Yesterday, we revealed details of an unreleased BlackBerry device being tested at Geekbench. The new BlackBerry device, which has a codename of Mercury, appeared to be based around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset, which contains eight ARM Cortex-A53 application cores clocked at up to 2.0 GHz ably assisted by Qualcomm's Adreno 506 GPU. The chipset is manufactured at the 14nm process size, which means it should offer low power consumption and heat output. In the case of the BlackBerry Mercury, it is backed up by 3GB of RAM. The device also includes a 720p resolution, 4:3 aspect ratio, 4.5-inch display panel, which certainly hints that the BlackBerry Mercury would be coming with a hardware keyboard – something sure to excite fans of the previous range of BlackBerry devices based around a keyboard and screen combination with no moving parts.
A new patent was published at the end of last week, which shows how BlackBerry have been working on a touch-sensitive keyboard authentication system. Blackberry have used a touch-sensitive keyboard for some time now on BlackBerry 10 devices and the PRIV: this is how a user can scroll through a document using the keyboard as though it were a trackpad, amongst other things. And whilst BlackBerry are converting themselves solely into a software company, it remains to be seen if this technology will come to light on the BlackBerry Mercury or if the patent will remain unused, since the hardware keyboard is not a popular hardware feature in the Android world.
The patent illustration shows that user authentication may be based on "knowledge of a stored secret though providing input, at least in part, via the touch-sensitive keyboard. The input may be in the form of swipes alone or in combination with key actuations. Furthermore, the swipes and key actuations may be associated with a particular region of the touch-sensitive keyboard." In other words, BlackBerry users might be able to tap a key, swipe the finger a certain way and tap another key in order to unlock the device. As such, the hardware keyboard is not replicating a fingerprint sensor, although the technology almost certain exists such that a part of a keyboard could be reserved for a fingerprint sensor. But it does show that BlackBerry is still exploring other options to unlocking a device. It remains to be seen if the BlackBerry Mercury will adopt this feature and if it does, how usable it will be to unlock via a keyboard swipe combination rather than simply pushing buttons.