BlackBerry Mobile has begun shipping its first post-BlackBerry phone in the UK today, although fans will need to cross their fingers and pop into Selfridges’ Oxford Street store in London to find one.
The KEYone was first shown at CES in January before a formal launch at MWC in Barcelona in March.
Selfridges have exclusivity until 5 May, when Carphone Warehouse and others can ship. The USA and other markets must wait.
The £499 phone brings the Passport’s QWERTY keyboard to a candybar Android form factor for the first time. TCL claims the phone supports 26 hours of mixed use, with 50 per cent of the battery being charged in 36 minutes.
“We plan to disrupt the market with a unique offering,” Francois Mathieu, BlackBerry EMEA manager, told press and analysts. BlackBerry promises 24 months of guaranteed monthly security updates with the device, and the lightweight skin may appeal to Nexus owners left behind as Google turns its own-brand phones into a high-end consumer brand. The benefits are subtle: half of a display disappears behind a virtual keyboard, executives pointed out.
BlackBerry spun out what was left of its handset division in September, retaining the platform and security teams but allowing licensees to pick up the challenge of designing and marketing BlackBerry-branded phones. TCL, which also owns the Alcatel and Palm brands, has acquired those rights worldwide, save for India and Indonesia.
We’ll have first impressions of the production unit and a review for you shortly.