The BlackBerry is back! The BlackBerry KEYone is here and it is exactly what you would expect from a BlackBerry device. This time instead of trying to match the competitors in the market, BlackBerry has gone back to its roots which helped the device become so successful in 2009. This device unlike the Z3, which failed to live up to the hype, is not completely a touchscreen mobile phone, yes you heard me right the QWERTY keyboard is back and it offers waves of nostalgia to boot.
When taking a closer look at what’s under the hood, the phone is packed with the type of specifications you would expect in a phone that is looking to compete at the top end of the market. The device, by BlackBerry’s own admission, focuses on strength, speed and security.
The phone is unlike any other flagship device currently on the market. I touched on it earlier but in case you thought it was a typo, yes the QWERTY keyboard is back. This time the keyboard is a lot different to the keyboard featured on the famous BlackBerry Curve and Bold, this new smart keyboard goes way beyond the normal functionality of an average device by allowing for up to 52 customisable shortcuts by simply pushing a button. You can create shortcuts for just about any application, use W for WhatsApp, E for Email, or even C for Candy Crush.
Okay so you probably used to scrolling on your smartphone’s touchscreen at the bottom of your phone and thinking this smaller screen on this device will stop you from doing this. Wrong. The smart keyboard also allows for scrolling both up and down and left and right. A problem that I thought might develop by using this device is the difficulty in typing with the small buttons that aren’t on a responsive touchscreen, but much like riding a bike I was soon typing away at ferocious speeds just as I had done so many times before with my BlackBerry Bold.
Another aspect of the device which is different from others is the look and feel. Many devices these days are ultra lightweight, thin and have an elegant design. The KEYone has taken a different approach instead the phone is compact and durable. It does this by combining a sleek aluminium frame and soft grip textured back which will surely ease that dreaded fear of dropping your phone and watching it smash before your very eyes.
The KEYone runs off an Android 7.1 Nougat operating system giving users access to the entire Google Playstore and apps. The device is also packed with a bunch of custom features such as the BlackBerry Hub and productivity tab. The BlackBerry Hub offers a useful way to manage your messages as it allows the user to view all their message, and I mean all your messages across the various applications, in one single place. Whereas the productivity tab allows for the user to organise their daily lives and content on their devices by offering a peek view of applications such as your calendar or your BlackBerry Hub.
Another aspect which has been core to the focus of this device is the security features. The device is kitted out with a more aggressive patching system than a native Android device, which means the KEYone should be protected against newly discovered malware faster than regular phones. It also has a new feature called DTEK. This feature rates how secure your device is, via a sliding arrow icon and gives you a breakdown of possible security vulnerabilities and what permissions you’ve given to installed applications. The feature made sense when Android’s native security and privacy controls were lacking. But Marshmallow’s built-in privacy controls are now up to scratch, which makes DTEK feel as if it is not really necessary.
The one area where the phone does lack behind its competitors is in that runs using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 CPU, not that this chipset is particularly bad but considering that other flagship devices are running off quicker chipsets it may be of concern to some.
The phone comes with the largest ever battery found in a BlackBerry smartphone. The new 3505mAh battery is an expected upgrade on previous devices and will allow for roughly 26 hours of mixed use.
The camera on the KEYone is certainly not going to win you any Pulitzer awards, but it will take decent photos. The device includes a 12MP rear camera and an 8MP front camera with fixed focus and 84-degree wide angle lens. The phone takes decent quality photos while in good lighting which is more than suitable for any use but when capturing in low lighting areas it is a little hit and miss. The camera is decent, but it won’t be the reason to purchase this device.
The BlackBerry KEYone will not be for everyone. It is clearly aimed at the business professional who is concerned about productivity, performance and reliability/durability. For these business professionals or those who wish to relive the days where physical keyboards were king, the device is a solid choice. The security and productivity features combined with a powerful battery offer one of the best options on the market, but it is quite clear that for many people the physical keyboard is dead and will not be making a comeback. I, however, thought that the added durability and seamless functionality may just help the device make a few waves in the market.