BlackBerry KEYone is the latest BlackBerry smartphone with some great specifications. This phone is not developed by Blackberry but under the licensed name of electronic company known as TCL. Not to worry this is only name exchange of the company but the phone is real Blackberry handset as it is constructed with a familiar combination of stainless steel and textured, rubberised plastic, and has, most importantly, a very BlackBerry-esque keyboard below the screen.
Like other recent BlackBerrys, the KEYone runs on Google’s Android OS, giving you the best of both worlds. You get the BlackBerry keyboard and a suite of BlackBerry designed productivity and security features, plus access to the Android Play Store to download all of the latest tools and apps.
Design and display
The KEYone looks smart and business like with its brushed-aluminium chassis and soft, textured, rear grip. It’s been designed and built to last and it looks and feels like those efforts have paid off – this is the brick to its shiny-glass window-like competitors. At 180g it’s not light but it feels more solid than heavy. The screen is Gorilla Glass 4 and survives drops and rough usage making it a robust phone.
The main feature is, of course, the full QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard on the KeyOne even has a few tricks. There’s a fingerprint sensor built right into the space bar. That’s totally better than the trend of putting it on the back of the phone, and the sensor allows you to approve Google Play purchases with a touch, The best part of the keyboard might be that you can assign shortcuts to each individual key The keys do not launch apps or function as speed dial buttons when in text apps. But the keyboard does function as a trackpad in a pinch. You can also set up 52 key-combos to launch favourite apps or contacts.
The space bar doubles as a very fast-and-responsive fingerprint reader too. It’s convenient and a great use of space. The screen itself is only 4.5-inches diagonal. Not having an onscreen keyboard negates much of the lost space when interacting, but for multimedia tasks such as watching videos and editing photos, it’s naturally a bit small but gets bright and colours are vibrant.
The power button is on the left at the top while the volume rocker is on the right. Below this is a customiseable ‘Convenience Key’ which can be used as a shortcut for a common task or app.
Software and the Operating System
KeyOne runs on Android 7.1 Nougat OS. The main thing that holds this handset is the software. BlackBerry might be one of Google’s newest partners but this hasn’t stopped it from going on to become, arguably, the best Android Tinkerer in the space. The security patches, which appear every month, the choice to use the stock Android UX, the care and thought that has gone into applications like the BlackBerry Hub and features like the ability to assign commands or app short cuts to keys on the QWERTY keyboard. There’s also Blackberry’s DTEK monitoring app which constantly checks for security issues on the phone, Blackberry Messenger (BBM) is back which may sell the phone on its own thanks to being one of the most secure and widely-used messaging services around.
Like all good software, though, BlackBerry’s version of Android kind of just gets out of the way and let’s you get on with what you need to do. There’s no gimmicky BS or “learning AI” that moves your apps around based on how often you use them. It is designed simply and it works beautifully.
Audio and Camera
As with many phones, the main speaker is a solitary unit at the base of the device. It doesn’t get overly loud but it’s not quiet. For music it delivers a surprising amount of punch and while bass is absent it doesn’t sound tinny. For conference calls, the same applies – things are clear enough but volume might be an issue for some in large/noisy environments.
The device also offers a noise cancelling feature through having a microphone linked to the audio jack. It’s not as effective as dedicated noise cancelling headphones but offers a potential improvement to all other dumb headphones in return.
Despite the work focus of the KEYone the fact is that the main camera is seriously impressive. The KEYone uses the same 12MP Sony IMX378 sensor as the Google Pixel and, if you’ve used that phone, and an 8MP shooter on the front. It handles brilliantly – focusing instantly and accurately almost all of the time. You can up the focusing accuracy in the settings by forcing it to check before shooting. Another boon is how quick accessing the camera is when double-tapping the power button and it opens up very quickly. The video settings include 4K (30fps and 24fps) plus 1080p (60fps and 30fps) is also very good and audio records naturally too.
Battery in KeyOne
Blackberry boasts that this is the largest battery it’s ever used in a phone with the hefty 3,405 mAh and lasts a day and a half under heavy use. There are also the quick-charging features. It uses Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3 which allows for a 50 per cent charge in 36 minutes. There’s also a special Boost mode which gives it a spike charge if you’ve only got a few minutes. A handy on screen bar lets you quickly see what state it’s in.
So you see that how Blackberry Keyone is different from other smartphones as it combines Blackberry’s outstanding features like the keyboard, security, management features and build quality into the latest version of Android. Even if you never use the Blackberry features, you’re left with an excellent Android phone with a very useful keyboard. This smartphone is best for those who are more focused on text-based smartphone functions than viewing photos and watching movies. The phone costs AU$899 (at the time of writing).