About two months ago, the codenames for three upcoming Blackberry smartphones from TCL surfaced online. One of them is the Athena and renders of the phone just showed up online, courtesy of China’s patent office.
The BlackBerry Athena rocks a QWERTY Keyboard just like the BlackBerry KEYone but much better looking. The display seems to be bigger and the keyboard has been redesigned. The keys are a bit bigger and the fingerprint scanner/spacebar now has the BlackBerry logo. The keyboard area also appears to be covered in leather. Overall we think the keyboard experience should be better on the Athena.
The top of the phone has also been redesigned. The front camera is now in a smaller housing; there is a single cut out for the earpiece, and even the sensor is smaller. The KEYone actually looks very ugly when compared to this device.
However, there are some things TCL hasn’t changed. The phone still uses capacitive Android buttons. One of the complaints of the KEYone is that when scrolling with the keyboard, there are instances where your finger slides over the keyboard and lands on the capacitive keys. This results in you accidentally pressing the recent apps key or even exiting an app.
Switching to on-screen keys while maintaining the bezel if they wish would have been better. Once the phone senses you are scrolling, the on-screen keys fade away. This way, even if you accidentally land on the display, you don’t exit the app or open the recent apps menu.
The rear looks good too. Gone is the large circular housing of the KEYone. In its place are dual cameras that share a single housing with a LED flash on the right. The upper part of the back is covered with smooth leather while the rest of the back is textured for a better grip.
The BlackBerry Athena has a metal frame with a brushed finish. There are antenna lines at the top and all the buttons are on the right. We have a single long volume rocker, a power button, and a textured Convenience Key. The SIM tray is now on the left.
The button placement is another problem we have with this device. Another complaint with the KEYone is that the button arrangement doesn’t make it easy to mount the phone. Users will experience the same problem with the Athena as you will only be able to mount it at the bottom.
The BlackBerry Athena has a USB-C port flanked by speaker grilles at the bottom. There is also a 3.5mm audio jack at the top. Overall, this is a better-designed phone than the KEYone though with a few unresolved flaws.
The BlackBerry Athena should launch as the successor to the KEYone. It is expected to come with a more powerful processor and even more RAM. There is still no news about a release date yet, so there is still some waiting to do.