BARCELONA: BlackBerry is back with yet another phone, this time mixing the Android operating system with a physical keyboard in the form of the KeyOne, that was unveiled at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) trade show.
We had some one-on-one time with the new device and here are our first impressions.
Design and build
The BlackBerry KeyOne is another Android smartphone to pack full QWERTY physical keyboard. What's more, perhaps n a bid to attract BlackBerry purists, the physical keyboard doubles up as a makeshift trackpad, mimicking the BlackBerry trackpad of old.
All 52 of those glorious physical buttons can be programmed as customisable shortcuts if you have such time on your hands, and there's a fingerprint scanner built into the spacebar.
A special programmable "action key" - similar to the one seen on the DTEK60 - has also made an appearance on the KeyOne. The button sits on the bottom left side of the KeyOne below the volume rocker and will let users assign two of 52 customisable shortcuts to it at any one time.
If you're a modern smartphone user, you'll probably find that the KeyOne's physical keys feel just as cumbersome and annoying as previous BlackBerry devices with physical keyboards. If you're not used to it, you will not only get annoyed with the extra effort needed to press the buttons, and will most likely press all of them by accident when attempting to write a message. But as with any new tech, we're pretty confident you'll get used to this over time. You might even come to love it.
If you're an old time BlackBerry user, you're going to enjoy the feel of the KeyOne. It has many things a modern smartphone has, with everything BlackBerry fans loved about the traditional handsets.
Up front is a 4.5in display running at a 3:2 aspect ratio, which feels a little odd by common smartphone standards. While it looks good, it certainly takes a little getting used to a screen of this shape.
Despite being somewhat overcome with utter revulsion at the mere thought of holding a BlackBerry in this day and age, we were pleasantly surprised by the how sharp the phone's 1620x1080 screen appeared and we didn't have any major issues with how well it functioned it during our short time using it.
Processor and operating system
The BlackBerry KeyOne is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 CPU. Navigating around the Android operating system, which still feels weird to us on a BlackBerry, didn't necessarily blow us away in terms of performance, but we were more than pleased with how quick this little thing was.
Even running a non-final version of Android 7.1 Nougat, the BlackBerry KeyOne's menus and multitasking appeared to present no problem at all, which is what this device is all about: productivity.
One downside though is that in true BlackBerry style, the firm has loaded the phone with a wealth of custom features, such as the BlackBerry Hub, which offers a single pane of glass way for users to view and manage incoming messages and notifications.
Battery and connectivity
The BlackBerry KeyOne has a 3.505mAh battery and USB-C connectivity. It's also the first device to feature the firm's new 'Boost' charging tech, which will get you to 50 per cent charge in precisely 36 minutes.
Rounding off the KeyOne's specs is a 12MP rear-facing camera, complete with phase detection autofocus and a large 1.55μm pixel size. An 8MP camera sits on the front, and features an 84-degree wide-angle lens for those who want to "video conference on the go".
In our tests, the camera seemed to fair relatively well, although not quite as snappy as on an iPhone for example, but if you were truly bothered about image then we are sure you wouldn't be considering buying one of these things in the first place.
It's true: the BlackBerry KeyOne feels like a return to form. It has all the features of BlackBerry's previous Android phones while keeping true to what propelled the brand into our lives all those years back in the mid-2000s.
But that said, it's hard to be that excited by the device. While die-hard physical keyboard fans may love the return of this feature it's hard to see most people picking this over, well anything else on the market. Perhaps we'll be proved wrong, but we doubt it.