the Blackberry KeyOne focus on productivity is embodied by its hardware design. Technically, this phone was built by TCL, as BlackBerry itself does not make hardware anymore. And it’s running Google’s Android software instead of BlackBerry’s own operating system. But rest assured, it looks like a BlackBerry through and through, right down to the classic logo embedded in the soft-touch back of the phone. It’s the first model from TCL that truly does look like a BlackBerry and not just another slab-style smartphone.
Obviously, the keyboard is the centerpiece of attention here, and the main reason why anyone would consider purchasing this phone. As far as smartphone keyboards go, rare as they are in 2017, it is very good. The clicky keys are backlit and they have a sloped design. They’re easy to press and easy to run your fingers over. The phone is also comfortably narrow to use in one hand (unlike the oddly wide BlackBerry Passport or the tall and unwieldy Priv slider).
THE KEYBOARD IS NOSTALGIC, BUT CAPABLE
The keys support a variety of programmable shortcuts (up to 52, in all), as any proper BlackBerry should, and the whole keyboard can act as a touch-sensitive trackpad that can be used instead of the touchscreen for scrolling through web pages or long lists of email. A swipe up on the left, right, or center of the keyboard will select the next predicted word while you’re typing, which blends some of the intelligent features of a virtual keyboard with the tactility of the physical one.
Cleverly embedded in the keyboard’s space bar is a fingerprint scanner, which is effortless to use and makes unlocking the KeyOne a breeze. The right side of the phone is home to another BlackBerry staple: a customizable shortcut button that can be set to launch an app or perform a custom action. I’ve got it set to launch the camera; in phone calls, it will mute your line. The signature BlackBerry multicolor notification LED is also present and accounted for.
The KeyOne’s overall aesthetic can best be described as utilitarian — its two-tone silver-and-black look is way more boardroom than nightclub, and it’s not going to stand out in a crowded subway car (unless someone sees that keyboard, of course). But the fit and finish are very good, the volume keys and power button click with satisfaction, and the back’s rubberized finish is comfortable and grippy in ways that all-glass or aluminum phones never are. It is a brick, though, and heavier than you might expect: at 180g, it’s 20 to 40g heavier than a newe It’s running Android 7.1.1 Nougat (with the most-recent April 5th security patch, as of publish date) and has a largely untouched interface from what Google provides. All of BlackBerry’s special sauce is concentrated in the Hub, a centralized place for your email, calendar, tasks, and other forms of communication.r Samsung phone or iPhone.
BLACKBERRY KEYONE SPECS
- 4.5-inch, 1620 x 1080, 3:2 LCD display
- 35-key physical keyboard with capacitive touch support
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor
- 3GB RAM, 32GB storage with microSD card support
- 3,505mAh battery with Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0
- 12-megapixel rear camera with f/2.0 lens
- 8-megapixel front camera
- Android 7.1 Nougat
- BlackBerry Hub software
- GSM and CDMA support
- $549, unlocked
Also in the this-is-fine category are the 12-megapixel rear and 8-megapixel front cameras. The main camera has large pixels and a bright, f/2.0 lens; it is more than capable of taking fine photos. It won’t compete with a Google Pixel or the best from Apple or Samsung, but when you think about the fact that you basically took crap photos the last time you used a keyboard-equipped BlackBerry, this is a definite leap, and it’s fine compared to most smartphones. It’s pretty adept at taking pictures of receipts for my expense reports, which is what I suspect most owners of this phone would use it for.