Changes are AFOOT in camp Blackberry. The company, post BlackBerry DTEK60, will no longer design and build its own phones. That honour will now reside with an OEM. This switch will apparently help BlackBerry reduce some cost associated with R&D for hardware and allow it to better focus on its software play, a play the company hopes will generate new revenues in 2017.
There will be three Android-powered BlackBerry handsets released in 2016, and one inside Q1 2017 – but more on that later.
The first BlackBerry Android phone is out of the blocks for 2016 was the DTEK50. Both the DTEK50 and DTEK60 have now officially been given a price cut in the UK, US, Canada and mainland Europe. The reduced price of the DTEK50 brings it down to $259 in the US (down from $299) and £255 in the UK (a price cut of £20). The DTEK60 has been reduced from $499 in the US to $449 and has taken a £33 cut in the UK down to £442.
Check out our BlackBerry DTEK50 Review for the full breakdown on that particular handset
Also: if you’re a BlackBerry purist you can now pick up the BlackBerry Passport for just £309.
The BlackBerry DTEK50 comes with a 5.2-inch 1080p touchscreen, a 13MP rear camera with phase detection autofocus and LED flash, an 8 MP selfie shooter, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 617 SoC, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of expandable storage, and a 2,610 mAh battery. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
BlackBerry says the DTEK50 is the world’s most secure phone. It also confirmed that it will be issuing monthly security updates to the phone in order to keep it this way.
So what makes the DTEK50 so secure? A few things, actually:
- Rapid Security Patching: BlackBerry has a record of being the quickest to deliver security patches, setting the bar in incident response and patch management to protect your device from malicious threats.
- DTEK™ by BlackBerry App: Enables users to automatically monitor their OS and apps to know when their privacy could be at risk and to take action to improve it. The DTEK app also tracks applications and notifies you when someone is: taking pictures or videos without your knowledge, turning your microphone on, sending a text message, or accessing your contacts or location.
- Hardware Root of Trust: BlackBerry’s manufacturing process uses a proprietary technique that adds security from the start, allowing for the tracking, verification and provisioning of DTEK50.
- Secure Boot Process: Starting with the root of trust, each stage of DTEK50’s secure boot chain must first verify that the next component is fully intact before proceeding, ensuring your device has not been tampered with since the last restart.
- Android OS hardening: BlackBerry provides additional security patches, improved random number, address space generation and certificate pinning to make it more difficult for attackers to target a device by scrambling application/system memory.
- FIPS 140-2 Compliant Full Disk Encryption: Protects your private information, like pictures or bank information, from being stolen if you were to lose your phone.
BlackBerry Android Phone Number TWO: The BlackBerry DTEK60
Following on from the DTEK50, BlackBerry’s much leaked and rumoured second Android device in the series has now been officially launched as the BlackBerry DTEK60. As with the DTEK50, the DTEK60 is based on an existing Alcatel design, in this case the Idol 4S, and once again its a touch-display only device with none of BlackBerry’s old QWERTY keyboard habits present.
The design features a metal outer frame and glass body panels for both front and back. On the front is a 5.5in touch display with a QHD resolution, while inside you’re looking at a meaty spec line-up including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of onboard storage. You also get a sizeable 3,000mAh battery cell, Type-C USB connectivity, a fingerprint scanner, and a programmable key on the phone’s frame.
BlackBerry has departed from the low MP camera trend and instead opted for a 21MP sensor on the rear which does give a noticable bump to the back panel. The front-facing secondary is an 8MP setup.
On the software side we’re looking at Android 6.0 Marshmallow out the box with plans for a Nougat update in the future. As with BlackBerry’s other Android devices, it has tweaked Google’s OS extensively in order to enhance security, including a secure bootloader, and “Hardware Root of Trust”. The software package has also been polished for BlackBerry’s business angle with added productivity applications.
Again, as with the firm’s other Android offerings, the DTEK60 is availble SIM-free via the BlackBerry online webstore and partnered retailers, and in this mode you can get it for an RRP of $499.
BlackBerry Talks About HOW Its Android Phones Are Different
In an interview with Android Central, Ron Louks, BlackBerry’s President of Devices, discusses his company’s approach to Android, why BlackBerry’s vision is different, and the elements and attributes that set BlackBerry apart from other Android handset makers.
You can read the full post here – and you really should – be for the sake of brevity I have included some of the best quotes below.
BlackBerry Android Phones: Security
“We’ve had an Android strategy for some time now – whether that’s supporting Android for Work on our BES12 platform or Samsung/Knox. Priv on Android is the next big step: It’s a new paradigm to advance security, privacy and productivity while meeting modern cross-platform user needs and filling our app gap.”
BlackBerry Android Phones: Minimal Bloatware
“Our approach to Android customisation is focused on security, privacy and productivity. You will not see us experimenting heavily with the native Android theme unless it is in support of those things. We wanted to ensure users who would buy a Priv coming from Android would have a familiar experience for them when they picked it up. Being as close as possible to stock and then enhancing the model is what we are driving for, and the enhancements are meant to add additional value or productivity – not get in the way.”
BlackBerry Android Phones: Updates & Bootloader
“It cannot be unlocked. As John Chen has said several times, we would not bring Android to a BlackBerry device unless we could do it securely. With Priv by BlackBerry, our goal is to ensure that users are safe and secured knowing that the phone cannot be tampered with.”
BlackBerry Mercury Benchmarked Ahead Of Q1 2017 Launch
An earlier rumour suggested BlackBerry would be bringing three new Android phones to market through the 2016-early 2017 period; so far we’ve seen the DTEK50 and DTEK60 handsets, but now the third member of the trio seems to have leaked in a benchmark.
The handset is believed to be the device previously rumoured with the codename Mercury, which is believed to pack a physical keyboard as well as Android 7.0 Nougat. The Geekbench results show a model number BBB100-1 with a Qualcomm octa-core chipset running at 2GHz, 3GB of RAM, and Android Nougat. The chipset specs sound like they might match the Snapdragon 625 SoC, but this isn’t concrete.
These are the only specs visible on the benchmark, but the handset is rumoured to launch in Q1 2017 with a 4.5in 1080p display, 32GB onboard storage, 18MP and 8MP cameras, a 3,400mAh battery cell and the physical QWERTY keyboard fixed beneath the display panel.
BlackBerry’s “Other” Android Phones Being Prepped For 2016/17
We haven’t heard a lot about the Hamburg and Rome for a while, but now, July 21, a few more details have emerged specifically regarding the Hamburg. Interestingly it seems the Hamburg has passed through the US FCC office, a usual indicator that a handset is fairly close to launch. The listing confirms some earlier leaked specs, but also adds a 2,610mAh battery. It’s believed at this stage the Hamburg will be a mid-range model.
What makes these “other” BlackBerry Android phones so exciting, though, is that the DTEK50 was great but hampered by performance issues — not surprising given its price point. The software aboard the DTEK50 is superb, however, and this has got us very excited by the prospect of a more powerful, premium handset from BlackBerry.
The only thing holding the DTEK50 back was bad battery life and lumpy performance, everything else was superb. BlackBerry is really getting a handle on Android and has introduced a plethora of unique, useful features that make using a BlackBerry Android phone an absolute joy.
I cannot wait to see what these new BlackBerry Android phones will be like.
BlackBerry CEO John Chen previously confirmed that the company would be creating two new Android-based smartphones inside 2016, following on from last year’s debut Android BlackBerry phone, the BlackBerry Priv.
The PRIV was quite a big deal when it came out. Firstly, because it was the first BlackBerry phone to use Android and, secondly, because it attempted to do quite a few things very differently and in the process carve out itself a niche inside the hugely competitive Android space.
The net result was a decent handset, but one that could be improved in quite a few ways. I liked what BlackBerry attempted to do but felt the handset fell short in a few key areas — number one being battery performance. Still, as a first attempt at something completely new the PRIV was very impressive indeed.
John Chen has been pretty upfront about his company’s handset division. When asked about the PRIV sales – pegged at 600,000 since launch – Chen said: “So far, so Good”. This is fair enough in some respects, the handset only launched in November after all, so hasn’t had a full year of trading on the market, but with that said most flagships see their highest rate of sales immediately after launch and then it trails off steadily after that – in other words we don’t expect things to pick up massively.
Chen has said in interviews that although that flagship was relatively well-received, he believed that by aiming for the premium segment in terms of specs and pricing the firm may have shot itself in the foot somewhat with its core demographic; businesses looking to buy in bulk for their employees, something which sits far more happily in the mid-range segment and which could have lead to much better sales figures. That means the new handsets this year are unlikely to be top-flight phones.
A new set of benchmarks has appeared via GFXBench which are alleged to be from the BlackBerry Hamburg, meaning we get our first look at the possible specs. The spec sheet includes a 1080p 5.2in display, an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 procesor clocked at 1.5GHz together with an Adreno 405 GPU and 3GB of RAM. Storage is 16GB, though of course there may be multiple iterations. Meanwhile, the camera hardware includes a 12MP primary and an 8MP secondary. The Android version is 6.0.1 but the details don’t include info on the battery.
A batch of images and details emerged via Chinese sources for two handsets codenamed the “Hamburg” and “Rome”, however, it has since come to our attention that there’s been some nefarious stuff going on. According to a report from CrackBerry the Chinese source that leaked these renders acquired them (and re-watermarked them as their own) from Dylan Habkirk, a contributor on the CrackBerry forums who has insider knowledge of BlackBerry. Habkirk rendered these images based on his own information, in the case of the Hamburg some “internal device sketches” he has seen, and in the case of the Rome his own hands-on time with a prototype. This means of course that these renders have not come from inside BlackBerry, and that the designs are not final, so while it does debunk the original leak to an extent, the revelations still don’t rule out that they exist and are in development in some way or another, even if only a sketch and even if they never see the light of day. Interestingly, accoding to Habkirk’s comments on the incident (which we’d urge you to read in full), the Rome is actually the previously rumoured and leaked BlackBerry Vienna, it appears it’s just in a later stage of development.
“To make things clear, these renderings are not leaked by any means,” said Habkirk, “They are replications of device plans and / or prototype units that I have seen in person. Not to be mistaken for a truly leaked image, like when we shared the first image of the BlackBerry Passport Silver Edition, originally leaked as “Oslo”.”
On the subject of the Hamburg, he said, “I’ve never actually seen this device in person. In fact, I can’t find a source to substantiate any specifications for this device (which I originally was told would make it out before the Rome). I did however come across internal device sketches for the handset – which largely copies the Z30 form factor. These internal images are in which I based the renders for the Hamburg. Clarifying more over, the codename Hamburg may not be as accurate as the Rome’s in terms of existence.”
“As for the Rome, it’s a device I’ve actually had the pleasure of seeing in person on a few occasions here in Waterloo. Again, a device we saw first leaked by CrackBerry months ago, known then as the BlackBerry Vienna. Since then, the device has undergone some major refinements. One of the units I was shown, had some biometrics under the hood.”
“Apparently, the Rome has internal specs that are like that of the Priv or otherwise the same. The screen may feature a dual curved edge as well,” said Habkirk, adding that it will also feature a “special” hardware button on the front, a front-facing 8MP camera and a possible price as high as $500 USD. He also said the handset may or may not launch but could arrive in September and described the display as “crisp” although he did not have resolution figures or other screen details.
Previously BlackBerry codenamed the Priv as the “Venice”, so it’s in keeping with the codename convention for major world cities. Of course as with the Venice hitting the market as the Priv (frankly we would have preferred Venice) these are working codenames and unlikely to be attached to the final products when they land.
Chen had made comments earlier in the year that one of the two phones launched in 2016 would feature a keyboard, while the other would be touch-only; from the images we see here it appears the Hamburg is the touch-only handset while the Rome has a physical QWERTY keyboard.
The Rome’s keyboard is only partially visible, and it’s not clear if we’re dealing with a fixed keyboard in the old BlackBerry Bold or BlackBerry Passport style or if it is a slide-out panel like the BlackBerry Priv, though if we’re talking about keeping the price lower then a simpler setup seems more likely.
The image of the Hamburg also gives us the dimensions of the phone at 146mm x 78mm, but there’s no indication of thickness or weight just yet, and we can see what looks like a metal build and a large punched speaker grille spanning the whole bottom front panel. The Rome also looks like a metal build with a smaller punched grille at the top.
True to that mid-range rumour, the sources suggest the Hamburg will appear in the second half of 2016 with a price tag of $400 (about £275). There is no information on the Rome’s price or release bracket, and no specs for either device just yet. We’ll keep you posted as we hear more.