BlackBerry KEYone Review
- Solid, industrial design
- Phenomenal battery life
- Useful productivity features
- Smart, secure software
- Has the best camera of any BlackBerry
- Graphic performance is disappointing
- Lacks stereo speakers
- Fingerprint scanner placement makes no logical sense
- Underpowered CPU
BlackBerry KEYone Review – Distinctly Different. Distinctly BlackBerry.
Impressively designed and distinctly different, BlackBerry KEYone reimagines how we communicate and get things done. Secured with BlackBerry security software, the world’s most trusted mobile security software.
This is a smartphone that gets stuff done. It may not be a phone for heavy gamers or media users, but it’s perfect for those constantly in communication with friends and coworkers, or for productivity-focused users who rely on their phones to keep their lives balanced. The addition of a physical keyboard only makes this point even more true, as the endless amount of keyboard shortcuts and ease of use makes multitasking and sending quick messages that much easier.
This is a smartphone for people who like different. BlackBerry really thought out of the box with the KEYone, and in doing so, produced a well-built, productivity-focused smartphone that not only looks different, but isn’t anything like the other phones on the market.
That’s not to say this is a perfect smartphone; performance is lacking in some areas, and the camera could be much better. Still, it’s a completely different experience from what we normally get with Android smartphones, and BlackBerry definitely deserves credit for that.
To conclude, I think it’s important that we remember the main purpose of a communicator. Ergonomics and endurance are essential for someone that doesn’t want to be carrying a battery pack after a long day in the city, and in that respect, the KEYone nails everything.
There is a lot of genius behind the hardware, and a lot more behind the software that powers it all. For those of you who need a phone focused on content consumption more than communication, I can totally understand if you feel this device is not for you, because you’re probably right. It’s not. And hey, if you still want the software on powerful hardware there’s the BlackBerry DTEK 60.
The BlackBerry KEYone is designed for the rest of us, who did feel nostalgic the moment we saw it for the first time. The die-hard professional in need of a work tool that’s quick to react, and that can last a full day, and then some. To them I say the KEYone is a very good device for the things that matter.
The fact that this phone is already running the latest version of Android is a good indication that my complaints about software will be ironed out soon… Because in absolutely everything else, this is going to be one phone I’ll have a hard time putting away.
If you’re an old-school BlackBerry fan looking to relive your glory days when physical keyboards on a phone were all the rage, or a power-business user only concerned about productivity, the KEYone is a solid choice. It offers a robust set of security and productivity features that make it great for document editing, and it has one of the best battery lives around, which will be a blessing for those regularly stuck on long-haul flights.
For regular folks there are better options, however. The Snapdragon 625 CPU means the phone feels overpriced and doesn’t match the performance of cheaper handsets like the OnePlus 3T. I’m also not convinced younger buyers who’ve been raised on touchscreens will find the addition of a physical keyboard remotely helpful – even I struggled to use the keyboard initially, despite having used BlackBerry phones throughout most of my teenage years.
This new BlackBerry phone fits a specific type of person, and they pretty much know who they already are: exiled BlackBerry users who have felt forced to trade their physical keyboards for on-screen keyboards over last half decade. Businesses considering buying this for their employees should appreciate the front-and-center security app and BlackBerry Hub. There’s no excuse for workers to miss your messages now. Anyone just looking to stand out with this old-meets-new smartphone will have an instant conversation starter with anyone over 35 and a lot of “What’s that thing?” from younger millennials.
I really, really didn’t expect to like the BlackBerry KEYone. Sure, I have a lingering attachment to this once-great mobile brand, and I do like a good underdog story. Putting those highly personal things aside, though, and we’re left with an objectively great smartphone. Of course, given the years of experience nearly all of us have when all-touch devices, I have to wonder if anyone accustomed to tapping glass would make the move back.
That’s not really BlackBerry and TCL’s concern, though. This phone won’t make a BlackBerry believer out of anyone who wasn’t already. For these two companies, the mission was to build a device that blends the best of Android with the hallmarks of BlackBerry devices long past. And you know what? They did it. If you’re hunting for a new smartphone and you’ve ever loved — and I mean loved — a BlackBerry before, the KEYone is well worth considering. If that doesn’t sound like you, feel free to move on.
Maybe of all the phones we’ve looked at so far this year, the BlackBerry KEYone was the easiest to let prejudices affect our enthusiasm for the handset. BlackBerry as a brand? Hasn’t that experiment played out by now? Hardware QWERTY keyboards on phones? Haven’t we all agreed that on-screen keyboards are the obvious way to go?
And when we looked at the middle-of-the-road specs, combined with pricing that, while below flagship level, is still north of similarly-equipped mid-range competition, it was easy to think that the KEYone was attempting to fill some niche that just didn’t seem to exist in reality.
But then we actually started using the phone, and while it didn’t happen overnight, eventually we “got it.”
The KEYone is just so different from every other smartphone out there on the market that it takes a little while to appreciate all that it has to offer. We absolutely love things like its stellar battery life, but that’s something any phone could do (if the manufacturer set its mind to it). What’s really special about the KEYone is how the keyboard enhances the user experience.
On-screen keyboards have gotten so, so good over the past five years that even former hardware-QWERTY die-hards have likely graduated to software systems with predicative text, swipe input, and all that other modern good stuff. But when you start using the KEYone’s keyboard you realize that it’s more than just an array of physical buttons. It does predictions, it accepts swipe gestures, and it really does go a long way towards offering a best-of-both-worlds compromise.
We’ll freely admit that going back to hardware keys takes a bit of adjusting, but it’s just so satisfying to type on all these clicky, responsive keys that you’ll be looking for extra opportunities to do so – and that means that you’ll be getting plenty of practice in. And when we stack on extras like app-launch shortcuts and using the keyboard as a touchpad to effortlessly scroll the phone’s screen, that’s only making a good thing better.
The KEYone still isn’t a phone for everyone. And at just about $550, it’s still a little more expensive than we’d like it to be. But for the right user, it’s just such an extremely satisfying phone to operate that all its missteps and eccentricities don’t seem to really matter. This is a phone that knows exactly what it wants to be, and has no qualms in doing things its own way. That’s an increasingly rare thing in today’s homogenized smartphone market, and that TCL is able to do it so successfully with the KEYone is all the more impressive.
Thought BlackBerry phones were on the way out? If they’re able to recapture some of this KEYone magic for another couple BlackBerry handsets, you may be very much reconsidering that fate.
If you yearn for a phone with a physical keyboard, you’re going to be drawn to the KeyOne, regardless of any other features.
TCL keeps the faith with the BlackBerry KeyOne, and the faithful shall be rewarded. Using this phone for five days, I kept thinking, “I could stick with this.” Words are my thing, after all, and this phone really prioritizes them. But then I realized I’ve moved on, and I personally prefer the Galaxy S8’s superior camera and always-on display.
But it’s okay if you haven’t moved on. The KeyOne doesn’t force you to make the painful compromises the Classic and Priv did: It’s a mainstream Android phone running all of the latest apps, and it doesn’t feel like it weighs a pound and a half. TCL and BlackBerry thought a lot about people who want to have their fingers on the keyboard of life, and you can benefit from that thoughtfulness. Tap away happily.
It is good to finally have a new model with a physical keyboard on the market again. The extensive security features and decent battery runtime are the biggest advantages of the BlackBerry KEYone. Others are its bright screen and the many and well-functioning input options including a physical keyboard with additional functions.
Nonetheless, the price of $550 seems a little high regarding the chosen SoC (Snapdragon 625) and the RAM of only 3 GB. LTE cat. 6 is rather disappointing for a business device in this price range. Its local restriction to selected LTE frequencies do not support global use. The cameras are mediocre, as is the device’s performance.
If you can appreciate the hardware keyboard and are looking for a secure Android phone, maybe you should consider the BlackBerry KEYone. You will definitely stand out with this unusual phone.
This is a unique smartphone and can’t really be judged as an equal with others in its price class. It clearly targets a niche, but what’s unknown at this point is whether the target audience is big enough. Even if there are people who like the idea or the memory of a physical keyboard, will they be willing to accept the tradeoffs that this phone demands? In a universe of sleek metal phones with borderless screens and curved glass everywhere, the KEYone is a bit of a brute and we’re not sure we would like this as our primary phones, even though we can really make use of its productivity features.
The keyboard layout, button placement, and sometimes awkward marriage of hardware and software all show where the KEYone found its balance, but there are still some seams between the Android and BlackBerry worlds.
At this price, you could get the LG G6 (Review) or Samsung Galaxy S7 (Review), and of course there are plenty of well-regarded phones such as the OnePlus 5 (Review) and Honor 8 Pro (Review) that are priced quite a bit lower. You would really have to value the keyboard above having a large screen and slim body, not to mention the general performance and camera quality of a high-end phone.