NEW YORK—Beleaguered BlackBerry isn’t throwing in the towel on its device business. On Tuesday, the handset manufacturer announced the DTEK50, which BlackBerry claims is the world’s most secure Android smartphone. It goes on preorder today for $299 (unlocked) and will start shipping August 8.
BlackBerry is targeting the phone at both businesses and consumers alike, but given its feeble standing in the marketplace it won’t be an easy sell. The new phone is far less expensive than the first Android handset that BlackBerry has delivered, the $649 BlackBerry Priv that came out in the fall and that I liked a lot but that hasn’t exactly jumped off store shelves.
As an Android handset (running Marshmallow), the DTEK50 will handle Google’s own apps, plus any apps you fetch through the Google Play Store. You can also take advantage of BlackBerry’s own software, including the repository for a variety of messages and notifications known as BlackBerry Hub.
BlackBerry has built a strong reputation through the years around security and this latest device incorporates encryption, malware protection and other defense measures to help stymie cyberattacks and safeguard your privacy. Both the DTEK50 and Priv have the same security apps loaded on the respective devices that confusingly are also branded DTEK.
BlackBerry says it will deliver security patches to the DTEK50 on the same day that Google publicly releases information about them. And through the phone’s software you can monitor when apps request the use of the phone’s camera or microphone, and are notified if someone takes pictures or videos without your knowledge, turns the mic on, sends a text, or accesses your contacts or whereabouts.
Fans of BlackBerry’s iconic physical smartphone keyboards will have to rely on other phones in the lineup–DTEK50 is a touchscreen-only device. Those other phones include the Priv, BlackBerry Passport and BlackBerry Classic. BlackBerry has confirmed that a new Android phone with a physical keyboard will be coming soon, It’s worth noting that while it is still for sale, BlackBerry recently informed U.S. carriers that it plans to stop manufacturing the Classic.
Despite the recent introduction of Android-based BlackBerrys, the company insists it remains committed to devices that operate off its own BlackBerry 10 operating system. A BB10 update in fact is due shortly.
On the hardware side, the DTEK50’s design is modeled after the Alcatel Idol 4 smartphone, through an arrangement with China’s TCL. . The thin 4.76-ounce DTEK50 has 5.2-inch full HD display, 13-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera with flash. It comes with 3GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, which while a modest sum these days, can be bolstered (up to 2TB) via optional microSD cards. BlackBerry is claiming around 17 hours of battery life in mixed use.
The new phone does include one more throwback feature to BlackBerry’s past, a programmable “convenience key” on the side of the device that you might press to send an email to a favorite contact, launch a specific app, or make a call.
What it doesn’t have is a fingerprint sensor as is found on many other smartphones.
It remains to be seen if the DTEK50 will sell any better than its recent predecessors. But BlackBerry is not ready to surrender to market realities just yet.
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