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How Keyboard Lovers Can Get the New BlackBerry KeyOne Phone

Diehard fans of physical keyboards on smartphones will get access to the new Blackberry KeyOne at the end of next month, manufacturer TCL Communication disclosed on Thursday.

The KeyOne, unveiled in February at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, has the brand’s iconic keyboard placed below a 4.5-inch touch screen, making for a somewhat bulky phone. The device will be sold in the United States starting on May 31 for $549. That’s $100 or more less than the most popular phones from Apple (AAPL), Samsung, or Google (GOOGL).

TCL is selling the phone unlocked, which means it will be fairly straightforward for customers of GSM-based mobile networks like AT&T (T) and T-Mobile (TMUS) to use the KeyOne. The device is compatible with CDMA networks as well, but that technology requires closer cooperation with the carrier. TCL said the KeyOne would be available later in the summer on Sprint’s (S) network, but no news yet about Verizon (VZ) compatibility.

Smartphone pioneer BlackBerry got out of the phone manufacturing business and licensed its brand to China-based TCL last year. The KeyOne is TCL’s first effort to blend BlackBerry’s keyboard format with a touch screen smartphone running Google’s Android software along with some Blackberry apps.

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The phone will be available earlier in Canada. Subscribers of Bell, Bell MTS, Rogers, SaskTel, and TELUS Business can pre-order the KeyOne for $199 with a two-year contract starting on May 18, TCL said.

BlackBerry (BBRY) once sold one out of every five smartphones. But lately, its marketshare is measured in tenths of percentage points. The question is whether TCL’s manufacturing prowess and BlackBerry’s latest software, with its emphasis on privacy and security, still has much appeal. Initial impressions at the Mobile World Congress were mostly positive.

BlackBerry isn’t the only once-prominent phone phone brand trying to make a comeback via a third-party manufacturer. Nokia licensed the right to make phones under its brand HMD Global.