Hey, remember BlackBerry?
That ‘cool’ and ‘elegant’ phones that used to rule the executive world back in early 2000? We know, it’s hard to remember it now. But this long forgotten company is making a comeback to smartphone world with a new device.
They have recently announced and released a smartphone named BlackBerry KEYone. This latest effort isn’t produced by the Canadian icon, but rather by TCL Corporation, a little-known Chinese manufacturer which also licenses the Alcatel brand. But it’s a good phone nonetheless.
Here’s a quick glimpse of the phone before we dive deep into it;
- Android 7.1
- 32GB storage (expandable)
- 3GB RAM
- Snapdragon 625
- 3505mAh battery (non-removable)
- Quick Charge 3.0
- 5-inch screen (1080 x 1620, 433 PPI)
- 12MP rear-facing Sony IMX378 camera (2.0/f)
- 8MP front-facing camera
But those aren’t the highlight of the phone. The main scene sealer here is a physical keyboard. Yep..you read that right. A physical keyboard in 2017.
I personally like the idea. It was always easier and faster for us to type on a physical keyboard. We could write a 1000 word essay under 2 minutes with it; kids these days will never get this.
Let’s get started with the dissection of this phone, shall we?
Build and Design
The body of the phone is made of sturdy aluminum, which can withstand all sorts of dents and scrapes. The back of the device has a lovely texture. It doesn’t serve much purpose but looks and feels amazing in hand.
There’s a USB-C port and a REALLY loud speaker on the bottom of the device. Excluding the physical keyboard, the phone packs several buttons on the side of the device. There’s the usual volume rocker and power button, but there’s also a function key which can be mapped as desired. You can assign them as your wish. It’s nice to have that kind of freedom.
That said, the fact that the power button was on the left-hand side, was a bit weird choice. It may take you some time to get used to that.
This phone features a 12mp rear camera with a dual tone dual-LED flash and a front facing 8mp camera. This camera uses the same sensor as the Google Pixel; but doesn’t serve as well as Pixel’s great camera. But it’s not a bad camera setup. It’s serviceable and gets the job done. But not something the device can boast about.
Processor and Battery
The phone uses a rather low-powered chipset; Qualcomm Snapdragon 625. But it complements its 3505mAh battery and gives a very good battery life. With moderate use, it can serve up to 36 hours. Moreover, due to a low powered chipset, this device doesn’t suffer from overheating problem like other smartphones.
Let’s talk about the main highlight of this phone. The keyboard is not very large but that doesn’t hinder the experience. Each button is delightfully clicky. It gives you a proper sense of what you are typing even when you are not looking. That increases its efficiency to a large degree considering all of has to multi-task on our daily life.
The keyboard’s space bar also acts as the device’s fingerprint reader. It’s really smart and it doesn’t take up any screen space. It just effortlessly blends into the device, like a chameleon.
Though some applications refuse to use the physical keyboard. These still brings up the virtual keyboard. But considering it’s a new kind of device that developers weren’t expecting, this is just a small bump. And with time this will also be solved we can assume.
Although this phone runs on Android, it comes with lots of Blackberry apps. DTEK, BBM, and BlackBerry Hub are the main three to be named.
DTEK is a security and app manager app. This gives you a birds-eye view of app permissions, and lets you see where your device might be vulnerable.
There’s also the BlackBerry Hub; which acts as a one-stop shop for notifications, allowing you to access pretty much anything you care about — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, email, and so on — in one place.
And lastly BBM. This was THE mobile messaging app in the late 2000’s. But now with WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Telegram this has lost its significance. Let’s hope it finds its place in the world again.
BlackBerry KEYone is a throwback to the past. It takes what we loved back then and mixes it up with current trends. If you’ve ever used a BlackBerry then it’ll fell like coming home. You won’t be disappointed if you haven’t cause it’s a business class phone, with a premium economy price-tag.
At $599 (£499 in the UK, and €549 in Europe), it’s pretty pricey compared to phones with similar guts. But you’re not paying for the silicon inside the device, but rather the experience.
This device is a hangover from the past (and that’s not a bad thing) and just might make you crave for a physical keyboard again.