I have been living with the BlackBerry KEYone for a month now. Does it feel like I’ve gone back in time to 2009, or is this a phone for right now?
I attended the launch of the new TCL-cobbled BlackBerry last month.
I have to say, I was quite excited. Not only because the newly-opened Roof Deck at Selfridges was the setting, but I miss brands like Nokia and BlackBerry being up there, doing battle with Apple and Samsung.
Where did BlackBerry go?
Just as Nokia and others chose the wrong OS path, BlackBerry was unable to keep up in the apps race.
BBOS wasn’t bad, but it was the range and quality of apps that were drawing crowds to iOS and Android.
BBM was a great plus but, by 2011, it was seen more as a means of arranging drug deals and riots than getting work done more efficiently.
Touchscreens were seen as the future too. The famous QWERTY keyboard, once the high-flyer’s must-have was now seen as old hat.
BlackBerry eventually became a software brand. Now it has been licensed by the Chinese firm, TCL.
BlackBerry KEYone review
Does the KEYone, complete with QWERTY-board have what it takes to make its presence felt amongst the iPhones, Galaxys, etc?
I will admit. I love how the KEYone looks and feels.
Buddied with the lens, is the dual tone LED flash.
The tapered silver edges are comfortable to hold.
The overall feeling I get from this handset is solidity. This alone is enough to set it apart from today’s glass-encased, ready to shatter if you slip, phones.
I have used this smartphone as my daily driver for a month without a case. More importantly, it looks none the worse for wear. I will admit, it has fallen off the sofa arm onto a laminate floor a couple of times. No scratches, chips or scrapes. More than can be said of my friend’s Galaxy.
The notification light is handy but, thanks to a number of emails and other updates I get, the light is almost perpetually blinking.
The extra side button that can be assigned to a specific action is neat. I have it set to launch the camera but did have it as a Gmail shortcut.
Under the hood is a Snapdragon 625 paired with 3GB RAM. It keeps things moving along well enough but this is not about drag racing. This is a long distance cruiser.
This particular smartphone is more about productivity and staying connected.
The graph above shows that since its last charge (a day ago), I still have 40%/16 hours of charge left. How does your Apple or Samsung compare?
Let me put this one to bed first.
My swipe texting skills were pretty nifty before I grabbed the BB. Using a physical keyboard did seem a tad awkward.
Yes, the board feels good and sturdy. The angled keys are comfortable to use and there’s a reassuring resistance to them.
Because of the physical nature of typing, I am sending fewer incoherent messages.
I do feel that swiping is still faster than typing though.
However, the physical keys have other advantages.
You can launch all sorts of actions from the homescreen by assigning each one a key. So, press ‘T’ to open Twitter, or ‘P’ for your photos. Keys can also be assigned as shortcuts for specific contacts, to switch Bluetooth on and off and so on.
Each of the 26 keys can be used for two different shortcuts – a long press and a short press. So, 52 shortcuts in all. This could really aid your productivity by cutting out flicking through folders of apps and menus.
You can even assign keys as shortcuts for specific contacts, to switch Bluetooth on and off and so on.
Furthermore, you can swipe vertically or horizontally on the keyboard. This lets you flick through menus or scroll down pages without smearing the screen.
Finally, the phone’s fingerprint scanner is neatly included in the space bar. Oh, the space bar also activates the camera shutter. Yet another way to prevent your fingers tapping the screen.
Oh, if you can’t find those pesky emojis, hold down the button to the left of that space bar.
Having that keyboard naturally affects the screen-size.
Here we have a 4.5-inch display that has an unusual 3:2 ratio. Saying that, the 1620 x 1080 resolution screen (434 ppi) is pretty crisp.
It might not be the best for video watching but, if you’re contemplating the KEYone then you probably have other priorities. It does a reasonable job, to be honest, and should I want to watch a film, I’ve a tablet.
The KEYone uses the same 12MP Sony IMX378 sensor as the Google Pixel and, if you know anything about that phone, you will know just how capable this setup is.
Whether shooting in low light or bright sunlight, the Sony IMX378 is a top-flight sensor.
The autofocus on the KEYone is snappy which helps as I have a habit of just pointing and shooting.
You also have an 8MP shooter on the front, which is also well above par for 2017.
These are definitely the best cameras ever to have appeared on a BlackBerry. It also enables the KEYone to step up to other flagship phones with its head held high.
BlackBerry KEYone Camera Specs
- 12MP auto-focus large pixel camera
- 4K video recording at 30 fps
- Phase Detect Auto Focus (PDAF), Fast focus lock
- HDR 6-element f2.0 lens
- Dual Tone LED Flash – Enhanced photo colour balance
- 4x digital zoom
- Continuous & touch to focus, face detection, electric image stabilisation
- Panorama, Burst, Live Filters
- Multi-Frame Low Light Enhancement
This hastily taken video hopefully shows how good the camera is at dusk. The awkward lighting of a Spring evening didn’t confuse it at all.
Please excuse the shakiness, orientation, and the phone slipping in its holder. The holder was still set up for my 6P and I hadn’t planned to take this footage. I was just inspired.
The KEYone’s version of Android 7.1 ‘Nougat’ has a few tweaks, as you would expect.
You can swipe from the right-hand side of the screen to open a ‘productivity tab’. This handy short-cut has a tray that contains recent calls, emails and calendar appointments. You also have access to BBM. The latter is a small ‘yay’ as I seem to only have one contact that uses it. That might change though, right?
BlackBerry KEYone review conclusion
Is this a phone to go up against the iPhones and Galaxy S-series of this world? Nope. Not directly, anyhow.
But, it was always the same for BlackBerry wasn’t it? I loved my Nokia N95 for specific reasons. My friends had BlackBerrys for their own reasons.
If you like people to be able to tell you’ve the latest handset, well there isn’t anything else that looks like the KEYone. Additionally, I can’t imagine any other phone not needing a case to keep it looking fresh.
The camera is great and the keyboard is pretty nifty.
The screen and processor aren’t going to dazzle anyone but the battery life sure will.
Rather than chasing the others up the same path, the KEYone not only looks different, but it sets itself apart admirably.
If you want style along with productivity and security at a reasonable price, you need to check out the KEYone.
BlackBerry KEYone price and availability
You can buy the KEYone now for £499 from Selfridges and Carphone Warehouse.