Last BlackBerry-designed phone with physical keyboard to hit stores in April – Business

Fans of BlackBerry’s classic physical keyboard will have reason to celebrate when the last product designed in part by the former smartphone leader becomes available in April.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based firm played a role in developing the KEYone, named for the return of the QWERTY keyboard that other smartphone designers have mostly long retired.

“BlackBerry did have something to say about the industrial design,” said Steve Cistulli, president of the North American division of TCL Communication Technology Holdings Ltd. (TCT).

Cistulli said TCT will manufacture and sell the smartphone in Canada and several other countries as part of its partnership with BlackBerry (TSX:BB).

The deal allows the company to design, manufacture and sell BlackBerry-branded smartphones that operate using the technology firm’s security software. BlackBerry receives a commission for each phone sold.

While the KEYone is the first phone to hit the market under this partnership, Cistulli indicated BlackBerry will no longer play a design role in any future products.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen said last September the company was exiting the hardware business, which struggled with profitability as Apple and others dominated the market, to focus on its growing security software operations.

TCL Communication’s CEO Nicolas Zibell presents the new BlackBerry KEYone before the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. (Manu Fernandez/Associated Press)

The KEYone features a 4.5-inch…

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