BARCELONA, Spain — BlackBerry’s newly announced Leap phone is pretty much what you’d expect from the Canadian company, whose heritage is in making phones for working people.
The Leap phone, BlackBerry says, is targeted at people who are relatively new to the workforce — young people who have grown up with touchscreens, not physical keyboards.
“They know touch and they love touch but now they want to get serious,” said Jeff Gadway, head of product marketing for BlackBerry Messenger.
The Leap is a heavy-ish yet sturdy-feeling phone that is light on aesthetic appeal — both in the hardware and user interface — but that features some innovations that very obviously could increase productivity.
Many of these come in the software keyboard, where BlackBerry has invented some time-saving typing and predictive text tricks that I have not seen before in a smartphone.
“We’ve taken everything we’ve learned about physical keyboards and brought it to touchscreen keyboards,” Gadway said.
In this video Gadway demonstrates the keyboard:
The phone is a slab of grippable plastic and glass. The bottom edges are rounded.
The display looks good, if not great. But then this phone isn’t designed for entertainment. The 5-inch, 1280×720 HD display is made out of Gorilla glass.
The phone has a Qualcomm processor inside, and runs the Blackberry 10 OS.
Users can hit up the on-board BlackBerry World app store for business and productivity apps. They can access the Amazon app store for consumer apps.
BlackBerry is talking a lot about the security of the phone. Gadway said that the security software starts in the secure element of the processor and runs up through the whole software stack to the app level. “The security is woven through every aspect,” he says. And the phone will run Android apps.
Of course, the phone has some interesting features for business users — for example, a file manager that lets users move things around and organize content in the way they want.
A Siri-like “BlackBerry Assistant” is a virtual concierge. Gadway points out that unlike Siri, BlackBerry Assistant can access all content on the phone — business and personal. In an iPhone that’s been secured by an IT admin for work, Siri can search through only the personal content but not the work content.
The Leap will sell for $275. It will become available in Europe in April. A U.S. on-sale date hasn’t been announced.
- 5″ HD touch display
- 8MP rear camera
- 16GB internal storage
- MicroSD card support up to 128GB
- 25 hours of battery life
- 1280×720 HD resolution, 294 pixels per inch
- 1080p HD video recording at 30 frames per second
Additional specs here.