News from the Consumer Electronics Show is flowing faster than lies from a politician. The latest comes from the new BlackBerry, now a Chinese company which hopes the brand still has some cachet among smartphone users.
The BlackBerry Mercury is an Android OS-based smartphone with a BlackBerry-like hardware keyboard and Android OS Nougat software to set it apart from the madding crowds of Android and iPhone users. Mercury may not be the product’s actual name, and the new Chinese owners won’t divulge specifications, price, features, or launch date.
Andrew Martonik has details and photos from CES but one thing is missing from the analysis. Mission impossible. When was the last time you saw a successful smartphone with a hardware keyboard?
As a welcomed sight for the BlackBerry faithful who may have been put off by the all-screen DTEK60, the Mercury has a full-featured and gorgeous hardware keyboard. And not only is it good for typing, but it also retains the great capacitive swiping gestures we saw in the Priv — you can swipe on the keyboard to navigate the interface, and swipe up on it during typing to help with word corrections and suggestions.
Yes, there are some who feel the nostalgia for the BlackBerry brand, and others who pine for a slide-out hardware keyboard, but the reality is this; the smartphone market moved on while BlackBerry sat still, and slapping a BlackBerry label onto an Android phone with a hardware keyboard won’t bring it back to prominence and isn’t likely to carve out much of a profitable niche.
The biggest thing that stands out about the Mercury is how decidedly BlackBerry the whole design is… The phone has a proper heft to it, the keyboard has a trademark clickiness and when you see it on a table you couldn’t mistake it for a phone from any other company.
In other words, nearly 10 years after the iPhone was introduced to the world and changed the smartphone industry, BlackBerry introduces an Android-based smartphone. From a Chinese company which bought the brand name.
Any new product that wants to carve out a niche or topple an industry leader must go down one of two paths.
First, build a better mousetrap. That means a product needs new features, benefits, and functionality that is so obviously an improvement over the competition that it can be sold for nearly the same price as the industry leaders. Otherwise, there’s no compelling reason to switch. The iPhone did just that.
Second, follow the leader. For less. That means a product needs to match the features, benefits, and functionality of the industry leading products but for a notably lower price tag. Otherwise, there’s no compelling reason to switch. Samsung and Google did just that.
Everyone else in the smartphone industry is spinning their wheels hoping to carve out a niche, and losing money on every unit sold isn’t a good business model.
BlackBerry is a smartphone brand that evokes memories, and some love for the hardware keyboard. That. Is. All. It’s mission impossible to take on Apple and the rest of the Android juggernaut. Let’s move along. There’s nothing to see here.