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BlackBerry's Keyboard Phones Aren't Quite Dead Yet

BlackBerry's not ready to exit the smartphone stage just yet. CEO John Chen told Bloomberg this week that his company will release one more smartphone, as it focuses more on software.

You won't mind many details about the upcoming BlackBerry device in Chen's Bloomberg interview. All Chen would say is that it’s a “keyboard phone” that he previously “promised” his customers. Chen didn't provide a release date, only saying that “it’s coming.”

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Chen has hinted in the last few months that a new smartphone was in the works. He most recently referenced the device in September, when he suggested a smartphone offering a physical keyboard was in the works. At the same time, BlackBerry has signaled that it's done with hardware, announcing in September that it would no longer design or makes its own smartphones. Instead, the company plans to license its BlackBerry branding to other companies.

BlackBerry once ruled the mobile world, but has long since been surpassed by the iPhone and Android devices. In recent years, BlackBerry tried to stay relevant with Android-based phones like the BlackBerry Priv and this year's mid-range DTek 50. The company recently released the DTek 60, which features higher-end specs like a SnapDragon 820 processor and 21-megapixel camera.

It sounds like the distinguishing feature in this new phone will be a physical keyboard, a call-back to BlackBerry's glory days. Other rumored specs — SlashGear says it likely feature a SnapDragon 625 CPU, a 4-inch screen and Android Nougat instead of BlackBerry 10 — sound pretty underwhelming. If this is the way that BlackBerry puts an end its keyboard-sporting phones, it sounds like more of a wake than a celebration of past glories.