BlackBerry outs touchscreen Leap, teases slider BlackBerry

The company also plans to release a second Porsche edition and another keyboard BlackBerry later this year.

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BlackBerry devices executive Ron Louks teases a BlackBerry with a slide-out keyboard. Sarah Tew/CNET

BARCELONA -- BlackBerry is going back to a full touchscreen with the BlackBerry Leap.

The Leap marks a departure from last year's line-up, which was totally dependent on BlackBerry's trademark physical keyboard. The company plans the smartphone to go on sale in April in Europe for $275 (roughly £180 or AU$350).

Ron Louks, BlackBerry's president of devices and emerging solutions, also teased out a smartphone with a curved display that wraps around the side, like the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, and a slide-out keyboard. While the device doesn't have a name, CEO John Chen said he calls it "the slider." He also said the company would release a second Porsche edition BlackBerry and another keyboard smartphone.

The BlackBerry Leap will target a specific customer segment of "young career builders." Sarah Tew / CNET

BlackBerry is transforming itself, moving away from purely a smartphone manufacturer to become a provider of business services, such as helping companies manage a wide array of mobile devices. BlackBerry made several business announcements earlier here at Mobile World Congress, including its aim to bring more BlackBerry apps and services to the iPhone and Android smartphones and a strengthened partnership with Samsung and its Knox business service.

But despite its efforts to shift toward more lucrative software and services, BlackBerry still counts roughly three-quarters of its revenue from smartphones. And it needs a hit. The company unveiled four devices in 2014: a low-cost BlackBerry Z3 constructed with manufacturing partner Foxconn, a niche Porsche edition BlackBerry, the extra-wide Passport and the BlackBerry Classic .

The Leap, which was revealed on BlackBerry's website, is aimed at the "young career builder, someone looking to make a difference," said Louks.

The company returned to a touchscreen smartphone so it could target "a segment of the market," Chen said. "We're very careful about how we position our product." BlackBerry will still focus primarily on keyboard products, Chen said.

The Leap features a 5-inch, 1,280x720-pixel HD touch display with 293 pixels per inch, an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video recording, 16GB of storage and 25 hours of battery life.

BlackBerry's influence in the smartphone world is waning. The BlackBerry operating system saw its market share falling to just 0.4 percent in 2014 from 1.9 percent a year before, according to IDC. In comparison, Android controlled more than 80 percent of the market.

Chen declined to comment on sales of the Passport and Classic, which both launched earlier this year.

Still, BlackBerry is ahead of schedule on its two-year turnaround plan, eking out a profit (excluding one-time items) in the last quarter. He said it was a good indication that more carriers are willing to sell its products.

"The company's financials are stabilizing," Chen said.

BlackBerry shows off the new Leap smartphone in Barcelona. Sarah Tew/CNET
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