TORONTO – One of BlackBerry’s top sales executives says the company will release a new smartphone with its distinctive physical keyboard within six months.
The comment was made in a BBC video interview published Wednesday, a week after the Canadian smartphone pioneer announced it would stop doing hardware development in-house.
Instead, it said it would rely on partners to produce BlackBerry devices.
It’s been an open secret that BlackBerry has at least one more smartphone with a keyboard that hasn’t been released.
But chairman and CEO John Chen said last week that he hadn’t decided whether it would be brought to market.
The company’s senior vice-president for global device sales, Alex Thurber, was less vague in his interview with BBC.
“There will still be a keyboard-based BlackBerry device, designed and distributed within the next six months,” he said.
Thurber said that the keyboards set BlackBerrys apart from market-leading Apple and Samsung smartphones that feature touch screens.
“I think there’s a demand for keyboard phones. As we’ve been showing mockups of what we’ve been working on, to our carrier and distributor partners, they are very excited about this,” Thurber said in the three-minute video.
He addressed confusion about whether BlackBerry smartphones will disappear or continue to be available after in-house design and development ceases by the end of the company’s 2017 financial year on Feb. 28.
“We’ll now be working with partners to take our software onto their hardware. So there will continue to be BlackBerry-branded devices for sale all over the world,” Thurber said.
The only such partnership announced is with a joint venture company that will primarily make BlackBerrys for the Indonesian market.
The keyboard phone is expected to be a DTEK model. The first DTEK — a touch-screen device using a BlackBerry version of the Android operating system — began shipping in August.