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article imageBlackBerry unveils the DTEK50, the 'most secure' Android phone

By James Walker     Jul 27, 2016 in Technology
BlackBerry has launched the DTEK50, a handset it claims is the world's most secure Android smartphone. The device is BlackBerry's second Android phone and the first to have a touchscreen-only design. BlackBerry is targeting businesses with the DTEK50.
The phone was unveiled yesterday. BlackBerry has taken a very different approach to that of the PRIV, its first Android phone, launched last year. The PRIV was a $700 flagship that BlackBerry later admitted was the wrong device to spearhead its Android smartphones. Prohibitively expensive, it failed to win over customers.
The DTEK50 represents BlackBerry scaling back and creating something with a chance of being successful. To save money, it has simply rebadged an existing device. This has enabled it to focus primarily on the software, building a customized Android version with security as a key feature.
BlackBerry DTEK50
BlackBerry DTEK50
BlackBerry
The DTEK50 is actually an Alcatel Idol 4, a popular budget smartphone with reasonable specifications. In Alcatel's basic configuration, it's in the same kind of league as the Motorola Moto G4, a capable but inexpensive mid-range handset.
BlackBerry has changed very little about the hardware. You get a 5.2-inch Full HD display, 3GB of RAM and 16GB of expandable storage. The rear camera is 13MP and the front one 8MP. Battery capacity is rated at 2,610mAh. The processor is an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617, the only component BlackBerry has altered. The DTEK50 runs at a lower clock speed than the Idol 4, 1.5GHz instead of 1.7GHz.
The phone has a pretty basic design. It's a typical slab with rounded corners, finished in black and capable of fitting in wherever it goes. For BlackBerry, this could be seen as an advantage, allowing it to blend into enterprise environments without attracting unnecessary attention. Notably, the Idol 4 has no physical keyboard, a departure from BlackBerry's historic roots.
BlackBerry DTEK50
BlackBerry DTEK50
BlackBerry
With the Idol 4 as a robust if mundane base, BlackBerry was left to concentrate on the software. It has expanded its work on creating a secured version of Android, continuing where it left off with the PRIV. The phone's list of security features is extensive, including continual automatic system and app monitoring to alert of potential privacy risks, built-in tracking and verification abilities, a start-up procedure that prevents the phone booting if it's been tampered with, full disk encryption and Android "hardening."
The latter refers to BlackBerry's work to toughen the protections already offered by Android. It claims to have improved random number generation, address space generation and certificate pinning, making it more difficult for attackers to scramble the phone's memory. BlackBerry is also quick to point out its dedication to delivering timely security updates, unlike the majority of Android manufacturers. It claims to hold the record for being the quickest to provide patches when vulnerabilities are discovered.
"With an increase in cybercrime on smartphones, people need to recognize that the private details of their lives – where they live, their bank info, pictures of their kids – are at risk on their personal device. You wouldn’t leave the doors of your house unlocked at night. Having a smartphone that doesn’t take your privacy seriously is the equivalent," said David Kleidermacher, Chief Security Officer, BlackBerry. "It’s equally important for businesses to protect their sensitive data from cyberattacks at all points of their mobile environment – from the device to the network and servers."
BlackBerry DTEK50
BlackBerry DTEK50
BlackBerry
Besides the security features, BlackBerry has modified Android in a few other ways. A dedicated "Convenience Key" — replacing the Idol 4's side hardware button — enables you to access your most used applications with a single keypress. BlackBerry has included its BlackBerry Hub app, a relic from the BlackBerry 10 days, that consolidates your incoming messages and alerts into one feed, whether they be calls, calendar reminders or emails.
Not content to leave users without a BlackBerry keyboard, the company has also developed its own software layout. The DTEK50's "smart keyboard" learns from users to intelligently increase typing accuracy and speed. It provides word suggestions as you type and allows you to quickly switch between three different input languages.
Whether the DTEK50 will be able to restore hope to BlackBerry's handset business remains to be seen. At $299, the handset is more sensibly priced than the PRIV. With the same strong security and a commitment to future updates, the DTEK50 could prove popular with businesses in the way the PRIV was supposed to.
BlackBerry DTEK50
BlackBerry DTEK50
BlackBerry
By rebadging a competent Android phone and working primarily in its strong security business, BlackBerry could have found a way to keep selling smartphones going forward. With developing its own handsets proving to be an unsustainable model, looking for support from existing manufacturers could enable it to retain a presence in the mobile industry while concentrating on what it does best.
The DTEK50 is available for pre-order today in the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. It will retail at $299 USD, $429 CDN, €339 EUR and £275 GBP. Handsets will begin to ship from August 8. For a limited time, BlackBerry is also offering a free BlackBerry Mobile Power Pack portable charger when you order the DTEK50, providing added incentive to purchase the security-minded handset.
More about Blackberry, Smartphones, Mobile, Android
 
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