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BlackBerry launches its second externally-designed smartphone in three months

BlackBerry released on Tuesday its second smartphone designed and built externally, the latest development in the company’s push away from manufacturing handsets as it focuses more on its security software.

The DTEK60, designed and manufactured by TCL Corp., is an Android-powered device that runs BlackBerry-developed software. Its launch comes three months after the release of its predecessor, the DTEK50, which was the result of BlackBerry’s first such partnership with the Chinese firm.

“We want to provide choice to the market,” said Alex Thurber, BlackBerry’s senior vice-president for global device sales.

The newer phone, which sells for $ 650 Canadian dollars, builds on the less-expensive DTEK50. It boasts a bigger screen, longer battery life and a camera with greater resolution. Like the DTEK50, it has no physical keyboard.

Thurber wouldn’t disclose how many DTEK60s BlackBerry is aiming to sell, but said CEO John Chen has been very clear with him “as to how much I need to sell this.”

As for the DTEK50, Thurber declined to release how many have been sold since its release in July.

“I’m very happy with how it’s selling,” he said.

BlackBerry announced late last month it was exiting the hardware business, a move some experts have urged the company to make as it repeatedly posted disappointing sales figures despite the much-hyped release of new phones such as the Priv late last year.

Through licensing agreements, other companies will make and design BlackBerry-branded phones that will use its operating system.

While the switch to focus on software is expected to be completed by the end of February, there is still the possibility of one last BlackBerry-designed phone — with a physical keyboard — appearing on store shelves.

Earlier this month, Thurber told BBC that that device would appear in stores within six months. Asked by The Canadian Press about that prediction, a BlackBerry spokeswoman said the company was not commenting on future devices at this time.

The release of the DTEK60 comes as the smartphone market becomes increasingly saturated. Google recently unveiled two new smartphones — the Pixel and Pixel XL — the company’s first phones featuring hardware and software it created.

Thurber said he doesn’t view Google as a competitor.

“There are a lot of options in the phone business today. There are a lot of different brands and lots of different models,” he said.

“And we’re comfortable that the phones we have and that we’re bringing out have the features that our customer base is looking for and that they’ll continue to be of interest.”