Ailing smartphone maker BlackBerry has confirmed it is soon to launch an Android-based device, which will feature a slide-out physical keyboard in addition to the usual touchscreen.
Due to be available "late in the calendar year", the smartphone will be marketed as the BlackBerry Priv, with the name reflecting the fact that user privacy will be a key selling point, according to the firm.
"Priv will be the solution for smartphone users who are learning daily of the lack of privacy they have on their current devices," wrote BlackBerry chief executive John Chen on the Inside BlackBerry blog.
"Priv will be the answer for former BlackBerry users who miss the physical keyboard but needed apps. And, we're responding to current - and prospective - BlackBerry users who need it all: choice, innovation, security, privacy and productivity."
Chen added that his firm is working with Google to bring "the best of BlackBerry security and productivity to the Android ecosystem". This seems to extend to bringing many of the BlackBerry features to Android on the Priv, including the BlackBerry Hub that brings together all updates from email text messages and social networks into one place, and supporting Android for Work with BlackBerry's BES 12 enterprise mobility platform.
"Launching an Android device is a tremendous new market opportunity as we continue our focus on building a cross-platform strategy," Chen said.
It's a terrific proposition for dedicated Android users who are seeking greater productivity and powerful privacy features. And we are advancing our own platform, redefining the expectations of mobility in today's age of risk and cybercrime so that we can serve customers even better."
That BlackBerry was working on an Android handset codenamed Venice had been rumoured for some time, but of late photographs and even purported technical specifications have been cropping up on gadget and mobile news sites.
These details point to a device with a screen about 5.4in in size with a resolution of 1440x2560, and a Qwerty keyboard that slides down from behind the screen. It is said to be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor with 3GB memory and 32GB of flash storage, and based on a build of the Android 5.0 Lollipop version of Google's operating system.
BlackBerry has had a difficult few years, but Chen, who was made chief executive in 2013, remains upbeat about the company's future prospects.
"BlackBerry is a new company. We have new life. And we plan to continue to surprise our customers and the industry. This is just the latest move along that path," he said.
However, BlackBerry said it remains committed to the BlackBerry 10 operating system, with version 10.3.3 scheduled to be delivered in March 2016