Mercury has a name, but there are still lots of questions remaining.
The BlackBerry ‘Mercury’ isn’t new — you saw it at CES — but the company behind the new phone, BlackBerry Mobile, has been trickle-announcing the hardware QWERTY flagship, teasing it to hardcore CrackBerry addicts who came of age tapping away on Bolds and Curves.
But this is a new BlackBerry — the phone itself is made by TCL, under the eponymous Waterloo company’s brand — and the first in a series of devices set to be released this year, next year, and if successful, well beyond. This is the BlackBerry KEYone.
Now that we know more about the phone, I’m happy to report that it’s actually quite nice. The aluminum frame is solid and the design is anything but pedestrian, with overtly curved sides meeting a flat-top frame and exposed antenna lines. There’s an old-school industrial feel to the whole thing that I really dig — the dual tones of black and silver work really well here, harkening back to some BlackBerrys of the past while updating the look for 2017.
This is a great phone, unless you use a lot of landscape apps.
In fact, if you stare at the KEYone long enough, you begin to see its direct influences bleed through: this is a BlackBerry Passport Silver Edition squeezed and elongated, melded with the keyboard of the BlackBerry Classic. Of course, both those phones ran BlackBerry 10, and had square displays, precluding those form factors from working properly with Android. (In fact, BlackBerry was reportedly working on turning the Passport into an Android handset, but could never optimize the OS at the time, Lollipop, for its 1:1 aspect ratio.)
So now we’re in 2017, with a brand new company, TCL Communication, overseeing the design and manufacturing of the largely-forgotten BlackBerry handset legacy, and after two nondescript metal-and-glass all-touch devices, BlackBerry is once again embracing its strangeness, its apartness, with the KEYone.