Swiss consumer electronics and design company Punkt has been selling a line of simple phones with barebones design and features for a few years. But it turns out that before building the Punkt MP01 and MP02 mobile phones, the company designed an Android smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard… but decided against manufacturing and selling it.

Now we have an idea of what it would have looked like though, thanks to CrackBerry’s Kevin Michaluk, who had a chance to go hands-on with a protype of the Punkt MC01 Legend.

The prototype was built in 2015 at a time when the writing was already on the wall: the market for phones with QWERTY keyboards was virtually non-existent.

BlackBerry’s market share had already shrunk substantially and the company whose name had been synonymous with QWERTY phones was starting to pivot from BlackBerry OS to Android (and soon began outsourcing production of BlackBerry-branded phones to other companies before getting out of the phone business altogether).

And other Android phone makers had largely given up on keyboards by then.

But Punkt founder Petter Neby tells Michaluk that’s not the reason the company never released the phone – it’s not like a niche player like Punkt needs to sell millions of devices to be successful. I doubt they sell millions of MP series phones.

Instead, the company never really surmounted a few software problems related to Android. The first is that Android doesn’t play well with displays that have what appears to be a 4:3 aspect ratio like the Punkt MC01.

The second is that Punkt wanted to prioritize user privacy… which means that while the company could install Google’s open source Android operating system on a phone like the Punkt MC01, Punkt didn’t want to ship a phone that uses Google Mobile Services that allow Google to collect user data. And that would mean shipping a smartphone that doesn’t run the Google Play Store… which would make the phone a lot less useful for most customers.

While it’s unusual for a smartphone maker to prioritize privacy over convenience and/or market share, it’s not exactly unheard of. Companies that make Linux-friendly phones like the PinePhone and Librem 5 don’t just ship hardware without Android, but they also included hardware kill switches that let you disable the microphone, camera, and wireless capabilities. And Michaluk says Punkt had also been working on a version of the MC01 that would have had similar hardware kill switches.

Left: Punkt MP02 // Right: Punkt MC01 Legend (via CrackBerry)

So rather than release a phone running Android, Punkt shifted gears and started working on a series of mobile phones without the “smart” features, while incorporating some of the design ideas it had developed for the shelved smartphone.

Michaluk reports that the company that developed the operating system for the Punkt MP02 is also working on a privacy-focused smartphone operating system. That company is called Apostrophy, and it sounds like they’re planning to launch their operating system sometime next year… because Punkt says it plans to launch a touchscreen phone running Aphy OS by the end of 2023.

And maybe if that goes well, the company will eventually bring the MC01 or another phone with a keyboard to market.

You can find more photos and additional details about the MC01 at the recently back-from-the-nearly-dead CrackBerry.

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16 Comments

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  1. Jeeze. The Punkt MC01 is my wet dream of a dumb smart phone. Really bummed they never brought it to market… I honestly think it would do well right now as an alternative in a sea of candybar smartphones.

  2. Lovely phone. Bought the BB PassPort as soon as I saw it and upgraded to the Key2 after that. I love phones with a qwerty keyboard. The typing is more satisfying to me especially on long emails.

    Sad this will never come to market. I’d love the Titan PassPort knock off, but it’s just too bulky. Will probably have to resort to a Cosmo Communicator when my Note 9 is too long in the tooth.

    1. I too miss keyboards at times but haptics and pixel dictation along with larger screen real estate have eased my want

  3. I’d love to see the return of the PDA. Why compete with smartphones when the iPhones and androids have perfected the platform? For me, purpose built devices get work done much faster than an all-in-one smartphone.

  4. I hope they port GrapheneOS and don’t try to reinvent the wheel. People need to work together. What a great looking device. Black and white sharp memory lcd would be killer for battery and looks also.

  5. If it ends up being another de-Googleified Android build, I won’t be interested.

    I really hope this is going to be a completely unique OS with really minimal ambitions, and a focus on privacy.

    1. They could try working with Mudita to use the OS they adopted for their Pure phone

  6. adding more keys (why space is big?)
    and put every system. in my opinion kaios , tizen will be better than android

  7. The problem with any phone operating systems besides android and iOS has always been working well with hardware that works well. Either the hardware will try people’s patience, or the alternative won’t run on it, or both.
    So if Apostrophy is just going to put out another AOSP fork a better thing to do would cooperate with Murena or someone like that. That, or work on porting mobile Linux distros to hardware that’s fast enough and reliable enough for you to not bother other people with how you sacrificed getting along with your society for actual control over a device you own. Trying something totally new means the odds of getting along with everyone else, who doesn’t understand why a decent human being would ever be concerned about control over a device you own, or what that even looks like, are much lower.

  8. You can stick the blooming obvious right in front of peoples eyes. Yet they still cannot see it. They need marketing spoon feeding, to see it. 🤐🤔

    Merry Crimbo

  9. Did they consider turning AOSP into something like DivestOS or GrapheneOS for their Legend?