If you're a long-term BlackBerry fan and can deal with that slightly slick keyboard feel, you'll be right at home with the KEYone.
- Great battery life
- Clever keyboard
- Inbuilt enterprise-grade security
- Information focus
- Uneven performance for its price
- Camera is only good, not great
- Small display
The KEYone is the best BlackBerry in years, but the market for it is still quite niche.
I've been writing about phones for long enough that I can still well and truly remember when BlackBerry was the undeniable king of the hill. BlackBerry handsets were the combined iPhone and Galaxy phones of the day, desirable by many and always interesting. Then smartphones hit the market hard via the iPhone 3G, and it all rather went tumbling downhill for BlackBerry as a handset manufacturer.
In the enterprise space, it retained a niche largely for its impressive security credentials, but for regular consumers, both the desirability and innovation in the BlackBerry handsets being offered rapidly declined.
Yes, there were die-hard BlackBerry fans out there, but relatively few, and that had the effect of also turning developers away from the platform. The late era switch to Android did help a little there, but it wasn't much of a surprise to see BlackBerry itself switch off the production lines for hardware after the disappointing BlackBerry PRIV.
This makes the BlackBerry KEYone a really fascinating concept because it's the first BlackBerry device not manufactured by BlackBerry itself, that task having been outsourced to TCL. TCL's phone heritage lies in the Alcatel brand of phones, typically low-cost devices, and that's not traditionally been the BlackBerry story. The KEYone launched at Mobile World Congress early in 2017, with its local debut in July 2017 at an asking price of $899.
- Retains the iconic BlackBerry keyboard and businesslike aesthetic
- Slightly bulky, though the textured back makes it easy to hold
- The 12MP rear camera is a significant step up from previous BlackBerry handsets
- Tends to underexpose shots when using automatic settings
- Decent mid-range performance across most apps and tasks
- Inconsistent support for the physical keyboard leads to interface issues in some apps
- Outlasts many other premium handsets thanks to its smaller screen and mid-range processor
- Quick Charge 3.0 support allows for fast recharging
- A solid yet predictable successor to BlackBerry phones of yore
Pricing and availability
The first BlackBerry handset manufactured by TCL combines the classic BlackBerry design with the modern smartphone features of Android 7.1.
- The BlackBerry KEYone retails for $899, though you can find it cheaper at online retailers like Catch and Kogan.
BlackBerry KEYone specs
|Display size (inches)||4.5|
|Display resolution (pixels)||1620 x 1080|
|Pixels per inch (PPI)||433|
|Battery size (mAh)||3,505|
|Rear camera (1) resolution||12|
|Rear camera (1) aperture||f/2.0|
|Rear camera (2) resolution|
|Rear camera (2) aperture|
|Rear camera (3) resolution|
|Rear camera (3) aperture|
|Front camera (1) resolution||8|
|Front camera (1) aperture||f/2.2|
|Front camera (2) resolution|
|Front camera (2) aperture|
|Network category speed||N/A|
Compare SIM-only plans for the BlackBerry KEYone
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