Sure, the BlackBerry KEY2 is the phone to buy if you need an Android handset with a physical QWERTY keyboard. But there are still quite a few fans out there of 2014’s BlackBerry Passport and its wider passport shaped form factor. The extra width (nearly three-quarters of an inch difference between the Passport and the KEY2) allowed BlackBerry to make the keys on the Passport’s QWERTY wider. There are some issues with the physical keyboard on the handset; it still feels cramped despite the extra width, and there is no shift key or numbers row. There is a touchscreen keyboard above the physical QWERTY that will show punctuation and numbers. The options change depending on the app being used. And the physical keyboard can also be used as a touchpad.
While the Passport has its fans, the problem is that the device runs on BB 10, not Android. And even though a Passport running Android 5.1 Lollipop surfaced in 2015, such a phone was never released. Note that the story makes a reference to an Android-powered BlackBerry slider codenamed Venice; this would be the BlackBerry Priv. That model was the first ‘Berry to run on Android. And while BlackBerry no longer makes its own phones (TCL is responsible for the KEY2), there are some consumers out there who have expressed an interest in a refreshed Passport running on Android.
The Unihertz Titan will be similar to an Android-powered BlackBerry Passport
While we might never see an Android-powered Passport, the closest thing to such a device will soon be available on Kickstarter. According to CrackBerry, a phone manufacturer called Unihertz is planning on releasing a model called the Titan. The handset will reportedly be equipped with a Passport-esque 4.5-inch LCD display carrying a 1440 x 1440 resolution. The device will also pack a massive 6000mAh battery and offer wireless charging, a fingerprint scanner and a face unlock feature. It also will come with NFC (for Google Pay), dual SIM functionality and Global LTE support. Similar to the Passport, the Titan keyboard has three rows of keys and will probably feature a touchscreen QWERTY above the physical one. Those helping to fund the device through Kickstarter might be able to pick up the phone for $199.
We have no idea when the Kickstarter campaign will start, but when (or if) it does, we should learn a lot more about what would appear to be an intriguing device. And don’t forget that later this summer, we should see the F(x)tec Pro 1 start shipping. This is an Android-powered handset with a slideout QWERTY (think the HTC Touch Pro2 although that ran on Windows Mobile). Pre-orders for this device have been open since earlier this year, although credit cards won’t be run until 2 to 3 weeks before the device is shipped. Priced at $649, the phone is powered by an aging Snapdragon 835 chipset.
If you’re wondering which BlackBerry had the best physical QWERTY keyboard, that honor might go to the BlackBerry Bold 9000. With large sculptured keys, slightly curved frets, shift and symbol keys, and a well-placed space bar, this is still the gold standard for smartphone keyboards. While the Bold 9000took BlackBerry to a new level, it still couldn’t compete with the touchscreen Apple iPhone released the year before. And that set the stage for one of the most over-hyped failures in the history of the smartphone, the BlackBerry Storm. The first touchscreen ‘Berry was the subject of a huge marketing campaign and was designed to make the user feel like he/she was tapping on a real keyboard instead of a virtual one. A Verizon exclusive in the states, the device sold well but was a complete mess and nearly all units had to be sent back for replacement models. The company fixed the problem with the much improved BlackBerry Storm2.