BlackBerry’s back and this time it’s finally got a winner with the QWERTY keyboard-equipped KEYone.
With a physical keyboard, a handsome aluminum design, and the latest version of Android, the KEYone is the BlackBerry that should have been released years ago.
Another plus: Its $549.99 unlocked price is much more affordable than the $699 BlackBerry Priv was at launch.
I’ve been testing the KEYone for a little over a week and as with every phone phone, there’s a lot I like and dislike. Yes, the KEYone is a BlackBerry and has a keyboard in an era of touchscreen-only phones, but it’s also running Android, and that makes all the difference. The apps problem that plagued BlackBerry’s old phones is no longer an issue with the KEYone.
Is the KEYone perfect? Of course not, but with all phones now just glass slabs, the KEYone’s somewhat throwback keyboard and industrial design is kind of refreshing. So here’s why you should consider dumping your iPhone or Android for the KEYone. (To learn why the KEYone isn’t worth it, click here.)
1. It’s got a physical keyboard
Let’s be real: The No. 1 reason why anyone should consider buying the KEYone is for the keyboard. It’s a good keyboard… if you embrace it. The glossy transparent buttons are a little mushy in my opinion, but if you liked the BlackBerry Passport or Priv’s keyboard, you’ll like the KEYone’s.
2. Screen is pretty nice
At a time when phones are getting taller, the KEYone’s squat 4.5-inch display with 3:2 aspect ratio is quite unusual. Despite having fewer pixels (1,620 x 1,080 resolution) than most Android phones, the KEYone’s screen is still quite bright and sharp. It doesn’t have any fancy curved edges or rounded corners, and that’s A-OK with me.
3. Scroll with keyboard gestures
It’s no classic BlackBerry trackball or trackpad, but the KEYone’s QWERTY keyboard does support limited gestures like on the BlackBerry Priv. You can swipe up and down on anywhere on the keyboard to scroll up and down through apps and websites, and you can swipe left and right to switch between homescreens. It’s nice not having to smudge up the screen with your fingerprints. You can also swipe up to quickly select suggested words when you’re typing and swipe left to delete words.
4. Space bar doubles as fingerprint sensor
Unlike most Android phones that have fingerprint sensors on the back of the phone, the KEYone cleverly integrates it into the keyboard’s space bar. The thing that blew me away was its speed. This might be the fastest fingerprint sensor I’ve ever used on a phone. It’s way faster than the iPhone 7’s Touch ID and the Pixel’s Nexus Imprint.
5. Each letter key is programmable
Another advantage of having a keyboard: shortcuts — lots of them! Each letter key can be programmed to launch a shortcut with a long and a short press. For example, I set my “I” to open Instagram with a short press and “G” to open Gmail. There are 52 useful shortcut actions beyond launching apps such as “compose email” or “add event” to the calendar.
6. Runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat and comes with Google Assistant
You can hate on BlackBerry all you want, but at least the KEYone’s running Android 7.1 Nougat and comes with the Google Assistant ready to go, making it not only the most up-to-date Android phones, but also one of the most secure. How many Android phones besides Google’s Pixels are even running Nougat nearly a year after it was released? According to Google, only 7.1% of all Android devices are on Nougat as of May 2, 2017.
7. Solid performance
BlackBerrys are made for pounding out emails and not for gaming. The KEYone isn’t quite top-of-the-line compared to phones like the Galaxy S8 and Pixel, but the midrange specs (Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chip with 3GB of RAM) are more than enough to power through 3D graphic intensive games like the latest Asphalt Xtreme. Facebook and Snapchat? A breeze.
The KEYOne also comes with 32GB of internal storage. While I wish it came with more, you can easily expand on that with a cheap microSD card.
8. Extra security
BlackBerrys are some of the most secure — if not the most secure — phones available. If it’s secure enough for government use, it’s secure enough for consumers. As with all recent BlackBerrys, the KEYone comes with an extra layer of security via the DTEK app which lets you track what data apps are accessing when you use things like your camera, microphone, location, etc.
9. Excellent battery life
The KEYone comes with a 3,505 mAh battery. That’s larger than the Galaxy S8 (3,500 mAh), Google Pixel (3,500), and iPhone 7 Plus (2,900 mAh). While a larger capacity battery doesn’t always equal longer battery life, the KEYone is an endurance champ. I easily made it through a day and half and sometimes almost two days while doing all the things I’d normally do on my iPhone.
And while we’re talking about battery life: the KEYone charges via USB-C (awesome!) and also supports Quick Charge 3.0 which charges the battery up to 80 percent in roughly 35 minutes.
10. Yes, it comes with BBM
I can’t imagine there are tons of people still sliding into people’s BBMs, but more power to you if you’re in the minority and fighting the good fight by resisting iMessage or Facebook Messenger. BBM forever, amiright?
11. It’s got a headphone jack!
It’s comical that having a headphone jack in 2017 is considered a plus, but alas it does. The KEYone, unlike certain other Android phones and the iPhone 7 has a jack and I couldn’t be happier because #NoDongle.
WATCH: First look at the BlackBerry KEYone