolving product lineup and how BlackBerry fits alongside the Alcatel brand TCL also owns.
But it's the first lengthy glance at the next BlackBerry — dubbed Mercury by some rumor sites — that's likely to garner the most attention here. While TCL isn't disclosing price, specs or even the phone's name at the moment — those details will wait until next month's Mobile World Congress, TCL Communication North America president and general manager Steve Cistulli said — we now have a better idea of what this TCL-built BlackBerry phone will look like.
It's the keyboard that's the most prominent feature, but there's more to it than just the familiar physical QWERTY keys that long-time BlackBerry fans will endorse. There's a fingerprint sensor built into the space bar, and if you drag your finger across the physical keys, you can scroll to new screens on your phone.
The unnamed metal BlackBerry phone felt fairly sturdy in my hands — not surprising given that TCL sees this phone as focused on the enterprise in general, and government, finance and health care in particular. Cistulli dangled the possibility that the TCL-built BlackBerry phones could become available from retailers, but rebuilding BlackBerry's enterprise cachet is TCL's immediate priority.
The back of the phone is textured, which I like as I find that it gives me a better grip on smartphones. The upcoming BlackBerry phone will offer a USB-Type C port down below, but it won't join the likes of the iPhone 7 in getting rid of the headphone jack. There's a 3.5mm port on the top of the device.
I noticed two lenses on the front of the phone, but only one of those is a front-facing camera. The other is a proximity sensor, Cistulli said.
While TCL wasn't discussing specs at CES, reports from 9to5Google and other sources suggest that this phone will be called the Dtek 70. (TCL already made the Dtek 50 and 60 on behalf of Samsung.) The phone could be powered by a Snapdragon 650 processor — not a top-of-the-line CPU, but still one that can hold its own.