The BlackBerry line of cell phones certainly wasn’t the first to integrate full QWERTY keyboards, but the proto-smartphones soon became known for them. As such, they were the go-to choice for business people who needed to type out emails and documents on their phones. When true smartphones with high-quality touchscreens hit the market, the popularity of BlackBerry phones quickly declined. But many people still love the tactile feel of BlackBerry keyboards, which is why Arturo182 is designing an Adafruit FeatherWing-compatible handheld based around the BlackBerry keyboard.
FeatherWing is Adafruit’s name for add-on boards that work with their line of Feather microcontroller development boards. You could, for example, use the Adafruit Power Relay FeatherWing with an ESP8266-based Adafruit Feather HUZZAH to quickly make an IoT device that can toggle power to AC appliances or lights. The FeatherWing pin layout and communications are open-source, so anyone can build their own FeatherWing that is compatible with the Adafruit Feather line of development boards. In this case, Arturo182 is designing a FeatherWing that has all of the components necessary to turn a Feather development board into a handheld platform.
Arturo182 is still in the middle of development, and hasn’t actually constructed any prototype devices yet. But his design so far is quite promising. His FeatherWing PCB design features an LCD, a 5-way button, four additional buttons, a battery, and — most importantly — a BlackBerry Q10 tactile QWERTY keyboard. The idea is that you’ll be able to connect the FeatherWing to whatever Feather development board you want, and end up with a sort of PDA or early smartphone kind of device. Because new development boards are frequently released in the Feather format, you can upgrade the device by simply swapping out the board.