BlackBerry KeyOne review: partial productivity, partial nostalgia


It was in about a third hour of regulating a new BlackBerry KeyOne, permitted this month for $549 unlocked, that we started to doubt my longtime welfare for touchscreen keyboards. Because as we was pulling on a KeyOne’s tiny tiny buttons with a tips of my thumbs, we remembered given some people still have such an affinity for these things.

It wasn’t that we was means to form faster with a BlackBerry’s keyboard (I wasn’t), or that we was some-more accurate with it (I still used autocorrect). It was that I felt like we was some-more prolific when regulating it. we wasn’t wasting time tweeting nonsense or promulgation emoji in fleeting messages. we was promulgation critical emails, operative with my colleagues in Slack, formulating and completing to-do lists, and adding appointments to my calendar. we was Getting Shit Done.

Getting shit finished is unequivocally a whole ethos of a new KeyOne, and arguably, a many BlackBerry inclination that preceded it. The KeyOne is a phone for a really specific person, one that longs for a days when a BlackBerry Bold was a many critical device in a bureau and a infancy of business communications happened over email. It’s not a best choice for examination hours of YouTube videos, promulgation thousands of Snaps, or reading novel-length ebooks (though it can technically do all of those things). It is for promulgation email. Lots of email.

The KeyOne’s concentration on capability is embodied by a hardware design. Technically, this phone was built by TCL, as BlackBerry itself does not make hardware anymore. And it’s regulating Google’s Android program instead of BlackBerry’s possess handling system. But rest assured, it looks like a BlackBerry by and through, right down to a classical trademark embedded in a soft-touch behind of a phone. It’s a initial indication from TCL that truly does demeanour like a BlackBerry and not usually another slab-style smartphone.

Obviously, a keyboard is a centerpiece of courtesy here, and a categorical reason given anyone would cruise purchasing this phone. As distant as smartphone keyboards go, singular as they are in 2017, it is really good. The clicky keys are backlit and they have a sloped design. They’re easy to press and easy to run your fingers over. The phone is also absolutely slight to use in one palm (unlike a infrequently far-reaching BlackBerry Passport or a high and unmanageable Priv slider), yet many of a time we found myself typing with both thumbs.

The keys support a accumulation of programmable shortcuts (up to 52, in all), as any correct BlackBerry should, and a whole keyboard can act as a touch-sensitive trackpad that can be used instead of a touchscreen for scrolling by web pages or prolonged lists of email. A appropriate adult on a left, right, or core of a keyboard will name a subsequent likely word while you’re typing, that blends some of a intelligent facilities of a practical keyboard with a tactility of a earthy one.

Cleverly embedded in a keyboard’s space bar is a fingerprint scanner, that is free to use and creates unlocking a KeyOne a breeze. The right side of a phone is home to another BlackBerry staple: a customizable by-pass symbol that can be set to launch an app or perform a tradition action. I’ve got it set to launch a camera; in phone calls, it will tongue-tied your line. The signature BlackBerry multicolor presentation LED is also benefaction and accounted for.

The KeyOne’s altogether cultured can best be described as practical — a two-tone silver-and-black demeanour is approach some-more boardroom than nightclub, and it’s not going to mount out in a swarming transport automobile (unless someone sees that keyboard, of course). But a fit and finish are really good, a volume keys and energy symbol click with satisfaction, and a back’s rubberized finish is gentle and grippy in ways that all-glass or aluminum phones never are. It is a brick, though, and heavier than we competence expect: during 180g, it’s 20 to 40g heavier than a newer Samsung phone or iPhone.

The participation of a earthy keyboard dictates a KeyOne’s singular display: a 4.5-inch, 1620 x 1080 pixel touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. The shade here is radically a conflicting of a elongated displays on a Galaxy S8 and LG G6 — it’s some-more retard than many smartphone screens, that creates it a bad fit for examination widescreen video in mural or landscape. But BlackBerry says it’s good for component email, given a KeyOne’s shade can yield adult to a third some-more serviceable space when typing compared to a 5.5-inch all-touch device that also has to arrangement a keyboard on a bottom half.

If we spend all day in your inbox, afterwards you’ll substantially conclude a KeyOne’s peculiar shade ratio. But it was binding when we was doing other smartphone things, like observation a webpage, browsing Twitter, or reading my Pocket queue, and it finished me corkscrew a lot some-more than is required with other smartphones. Viewing some-more than 3 tweets during a time isn’t probable and regulating split-screen multitasking is a fun with a KeyOne’s small, close arrangement — I’m not certain given that choice is even benefaction on this device.

The KeyOne’s inner specs also pronounce to a capability focus. It has a midrange Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor and a hulk 3,505mAh battery. This is a same manly multiple as found in final year’s Moto Z Play that can yield stellar battery life, and a KeyOne is a stamina champ as a result. Most people will be means to simply get dual days of use between charges; my quite perfectionist slight exhausts it in one day. But a usually other phone that can final a full day for me is a Z Play, so a KeyOne is during a tip of a charts here. It also advantages from Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0 quick charging and a special “boost” mode that can move a phone from 0 to 50 percent charged in as tiny as 36 minutes.

The KeyOne’s processor is excellent for bland tasks, including multitasking between several apps. It can hoop gaming, as well, and we didn’t run into any important opening issues during my time with a phone. It won’t blow we divided with speed or slickness, though it’s a marathon workhorse that will go from eve til dawn, which, again, is a whole indicate of a KeyOne.

Also in a this-is-fine difficulty are a 12-megapixel back and 8-megapixel front cameras. The categorical camera has vast pixels and a bright, f/2.0 lens; it is some-more than able of holding excellent photos. It won’t contest with a Google Pixel or a best from Apple or Samsung, though when we consider about a fact that we fundamentally took crap photos a final time we used a keyboard-equipped BlackBerry, this is a clear leap, and it’s excellent compared to many smartphones. It’s flattering skilful during holding cinema of profits for my responsibility reports, that is what we think many owners of this phone would use it for.

Continuing a thesis of productivity! The KeyOne’s program has a few additional things to assistance get work done. It’s regulating Android 7.1.1 Nougat (with a most-recent Apr 5th confidence patch, as of tell date) and has a mostly inexperienced interface from what Google provides. All of BlackBerry’s special salsa is strong in a Hub, a centralized place for your email, calendar, tasks, and other forms of communication.

BlackBerry has been operative on and iterating a Hub given a days of BlackBerry 10, and now it supports formation with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook Messenger, and Slack, in further to SMS, BBM, and both corporate and personal email. It’s surprisingly fit to use and even works good with Google accounts, that never cooperated easily with BlackBerry program in a past. we quite like a slide-out row permitted from within any app that shows me unread messages, arriving appointments and tasks, and my favorite contacts.

BlackBerry doesn’t have a good lane record for delivering vital updates to a Android phones (2015’s Priv is still stranded on Android 6.0 Marshmallow), though it does refurbish a confidence rags on a unchanging basis. Other confidence facilities on a KeyOne embody a DTEK app, that alerts we whenever another app tries to do something malicious, and a Privacy Shade, that lets we retard out a infancy of a screen, withdrawal usually a tiny area visible. BlackBerry says this is designed to forestall people around we from saying what you’re doing, while still vouchsafing we correlate with a screen, though we didn’t find many use for it.

My time with a KeyOne has not converted me to a keyboard doctrinaire — I’m still many faster and some-more gentle typing with a practical keyboard and a things we use my phone for advantage from a incomparable screen. It turns out that we use my phone to avoid removing shit finished as many as we use it to be productive. Compared to BlackBerry’s heyday, smartphones are now many some-more than usually capability collection and for many of us, they need to be as skilful during party as they are during doing work.

But we conclude a KeyOne’s focus: it’s a no-frills capability appurtenance that targets people still dependant to email and addresses their needs one by one. Its design, keyboard, software, and battery life all work together toward that focus, and it doesn’t even try to interest to a broader assembly or try to be a jack-of-all-trades.

I’m not going to make some nonsensical commercial that “BlackBerry is back” or that everybody will be regulating earthy keyboards again. I’m not even certain I’ll ever even see a KeyOne in use in my daily travels. But if you’ve been yearning for a complicated smartphone with a real, earthy keyboard, with that we can crash by email after email, a KeyOne is a accurate phone you’ve been watchful for.

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