BlackBerry launches the Leap, lower priced phone with virtual keyboard


TORONTO — BlackBerry is foregoing its famous physical keyboard in its newest smartphone.

The Waterloo, Ont.,-based company launches BlackBerry Leap in Canada on Thursday, a cheaper phone for consumers who want a touch screen but don’t want to pay the higher price of an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device.

It’s the first touch screen phone from the company (TSX:BB) since it launched the Z30 more than a year and a half ago.

Since then, BlackBerry has focused on releasing models with a keyboard, like the Passport and Classic, as they’ve proven to be more popular with the company’s business-centric customers.

Features on the Leap include a 25-hour battery life and an eight-megapixel camera.

The company says wireless carriers will offer BlackBerry Leap for free when users sign a two-year contract, or it can be purchased without a contract for $349.

Higher-end smartphones, including some alternative BlackBerry devices, tend to cost $400 to $900 with a contract, depending on the model.

BlackBerry Leap will be available from an array of wireless carriers in Canada, including Rogers (TSX:RCI.B), Telus (TSX:T) and Bell (TSX:BCE), as well as Wind Mobile, Sasktel and BlackBerry’s own web store.

BlackBerry also announced Thursday that T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS), one of the big U.S. wireless carriers, will begin stocking its BlackBerry Classic model starting next week.