For some of us, BlackBerry remains a painful memory, like a someone who died young or a divorce that could have been avoided. It’s like that frame on the wall you don’t want to look at, for it will bring memories flooding back. And worse, there is something or the other that keeps reminding you of this memory, making it hard for the pain to go away. In other words, BlackBerry is still at it and there is a new phone out there, attempting to regain lost glory. Presenting the BlackBerry KEYone.
BlackBerry KEYone specifications: 4.5-inch full HD resolution display | Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor | 4GB RAM + 64GB storage | 12MP rear camera + 8MP front camera | Android Nougat 7.1 | 3505 mAh battery |
BlackBerry KEYone price in India: Rs 39,990
BlackBerry KEYone Design and Display review
BlackBerry KEYone is one of the best designed phones from the Canadian company, and I mean it. I might have used this line before, when the Q10 or the Passport where launched. But this phone clearly surpasses all that. It is stylish and it is professional. It is a BlackBerry that you will like to flaunt. Yes, even in 2017.
As the name suggests, this phone is also about the keys and keyboard. That is the most distinct feature. So there is a full physical BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard in a phone that is the same size as an Apple iPhone 7 Plus. While this is an achievement, it means there display itself is smaller than we are used to and stands at 4.5 inches. You will need to get used to this smaller display, but then the actual real estate is not compromised as you don’t have the virtual keyboard eating into the screen here. This can also be a bit frustrating as you have to manage with the keyboard at all times, and the touch screen can be used only for selection etc.
One unique feature is that the fingerprint scanner, one of the fastest I have used so far, is embedded in the space bar, which you also use as a home button. Plus, the keyboard also works as a trackpad and you can swipe on to navigate the screen. There is a convenience key to the right which can be customised to open an app or complete a task of your choice. I, for instance, used it to take screenshots in a single click.
The KEYone has a Full HD display, which is crisp and clear. It works well in sunlight and comes with scratch resistance, which is a good feature to have in the long run.
BlackBerry KEYone Performance review
For the kind of user who will end up buying a BlackBerry now, performance will be a big requirement. This will be a power user who will want to be able to do a lot things, at the same time. While multi-tasking is not a big problem with the KEYone, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor might feel a bit underwhelming for some customers.
While I did not feel any lag or stutter with what I did during the week, the benchmark scores were not impressive at all. In fact, if you go by these numbers, this is a mid-range phone. Thankfully, this does not reflect all that much in experience. However, as anyone who has used a BlackBerry phone knows, the slowing down happens after a few months, and this being an Android phone I am not sure how things will be down the line. But my experience with the KEYone has been good so far.
BlackBerry KEYone software and UI review
The KEYone is an Android phone. But it is not just any Android phone. The phone comes with a layer of BlackBerry software features that will remind you of the BB OS days, and give you the features that set those phones apart and made them the most productive devices you could buy. The layer of features on the KEYone is not the kind of bloatware you are used to finding on Android devices, it is the stuff that you might actually end up using.
However, the company seems to be really optimistic about BlackBerry messenger which get a bit too much play on the device for my liking. The customisable convenience key on the right, the reimagined BlackBerry hub where all your messages comes and self-assuring (also nostalgic) red blinking LED on top of the phone, and the white on black notifications on the lock screen all add bit of comfort and convenience to this phone.
Let’s not forget that of all Android phones, you can trust a BlackBerry to offer you a little bit extra when it comes to protection and security. The Dtek app keeps giving you a security rating of the phone, based on the apps you have downloaded and the settings you have chosen. And yes, this is something worth paying a premium price for.
BlackBerry KEYone Battery review
At least in the initial days, the largish 3505 mAh battery should be able to see you through the day. In fact, this is where the smaller screen size might become an advantage for this phone as it will use lesser power than most of its competitors. I was able to squeeze out close to 16 hours of life with 4G VoLTE ad regular data updates. That is really good in these times.
BlackBerry KEYone Camera review
While this has never been a matter of discussion, BlackBerry phones have in recent times sported for really good cameras. The KEYone is no exception and sports a 12MP rear camera that is good enough for most users. It can capture subtle colours. and performs reasonably well in low light. The only issue I have with the camera is that the app hides the switch to full manual inside settings and this is easy to miss.
Incidentally, the 8MP front camera is among the better ones I have seen. While I would think BlackBerry users will not be that keen on selfies, this is a good feature for them to make device video calls.
BlackBerry KEYone Verdict
For those who loved a BlackBerry once and would love to go back to one, the KEYone offers a great option. It is a phone that works and is really up to the task for 2017. However, for me the biggest USP of the BlackBerry is a skill I have forgotten. Yes, I have realised that I really struggle now with a physical QWERTY keyboard and long to touch the touchscreen to get the words out. I just hope, BlackBerry’s core audience also does not suffer from this issue. Then BlackBerry might have a bit problem.
At the price of Rs 39,990, a lot of users will find the choice of the mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 a bit underwhelming. The phone is a good one and maybe the best to ever carry a BlackBerry logo on it, but it’s going to be a hard sell convincing users that they need a keyboard or an added layer of security.