When BlackBerry launched the KeyOne last year, an Android smartphone with a physical keyboard, it played up nostalgia to win back BlackBerry fans of old.
After test running its successor, the Blackberry KEY2, the brand has affirmed that physical keyboards do have a place in our current smartphone landscape, and it’s gunning for Samsung and Apple customers.
A couple of changes and updates, firstly, it’s TCL Communications that makes the devices now and licenses the BlackBerry Mobile brand name, though BlackBerry Limited in Canada still handles the software and security updates.
The BlackBerry KEY2 is thinner and lighter than the KeyOne, and weighs in at 168g. At 8.5mm thick, it feels comfortable in the hand, like a conventional smartphone these days should.
One of the biggest talking point about the KEY2 is the physical qwerty keyboard under the screen. The BlackBerry team, with the KEY2, has finally cracked how to make a physical keyboard on an Android smartphone ‘just work’.
The keyboard can be used as a trackpad and allows you to scroll up and down menus and articles with a light brush across the top of the keys. Each key can also be programmed for a certain shortcut — which is ideal for shortcut-obsessed multitaskers, assuming they can remember what they’ve assigned to each key.
The KEY2 is surprisingly comfortable to hold and seems very durable. Unlike many devices, it’s designed to take a fall. The frame is made of aluminium, which extends out from the screen’s edges, likely protecting it from cracks and scrapes better in the event of a light drop. The only thing missing is waterproofing—so don’t take it for a swim.
The KEY2 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 CPU, which is a mid-range processor that’s enough to run just about everything decently. However, photos taken with the fingerprint sensor are also hidden away in the gallery app, and they’re not uploaded to the Google Photos cloud — another privacy-friendly feature, which I found a bit tricky at first.
BlackBerry also takes pride in the security of their products. The KEY2 may be the most secure Android phone of 2018, but a more practical approach is to say the company really cares and adds its own layer above Google’s — and improves that layer as needed.
An exciting feature that stood out for me was the long lasting battery life. The Key2 is a phone that can legitimately get two full days of juice on light to medium use.
In closing, the BlackBerry KEY2 is a worthy upgrade from your BB10 device. You’ll need to re-learn how to use the BlackBerry apps and services you love, and you’ll find they are different but still great.