As we all know, BlackBerry has already stopped manufacturing their own devices and focused on services and software. The Canadian company has given the global rights to a Chinese manufacturer, TCL Communications, to use its brand on their future phones. The first from TCL is the latest BlackBerry KeyOne, which was first introduced during the Mobile World Congress last February.
The BlackBerry KeyOne is a magnificent throwback that gauge to classic BlackBerry strengths, merely in a more contemporary package that uses a customized Android 7.1.1 Nougat interface, with updated features like Google Assistant. The device stands approximately the same as iPhone 7 Plus and was made of durable anodized aluminum with an easy to grip rubberized back.
Protecting its 1620×1080 screen is a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 with a 3:2 display ratio. The relatively small 4.5-inch screen means the display is more apt for reading emails than watching movies, even though you certainly could. The top edge is totally angular and flat; the only port found there is a 3.5mm jack, giving the bottom edge a more proportional design. The bottom edge features a USB Type-C port at the center and two grilles covering the mic and an impressively loud speaker.
You can see that this phone has the influence of TCL or Alcatel through the orderliness of the buttons. Similar to the brand’s other Smartphones, the power/lock button was placed on the left edge and can be difficult to reach. You can find the volume rocker, Convenience Key, and the Nano SIM Card slot at the right edge of the device.
The BlackBerry KeyOne has brought the physical keyboard back, which they called the Smart Keyboard. It may be 4.5-inches in size, but the display’s bottom edge is roughly 1-inch higher than the ones found in other Smartphone screens. This means, the corners and very top edge would be equivalent to 5.5-inch display on all-touch.
The physical keyboard is the most important feature of KeyOne. It may entice the former BlackBerry users back to the brand and will help in encouraging the BlackBerry Classic and BlackBerry Q10 owners to upgrade. Metal frets are used to separate the rows of keys and create a visual distinction between them. More space was also added, which help you hit the right key.
The Convenience Key at the right edge of your device can help you perform a specific action. But technically, each key on KeyOne’s physical keyboard can be used as a Convenience Key. The user can assign one or two shortcut actions to each letter; the first one launches when pressing it and the other one when you long-press the key. Another smart feature of the KeyOne is the fingerprint sensor, which was embedded in the space bar. One of the keys that we usually press is the space bar so adding the sensor into this spot makes authenticating your identity fast and easy.
KeyOne is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor; though it may not be a top-of-line chip, you’ll notice that all your transitions are fast and smooth. You don’t need to wait for anything to load, although sometimes, wireless networks like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are slower. The device is equipped with 3GB of RAM and 32GB inbuilt storage for storing media and apps. But please take note that KeyOne is not built for gaming or multimedia purposes; rather for communication and getting things done. You can use a MicroSD card up to 2TB for expanding the internal storage.
The 3,505mAh battery life of KeyOne is very impressive. This may be due to an improved Android Nougat’s Doze mode; only a small amount of battery juice is used for standby time. Also, since it boast a smaller screen, pixels are fewer than the usual 1080p display. When your battery gets drained, the Quick Charge 3.0 power adapter can supply 50% charge in 36 minutes.
Ever since, BlackBerry never really focused on the performance of their camera. Strangely, we got too excited about the advantages of using a BlackBerry phone again, we forgot that it had one. It’s kind of surprising that the snapper of BlackBerry KeyOne is not bad at all. The rear-facing camera sports a 12-MP sensor with larger pixels and is capable of recording 4K videos. It also comes with Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF) and fast focus lock for shooting quickly. The 8-MP front camera has an aperture of f/2.2 and an 84-degree wide-angle lens.
The BlackBerry KeyOne is a more complete package than the previous BlackBerry PRIV, and a more enthralling device than the recent all-touch BlackBerry phones. With a $549 price tag, the device isn’t cheap considering its specifications, nor very expensive for a flagship device. You cannot find one like this on the market and it’s definitely a standout device for a lot of reasons. For long-time Android users, it would be great to have something different.
Watch the BlackBerry KeyOne in action: