Remember Blackberry? The company which made phones EVERY businessman used to have back in the day? Well, they are launching a new smartphone this year and it’s called the Blackberry KEYone. As the name suggests, this new Blackberry is a smartphone with keyboard but this one runs on Google’s latest Android 7.1 Nougat. The phone costs $549 and is already being sold in the UK.
Specifications wise the KEYone is not that impressive. It has a Snapdragon 625 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage (microSD expandable) and a large 3,500mAh battery. While it is disappointing to see a midrange CPU for the price, we can at least take solace in the fact that the 625 is an efficient and reliable chip which is well known for battery life performance. On top of that, the phone supports Quick Charge 3.0 and Blackberry claims that the device can go from 0% to 50% in only 36 minutes.
The screen is an odd 1620 x 1080 IPS display and measures only 4.5 inches diagonally. This year we have seen unusual aspect ratios and display sizes from the likes of Samsung and LG but Blackberry takes the cake for actually putting a smaller display on their QWERTY mobile phone.
The main camera is a f/2.0 12 megapixel Sony IMX 378. For the photography fanatics out there this is the exact same sensor that is also found on the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones meaning you should get some exceptional pictures out of this device. The selfie camera is a wide angle 8-megapixel sensor.
The phone’s body is made of aluminium and it gently curves around the edges to make it more ergonomic. Even though the chassis is made of metal the back has a grippy soft touch material. Blackberry had a concept in mind when designing this phone. The Blackberry KEYone was designed for business professionals or government officials. As such the main idea was to make a phone which could easily be used in one hand just like the phones from the past. The keyboard and smaller than usual screen allow for this to be possible.
The QWERTY keyboard itself has a plethora of tricks up its sleeves which makes it more useful than its traditional counterparts. The keyboard is touch sensitive which allows you to swipe and scroll without touching the display. Blackberry smartphone took advantage of this to implement auto word completion by swiping up after typing something. The keys can also be programmed to act as shortcuts to apps or functions when long pressed. There is a fingerprint scanner built into the space bar too.
So far I have talked about the phone itself only. This article aims to ask the question of whether or not a smartphone with keyboard is worth it in 2017. In my opinion, the KEYone will appeal only to loyal fans and old-timers who crave the tactile experience from the past. In terms of convenience, speed, accuracy and sheer functionality, digital keyboards have outclassed the physical keyboard. But as mentioned before, the Blackberry KEYone is not just about the keyboard. This phone was designed for use in the corporate world and so it comes with hardware-based encryption and powerful DTEK security tools. Blackberry claims that this is the most secure Android smartphone available but really there is no metric to judge that statement. Can this Blackberry latest phone turn the company’s fortunes around and carve out a niche in the smartphone market? Probably not. Having said that, the KEYone is physical proof that there is still lots of room for innovation and ingenuity in the stagnating smartphone market.