BlackBerry introduces Leap touchscreen device, promises dual-curved phone with sliding keyboard

BARCELONA, Spain--BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) introduced a new touchscreen phone and promised to release a new phone later this year with a dual-curved screen and slideout keyboard. Although the company did release new hardware, it is also emphasizing software and cross-platform solutions.

BlackBerry will release its new touchscreen phone, the Leap, in April, starting in Europe. However, the device will likely come to the U.S. since it supports U.S. LTE bands. BlackBerry did not announce pricing for the Leap, which runs BlackBerry 10.3.1 software, sports a 5-inch screen, 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB on internal memory and an 8-megapixel camera and 2-megapixel front-facing camera. BlackBerry said the phone will have full access to the Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) Appstore and will have 25 hours of battery life. As The Verge notes, the Leap has roughly the same specs of Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S4, which was released two years ago, so the Leap will likely be priced as an entry-level device and BlackBerry said it is aimed at young "career builders and companies that value security and privacy."

At the press conference here at Mobile World Congress, Ron Louks, BlackBerry's president of devices and emerging solutions, briefly showed off the dual-curved phone, which BlackBerry said does not yet have a name, price or release date. As The Verge notes the phone somewhat resembles the old BlackBerry Torch or even Dell's Venue Pro from 2010.

In addition to the Leap and unnamed slider phone, BlackBerry said it will launch a new Porsche Design device and another phone with a physical keyboard similar to the BlackBerry Classic. However, the company did not provide details on those phones.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen said that hardware still accounts for around 73 percent of the company's total revenues, with software and services making up the rest. Clearly, the company is not giving up on hardware, but its market share is vanishing; research firm IDC recently reported that BlackBerry had just 0.4 percent global smartphone market share in 2014, down from 1.9 percent share in 2013.

Chen said that company is still making money in hardware, as confirmed in its last two quarters of reported. However, the firm plans to widen its hardware distribution to more channels. He also said that the company has improved its logistics and supply chain and expects to gain back some smartphone market share.

At the same time, BlackBerry is pushing into the Internet of Things, connected car and connected medical device markets. The company is also bringing its core software and services to other smartphone platforms, including Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android, Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS and Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows. BlackBerry is also expanding its partnership with Samsung to bring more security features to Samsung phones.

Chen said that BlackBerry will compete with companies like Samsung by providing some security features on its phones and by providing differentiated hardware. Yet he said he sees hardware and software as the "two pillars" of BlackBerry's business going into the future. The company had $250 million in software revenue in its last fiscal year and aims to double that to $500 million in its next fiscal year, he said.

For more:
- see this BlackBerry site
- see this release
- see this CNET article
- see this The Verge article

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