I never thought I would be using a BlackBerry in this day and age. But here we are, and I am using the BlackBerry KEYone in 2017. BlackBerry has a special place because it was the original phone to work and socialize. BBM was one of the main ways to communicate and the red and white star was the notification badge. The KEYone is a Blackberry that runs Android and has a physical keyboard. Look at the specs and read on for my experience after using it for a couple of months.
BlackBerry KeyOne Specs
Display: 4.5” IPS LCD Touchscreen (1080 x 1620 resolution) 434 ppi / Gorilla Glass 4
Cameras: Rear-facing: 12 MP wide angle (125 degrees) / 8 megapixel front-facing camera
Processor / RAM: Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 / 3GB RAM
Memory: 32GB Internal Memory (with expansion slot)
Battery: 3,505 mAh embedded battery /Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0
OS: Android Nougat 7.1
Features: Programmable Shortcut keys / QWERTY keyboard / fingerprint scanner/ DTEK by BlackBerry
Design and Build
This is a shining point for the KEYone. When you see it, you know it’s a BlackBerry. That keyboard layout is instantly recognizable, especially since no other phones have built-in keyboards. On the front, you have the 4.5″ screen. Below the screen, you have the capacitive touch Android buttons, and under them, you have the physical Qwerty keyboard (without a separate number row). It’s just four rows.
Above the screen, you have the 8-megapixel front facing camera, and to its right is the notification light. On the right border, you have the volume button and under it, the convenience key. On the left border, you have the power/standby button. You have the USB-C charging port on the bottom. On top, you have the headphone jack, and SIM/ microSD card slots. The textured back houses the 12-megapixel camera.
Overall the design is serious-looking. This is a phone I would put with the “adulting” category. It’s proper and professional, yet it’s sleek and modern (especially compared to previous Blackberry phones). The KEYone is a phone that looks like it means business!
This experience has been a unique one since it’s the first time I’ve been using a physical keyboard in so long. I didn’t try out the BlackBerry Priv for too long, so I’m coming back to this after a long time. The feeling is a weird one, as using a keyboard felt old and new at once. Having to relearn this “skill” was weird and frustrating at first, but once I got used to it, typing on the keyboard felt strangely familiar. It was like coming full circle after a very long time. I know there are people who never left BlackBerry because of the keyboard. I definitely don’t type as fast as I did during BlackBerry’s prime in the phone game. The KEYone fits comfortably in hand due to the rounded edges. It has a good weight suitable for using the physical keyboard.
Even though it doesn’t have a QHD screen, the Full HD resolution works for the screen size.
Okay, let’s go with the main differentiating feature here, the keyboard. BlackBerry’s reliable keyboard is one of the reasons they were one of the most reliable phones. The keyboard doesn’t disappoint now either. It’s sturdy, clicky enough. And it’s still a familiar feel. That wave of nostalgia you get every time you whip out the KEYone doesn’t fade. You start remembering how to type without looking again, and it just feels cool. This is where the phone’s thick build is useful. It helps balance out the weight of holding and typing at the same time. Flick typing is still here and it helps you choose words by “flicking’ upward. Alcatel / TCL made the most use of the keyboard by embedding the fingerprint scanner in the space bar and allowing you to use it as a trackpad.
The convenience key is obviously very… convenient. I didn’t use it as much as I thought I would since you can program keys from the keyboard as shortcuts to open up certain apps. I, of course, kept it simple; using “i” to open the Instagram app, “h” for hangouts. I do wish the power button was where the convenience key is. It’s a lot easier for me to reach.
Like I said before, I love the fact the fingerprint scanner is embedded into the spacebar. It works quickly almost all the time. Typing a pin code on the physical keyboard is a bit difficult. I have the option of “enter pin to start Android” on, and typing numbers is pretty annoying.
Not a big show here, but any phone in 2017 can take good pictures. With the KEYone 12 megapixel rear camera, you will have to keep a steady hand. Most shots come out clear with a nice attention to color. I like that you can use the spacebar to capture.
As usual the battery life is subject to the on-screen time and overall use of the phone The huge battery on the KEYone paired with what’s now considered a “normal” or “small” screen, makes for great battery life. The KEYone means business, and it does the job of lasting all day. There is no wireless charging on the KEYone, but the Quick-Charge 3.0 is always great.
Pricing and Availability
I reviewed an unlocked version of the KEYone. Verizon didn’t work on it since it’s GSM. When using on T-Mobile service, it worked great in New York. You can go to Blackberrymobile.com and purchase a GSM or CDMA (Verizon) version of the KEYone through Amazon or Best Buy. Sprint recently confirmed they will start carrying the KEYOne July 14th. At Sprint you can pay it off in monthly installments $22 for 24 months or pay $528 in full. On Amazon, the GSM version goes for $630 and the CDMA- Verizon version goes for $792.98.
If you don’t mind having a phone with a screen under 5 inches and miss having a physical keyboard, the KEYone is the perfect combination of Android and a sturdy keyboard. Other phones have had keyboard accessories, but it’s definitely not the same. I enjoyed the BlackBerry KeyOne more the BlackBerry Passport and the Priv (just the feel of typing). If you’ve never let go of the BlackBerry brand, you won’t be disappointed with the KEYone. While the camera isn’t spectacular, you get great battery life and an almost pure Android experience. The touch sensitive keyboard and embedded scanner help make the most out of the keyboard. The KEYone means business. This phone has everything BlackBerry fans are looking for; the BlackBerry feel with the many wonderful options of Android.