BlackBerry KEYone review: Oddities take shine off impressive QWERTY keyboard

Hang in there, buddy!

BlackBerry had started losing its ground after iPhones and Android smartphones invaded the premium smartphone market. The company’s QWERTY handsets, which were once a style statement with corporates, apparently became a thing of the past with cherished memories.

But, BlackBerry refused to die.

Starting from embracing Android operating system with the Priv in November 2015 to experimenting with other handset models like the DTEK series, Passport and Leap, BlackBerry kept on trying to bounce back.

The company’s latest attempt to regain its long lost glory is the new BlackBerry KEYone, which was launched in February at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

With Android 7.1 Nougat and BlackBerry’s trademark physical QWERTY keyboard, the KEYone is certainly the best Android-powered BlackBerry to date.

However, with a price tag of Rs. 39,990 in India, does the BlackBerry KEYone have the oomph to outshine rivals in the cut-throat Indian smartphone market?

Let’s find out in our review of the BlackBerry KEYone Black Edition.

BlackBerry KEYone specifications

4.5-inch full HD resolution display (1620 x 1080 pixels)

Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor

4GB RAM + 64GB storage

12MP rear camera + 8MP front camera

Android Nougat 7.1

3,505 mAh battery

BlackBerry KEYone review: Design

To be honest, the KEYone did feel like a typical BlackBerry phone when I got my hands on the device for the first time.

What immediately grabs your attention when you look at the handset is the physical QWERTY keyboard that sits at the bottom of the screen, which covers only about half of the phone’s front.

The keys are backlit and they are pretty easy to run your fingers over. Why? Because the whole keyboard can be used as a touch-sensitive trackpad, instead of using the touchscreen for scrolling through web pages.

The keys also support a range of programmable shortcuts while there is also a fast fingerprint sensor, baked into the spacebar. All in all, the keyboard on the KEYone is fun to use.

In addition to the volume rocker and hybrid dual-SIM tray, you’ll also find a convenience key to the phone’s right, which you can customise to open an app or complete a task.

The phone also comes with a USB Type-C port at the bottom and the 3.5mm jack at the top while its back features a soft, matte rubberised finish, which offers a classy look as well as a comfortable grip on the phone.

BlackBerry KEYone review: Display

The colours on the KEYone’s full HD screen look rich and sharp. The display comes with scratch resistance, which is a great protective feature to have on a smartphone in the long run.

The only (and probably the most important) aspect that made me feel awkward was the 4.5-inch LCD with a 3:2 aspect ratio to help the phone’s front accommodate the physical keyboard.

According to BlackBerry, the KEYone’s unique display is great for composing email as it offers more usable space while typing compared to a 5.5-inch all-touch handset.

But, when it comes to watching widescreen videos in portrait or landscape mode, the phone’s odd screen ratio may not give you the utmost pleasure.

BlackBerry KEYone review: Performance and battery life

The KEYone has a midrange Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, which is powerful enough for everyday tasks, including multitasking between various apps.

Together with an Adreno 506 GPU and 4GB of RAM, the chipset managed to handle my daily tasks with the phone without any trouble during the review period.

With Android 7.1.1 Nougat running the show, the phone offers an interface which doesn’t have much of a difference from what Google provides.

Although the BlackBerry Hub can be a great tool to have your email, calendar, tasks and all other forms of communication centralised in one place, the Hub does get overloaded pretty quickly. The best way to avoid it is to prevent certain apps from adding notifications to the Hub.

When it comes to longevity, the giant 3,505mAh battery (even slightly bigger than the one found in the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus) doesn’t disappoint.

During my time with the KEYone, I made sure that the phone was fully charged before leaving for work at around nine in the morning, and by the time I hit my bed, it would often have nearly 30 percent battery left.

The KEYone also benefits from Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0 fast charging technology and a special “boost” mode that helps the phone get back to about 50 percent with nearly a half-hour charge.

BlackBerry KEYone review: Camera

The 12MP primary camera comes with a f/2.0 lens which performs reasonably well in low light. The camera is good enough to capture natural, well-detailed photos under decent lighting conditions.

I found the phase detection autofocus to be very quick, but the option is off by default. The macro shots also impressed me with good depth-of-field and detail.

Although you obviously can’t expect the KEYone’s camera to capture images as good as the Google Pixel, this is definitely the best-ever shooter on a BlackBerry phone till date.

When it comes to the 8MP front-facing camera, BlackBerry offers a decent selfie shooter with a wide-angle lens. However, I found it struggling with the exposure as many of the selfies I clicked had blown-out backgrounds.

Take a look at some of the sample photographs:

The verdict

You will definitely love the BlackBerry KEYone if you are a true BlackBerry fan. It’s indeed a well-made comeback device by the Canadian company.

But if you are an avid Android user looking for an upgrade, move on. There are better deals out there with similar or even superior specs.

There are a few things that worked for me, and a few that didn’t. Here’re they:

BlackBerry Keyone review
BlackBerry Keyone review rating

[This article originally appeared at International Business Times]

Kukil Written by:

I have been writing on science and technology for over a decade now. Creating engaging content has always been my prime focus. I urge all visitors to this website to share their feedback. It will help me and The Tech Region evolve. And yes, our future is being reshaped!