Good cell phones are a dime a dozen now a days. You have your big brands like Samsung, Apple, and Motorola, and you have your smaller brands like Huawei, OnePlus, and Honor. Brands come and go if they can’t keep up, even those that were once a pillar of the mobile space—like BlackBerry. BlackBerry fell on some hard times during the smartphone revolution, but they have been trying to claw their way back up. The BlackBerry KEYone is the company’s latest attempt at reclaiming its throne and for the most part, they succeed.
The first thing you will notice with the BlackBerry KEYone is the physical keyboard. BlackBerry made a name for themselves with their keyboard and for good reason. The BlackBerry KEYone features a full QWERTY keyboard and anyone familiar with keyboards will feel right at home. It took me around half a day to get used to using it over the touchscreen I was used to, but once I did muscle memory took over and I knew where every key should have been. I say “should have been” because BlackBerry put the alt button—which switches letters to symbols—where the shift key is on a regular keyboard, so there were frequent times where I would put a number in the front of the word instead of the capital letter that I wanted.
The rest of the phone looks clean. The metal and black theme for the device really sells home that this is a serious phone designed for people who want to get work done. The textured back of the phone felt good—like it wouldn’t slip out of my hands. The phone makes a statement with its look and that statement is, “You get stuff done with this phone.”
The placement of keys and buttons works for what it wants to do. The power button is higher up on the left side of the screen while the right side features the volume buttons and Blackberry’s convenience key. The convenience key can be assigned to a specific app or shortcut that you frequently use for easier access. I ended up downloading an app that let me assign the convenience key to open the notification tray, which meant that my hands rarely had to stray far from the keyboard to do everything I needed.
While the convenience key allowed me to keep my hands centred, the keyboard itself also had some neat tricks built in that really helped with navigating apps. You can scroll just by running your finger along the keyboard, which makes scrolling through emails or web pages and then typing a reply quick and painless. Another useful feature of the keyboard is that individual keys can be assigned shortcuts with either a quick press or a long hold. This means that once properly set up you very rarely need to actually touch the phone’s touchscreen as most tasks can be done just with the keyboard.
The BlackBerry KEYone is not a small phone by any stretch. Coming in 9.4 mm thick and weighing 180 grams, this phone wants to be noticed. For me, the size and weight complimented the phone and made it better. The thickness allowed me to get a good grip while typing and the weight gave typing a solid feel that complimented what I was already doing with the phone. I normally carry my phone in my back pocket and the BlackBerry KEYone worked really well with this method. I always felt the phone in my pocket, unlike a lighter phone where I often had to check if it had fallen out.
The BlackBerry KEYone comes with a 4.5″ 1080p display. For a phone with the bottom third devoted to a keyboard, the screen on the BlackBerry KEYone does its job. Reading webpages or documents on the device worked really well and not once did I feel any eye strain.
The camera on the BlackBerry KEYone is fantastic. Featuring a 12MP camera on the back, the phone is ready for any and all of your photography needs. I never had any issue using the camera and the photos came out just how I wanted them. However, the camera lacked just the smallest bit during low light situations with only an f/stop of f/2.0. However, for regular use it is more than capable of handling everything you throw at it. From early morning sunrises to late nights with friends, the camera produced beautiful shots. Speaking of late nights with friends, featured on the front is an 8MP camera for all of your selfie needs. Accompanied with a wide-angle lens and a flash, the phone is more than ready for you to document all of your wild adventures.
Gaming on the BlackBerry KEYone was all right. The phone struggled a little when playing some of the more intensive games such as Mortal Kombat X and Banner Saga 2 and load times on some games were noticeably long. However, for casual mobile gaming such as Summoner’s War or Nintendo’s Fire Emblem: Heroes the phone held up with no noticeable dips or stutters. The KEYone did get hot after some longer playtimes on the more demanding games, but that is par for the course and something that didn’t worry me.
Call quality on the BlackBerry KEYone was good, with very little call dropping or hiccups along with clear quality. Putting the phone on speaker mode was all right, but I cannot recommend turning on call speakers in a loud environment as they aren’t ridiculously loud.
The operating system tweaks behind the phone are one of BlackBerry’s major selling points. Promising that the KEYone is one of the most secure Android phones, BlackBerry has made security one of their priorities. The DTEK security app provides users with peace of mind as the app regularly monitors security and notifies you what all the apps on the phone are up to. Besides that, the phone will feel familiar to any Android users as most of the phone runs Android 7.1 Nougat.
Battery is one of the most important aspects in a phone. With a non-removable 3,505mAh battery it was important that the KEYone survived the day. For the most part, the phone’s battery held up to daily use, starting my days at 5AM and going until around 10PM. Not once did I worry about having enough power, and this included music playing constantly and watching the occasional video. Should you find that the battery does run low and you need a quick charge, the KEYone does come equipped with Quick Charge capabilities and built in management tools that help you charge it faster. A one-hour charge with Quick Charge and boost mode on typically gives anywhere from 15-20%.
Finally, the time has come for me to sit down and ask myself, “Is the BlackBerry KEYone a good phone?” The answer to that is yes. For anything outside of hardcore gaming and mobile video editing, the KEYone is more than enough. The physical keyboard is a great feature for any user who doesn’t enjoy touchscreens, however, for those of us that don’t mind touchscreens, the KEYone doesn’t bring anything else to the table that make it worth picking up. If you are someone who prefers physical buttons, the BlackBerry KEYone is an amazing option and should be one of your top picks.