Almost as soon as the BlackBerry Priv - the company's first Android phone - launched in 2015, there were rumours circulating about another Android-powered smartphone. At the time it was code-named Vienna, which made complete sense following on from the Priv which was code-named Venice. 

Since then, the phone was referred to with code-name Rome, and more recently, Mercury. While naming is important to get a sense of this device's story, it's easy to get confused when there are three names being bandied around for a single phone. 

In true BlackBerry style, the Mercury looks to offer a physical keyboard, a uniquely BlackBerry offering when paired with the Android operating system.

Since the early "Vienna" days, very little else has been said about the supposedly impending device launch. All we know is that Blackberry has passed on the hardware manufacturing side of its business to TCL (the company charged with making Alcatel phones).

If rumours are accurate, the Mercury could be the last phone developed in house by the once giant of the smartphone world. 

Unlike classic BlackBerry handsets the screen won't be square but adopt a more regular touchscreen aspect, according to leaked images. Venture Beat's most recent report on the new BlackBerry phones suggests it won't be the usual widescreen 16:9 ratio, but rather a 3:2 ratio display. In other words: get ready for some heavy letter-boxing on your videos. 

As well as having a slightly shorter display, it's claimed to measure just 4.5-inches diagonally but still pack in a panel with full HD resolution. Given that 1080p looks great on full-size 5.5-inch screens, the smaller display on the Mercury should be very crisp. 

Weibomercury-collage

Unlike the Priv, the Vienna isn't likely to have a sliding display, and won't look like a traditional candybar all-touch device either. Instead, it's likely to resemble a stretched out version of the Silver Edition BlackBerry Passport.

Like traditional BlackBerry phones, and unlike the Priv, the Mercury also appears to have metal frets in between the four rows of keys on the physical keyboard. This helps space out the keys to make typing easier, as well as giving it a solid feel. Above the keys, below the display, there's the traditional Android trio of capacitive buttons. 

According to the earliest mock-ups from CrackBerry it seemed like BlackBerry would release four colour variants: silver, grey, green and red. However, it's been a long time since those, and the more recent leaked renders only appear to show this silver and black model.

Those renders from both BlackBerry Central and Mondo BlackBerry show a device with what looks slight curves on the edges of the the screen to give it a seamless look and feel. The bottom edge looks to have a Type-C port in between two grilles. Presumably one of those is the microphone, while the other is a speaker.

The Mercury also has a fairly industrial looking top panel, above the screen, which looks very similar to the Passport Silver Edition. That means that, although it looks nicely curved around the edges and on the bottom, the top is completely flat and angular.

Images leaked on Weibo even more recently show a device very similar to those earlier renders, with the traditional fretted keyboard and an industrial-looking metal frame around the edges and the Silver Edition-like grille across the earpiece on the top.  

A report from Venture Beat states that the BlackBerry Mercury will be equipped with a mid-tier Snapdragon 625 processor, as well as 3GB RAM and 32GB storage. This rumour was backed up by an entry on Geekbench, the benchmark testing website, showing exactly those specifications.

Of course, that isn't confirmed yet, but if true it definitely won't be the flagship of BlackBerry's future product lineup.

The Geekbench listing also indicated that it will launch running Android 7.0 Nougat, making it the first BlackBerry device to be loaded with the latest version of Google's mobile operating system. 

It's also rumoured to feature a huge 3,400mAh battery. With those specs, the smaller screen and modern Android software, we'd be incredibly surprised if it couldn't last two days on a single charge. There's no word on whether or not there's any Quick Charge support, but with a phone that big, we suggest that it would need something to fill it up quickly. 

Recent reports have claimed that we should expect to see an 18-megapixel rear camera in the Mercury, similar to the Priv which - although not incredible - was easily the best camera we'd seen in a BlackBerry up until that point. The front camera is likely to be 8-megapixels. 

The mock-ups show an LED flash on the rear and also reveal a front-facing camera.

BlackBerry's next QWERTY-equipped smartphone is due to land at some point in the first quarter of 2017. Prices are difficult to guess, early rumours suggested around $500 USD, which would suggest a price around the £400 mark in UK.

It's not a high-end device, so it's unlikely to cost anywhere near the £580 price point of the Priv. Looking at the specifications, it's probably a safe guess to assume it'll be priced somewhere between the £275 BlackBerry DTEK50 and £480 DTEK60. 

We'll be keeping an eye on all the rumours surrounding the BlackBerry Mercury (DTEK-something most likely, when it launches) and updating as we learn more. You can follow all the news and reviews on the BlackBerry hub!