BlackBerry introduced its new smartphone, the KEYone, in the Mobile World Congress, and is the first smartphone of a new generation of TCL-made mobiles (this year a second model should be launched). But who needs a smartphone with a keyboard in 2017? Do smartphones with a keyboard still have customers? Find the answer in our full review.

BlackBerry KEYone – Availability & Pricing

The new BlackBerry KEYONE (its official name), which was briefly presented at the end of the CES in Las Vegas under the name of Mercury, has been made official in the MWC of 2017. The smartphone will be available from June 1 and with The interesting price of $599.

BlackBerry KEYone – Design and finishing

The KEYone is a phone created for pure and hard BlackBerry fans. While it is true that some previous smartphones of the manufacturer, such as the DTEK50, could disappoint the adherents of the Canadian firm, this is not the case of KEYone, which is the first model of this new generation manufactured by TCL, a company that is not New in the sector, and that already conceived the smartphones of Alcatel.

The positioning of this new BlackBerry smartphone is clear: it is aimed at people who prefer physical keyboards (or those who like the professional touch that gives them a BlackBerry smartphone). This market that has already abandoned other manufacturers is supported, however, by many users according to the brand, including the old customers who bet, above all, the ability of the smartphone.

The telephone, therefore, is mainly intended for a business clients. The haptic experience of the physical keyboard is impossible to recreate with a virtual keyboard, and some people can not pass this feature.

BlackBerry
The KEYone keyboard will delight people looking for a physical keyboard. 

As for its design, with a slide-up finish of Priv, BlackBerry goes back to its origins without disappointment. The KEYone is a large monobloc smartphone composed of a screen and a QWERTY keyboard (or AZERTY in France), and despite the presence of the latter, the phone is relatively compact, which is why it is imposed on most smartphones Of 5.5 inches (Google Pixel XL, iPhone 7 Plus, OnePlus 3T).

It is true that the phone would gain more if it were thinner and lighter (180 grams), but BlackBerry has done a great job in terms of its appearance thanks to the gray color of the chassis and black smartphone that give it a professional style and Elegant. The grip is also quite nice (even with just one hand) thanks to it is very ergonomic.

The chassis is aluminum, the plastic keyboard keys and the back of the phone is coated with a very soft rubber finish. A small feature of KEYone is that it has a fingerprint sensor integrated in the space bar of the keyboard, on the front of the device, which must be recognized as a rather intelligent and current idea, as it is quite practical and efficient .

BLACKBERRY KEYONE
The fingerprint sensor is integrated into the keypad space bar. 

BlackBerry has retained the capacitive buttons below the screen to navigate on Android, the downside is that they are constantly visible even when the smartphone is off or in standby mode.

Otherwise, it is normal, on the left side the power button, on the right the SIM card slot and the SD card, the volume controls and the utility button (I will return to this later). Personally, it seems to me a mistake that BlackBerry has not made this phone compatible with a dual-SIM, especially since this one is aimed for a business use, it’s a shame it does not have this option.

It has a USB type C input on the bottom, and the speakers on the top (it has two slits, but only the one on the right contains the speaker). The good news is that BlackBerry has retained a headphone jack on the top of the device.

BLACKBERRY KEYONE
The KEYone is not a dual-SIM Smartphone.

To conclude, we must praise the quality of the finish of the device, has quite good readjustments and the smartphone oozes quality; The idea of ​​opting for a rubber back liner makes the KEYone prevail over other smartphones.

BlackBerry KEYone – Screen

The screen of the BlackBerry KEYONE is a 4.5-inch IPS LCD with a Full-HD (1620 x 1080 pixels) definition that, unlike recent developments such as the Galaxy S8 or LG G6, which have a radius of 18 : 9 or 18.5: 9, or for smartphones with 16: 9 screens, the KEYone has a 3: 2 radius, which can cause some problems when it comes to playing certain games or watching certain videos. The appearance of black bars at the top and bottom.

BLACKBERRY KEYONE
The KEYone screen has a ratio of 3: 2. 

In normal light conditions, the KEYone screen gave me a good impression, all the details are clear and with bright colors, it is not the AMOLED and the blacks are not as intense as in the Galaxy S8, but it will be enough for the Majority of users.

Brightness and color temperature options can be changed in the display options according to your preferences, however, the absence of a mode to filter the blue light is missing.

BLACKBERRY KEYONE
The KEYone allows you to manually adjust the screen display options.

In addition, the BlackBerry KEYONE also has the Ambient Display function that activates the phone when it receives a notification, as well as the Double Tap function to activate the screen.

BlackBerry KEYone – Special Features

The physical keyboard

The great particularity of this smartphone lies in the fact that it has keyboard, and for those who are accustomed to this with the previous BlackBerry phones will not be alien, but for others, like me, will have to re-learn to write with a Physical keyboard and have patience. The keyboard seems quite narrow at first glance, but if you use both hands is comfortable, so, like it or not, you have to recognize that the keyone keyboard is well achieved.

BLACKBERRY KEYONE
What would a BlackBerry without a keyboard? 

The keyboard, like the one in Priv, is equipped with capacitive gestures, in particular, which is not only useful for writing, but can also be used as a trackpad that can slide up, down, right and left so that You scroll through the home screen or through the applications. It also offers other functions such as copy and paste, double-click to display the mouse cursor, delete to the left to delete a letter …

It also has keyboard shortcuts (52 in total), you can choose a letter to start an application, for example, I chose the ‘Y’ for YouTube, the ‘W’ for WhatsApp or the ‘G’ for Gmail, the Only condition is that you have to use the BlackBerry launcher.

In the end it turns out that the BlackBerry keyboard is full of functions that you will gradually discover, for example, I accidentally discovered that you could take photos with the space bar, and if not, you can always activate the virtual keyboard.

BLACKBERRY KEYONE
The keyone keyboard is equipped with capacitive gestures. 

Useful button

The KEYone also has a utility button (on the right side) similar to some of the Alcatel smartphones. This button allows access to the additional software functions of the smartphone and it comes as no surprise that the manufacturer is TCL. For example, you can open an application or a shortcut, and although this button is a bit strange at first, in the end it is quite useful.

BLACKBERRY KEYONE
The button can activate many of the applications. 

BlackBerry KEYone – Software

The KEYone works with Android 7.1.1 Nougat (with the April security patch) and BlackBerry has confirmed that security updates will take place over the lifetime of the product, which evidently includes Google’s monthly Android security updates and, In addition, BlackBerry has encrypted the processor for even more security.

If you are familiar with Android on BlackBerry smartphones, the interface will not cause you major problems, is quite similar to other Android products but with some differences added by BlackBerry in regards to organization, security and productivity.

The BlackBerry Launcher also has many functions to help you with your daily tasks, for example, if you slide your finger up or down in certain applications, it gives you the possibility to create a widget, which may seem trivial at first, But in fact it is quite useful. The app handle gives access to three tabs: applications, widgets and shortcuts; On the other hand, like all BlackBerry smartphones that use Android, the tab on the right, which is activated by sliding the finger to the left, allows you to view the shortcuts (calendar, contacts, settings …).

BLACKBERRY KEYONEThe BlackBerry Launcher consists of some differences as far as other Android devices are concerned, but the setup menu or notifications are identical. 

Home applications such as BBM, BlackBerry Hub and BlackBerry DTEK are also present. The BlackBerry Hub is, as its name implies, a hub that brings together all the notifications, emails, SMS and messages from other social networks, and reminders and appointments, which is terribly practical. Unfortunately, the hub can be saturated if you have too many notifications and it is not easy to delete everything at once.

BlackBerry DTEK takes care of confidentiality and privacy, allowing you to restrict access to the microphone, camera and personal information.

And finally, we found the Google smart assistant in the KEYone: Google Assistant.

BLACKBERRY KEYONE
The BlackBerry Hub and the BlackBerry DTEK are two features unique to BlackBerry smartphones. 

BlackBerry KEYone – Performance

The KEYone has in its interior a processor Snapdragon 625. For those who expected that it had a Snapdragon 835 they must resign. However, Qualcomm’s Octa-Core processor is no toy and has the merit of consuming very little thanks to the 14nm LPP process, which is clearly seen in the autonomy of the smartphone.

With a 3 GB RAM and an Adreno 506 GPU (also includes a microSD extension) there is no fault, the smartphone works like silk and also supports multitasking. In terms of productivity, the smartphone meets expectations to satisfy professionals. Finally, KEYone shows its limits when it comes to running games or applications that require high graphics performance, which can slow it down.

The fact that this happens is no surprise, given that, although we expected something more, it is equipped with a mid-range processor, especially considering the price of the device (599 dollars) and when the LG G6 has the same price, But has a Snapdragon 835 and 4 GB of RAM.

BlackBerry KEYone: Comparison of benchmarks

 
BLACKBERRY KEYONESAMSUNG GALAXY S8 +HTC U11XPERIA XZ PREMIUM
3DMARK SLINGSHOT ES 3.14263.1323.5993.245
3DMARK SLINGSHOT ES 3.07203,3364.1293.697
3DMARK ICE STORM UNLIMITED1279028,74240,03440,286
GEEKBENCH SINGLE CORE2.0141,9051,898
GEEKBENCH MULTI CORE6.4796.4546.294
PCMARK WORK PERFORMANCE49495.0946.7876.338
PCMARK STORAGE34354,7724.989
GOOGLE OCTANE 2.0435810,44011,92811,086

BlackBerry KEYone – Audio

The KEYone has a mono speaker that offers enough quality when playing videos or music, however, do not expect extraordinary quality when the sound is too loud or distorted. The quality of the sound output is average, which could disappoint those who have a high-end headset.

Yet despite this, the sound quality of telephone calls is very good, even if the speaker is activated.

BLACKBERRY KEYONE
It still has mini-jack connector. 

BlackBerry KEYone – Camera

Regarding the camera, the BlackBerry KEYone offers a 12 megapixel main camera (Sony IMX378 sensor) with an f / 2.0 aperture, but unfortunately it does not have an optical stabilizer. The front camera has a resolution of 8 megapixels. As for video, the phone can record 4 ka at 30 fps or at Full-HD at 60 fps.

The BlackBerry KEYONE demonstrates that having a good camera takes more than having a good sensor and, although it has the same image sensor as the Google Pixel, the image quality is very different, starting from the fact that the KEYone has difficulty focusing, especially when making portraits.

In addition, white balance and color capture are outdated compared to those offered by current flagship. The Auto HDR mode is lower than the Google Pixel mode, which results in both super-exposed and low-exposure areas in high-contrast images. While this is a common problem on smartphones and devices with smaller sensors, KEYone can not compete with Google Pixel.

The KEYone offers correct image quality and is close to that of the current flagship

However, the capture of the details is good under daylight conditions and with the corresponding low ISO value. In poor light conditions, the KEYone increases the ISO sensitivity, which causes images to have noise.Compared with many of its competitors, BlackBerry uses a very fast shutter speed to keep the ISO speed as low as possible. On the one hand, this implies a better quality of the image, on the other, it is necessary to have a very good pulse when taking pictures, because if you move a little will give rise to a blurred photo.

Capturing daylight colors is generally good with some shaking in the white balance, but in darker conditions, increased noise reduction alters the capture of colors, resulting in shut down photos, typical of Smartphones.

In general, the KEYone offers a correct image quality that is close to that of the current flagship, and although we expect something better, it is a great change for BlackBerry, which until then had been a little disappointed in this matter. The KEYone changes the game. Do not expect the same quality as the Pixel, since Google dominates the side of the camera software.

BlackBerry keytoneThe BlackBerry KEYONE is a good photophone.

BlackBerry KEYone – Battery

It is clear that one of the strengths of the KEYone is its integrated 3505 mAh battery which ensures a superb battery life and also an efficient power processor and a ‘small’ 4.5-inch screen to feed.

In practice, the smartphone easily lasts a day and a half, even lower under less intense use conditions (calls, SMS, Internet, YouTube …). I have been able to have it for over six hours with the screen on. In the test of the battery in PCMark, the battery managed to last 9 hours and 25 minutes, going from 100% to 20%.

Another good news is that the KEYone can charge the battery to 50% in 36 minutes thanks to Quick Charge 3.0. In this sense, the KEYone has a specification, and is that when you connect the device you have two different loading options: the load mode alone or Boost mode, however, the latter blocks a large number of items (especially notifications ) In order to accelerate the load and induce the KEYone in an energy-saving mode to maximize the efficiency of the device load.

BLACKBERRY KEYONEThe KEYone behaves very well in terms of battery autonomy. 

BlackBerry KEYone – Technical specifications

DIMENSIONS:149.3 x 72.5 x 9.4 mm
WEIGHT:180 gr
BATTERY SIZE:3505 mAh
SCREEN SIZE:4.5 inches
SCREEN:1680 x 1080 pixels (433 ppi)
FRONTAL CAMERA:8 megapixels
REAR CAMERA:12 megapixels
FLASH:Dual-LED
ANDROID VERSION:7.1 – Nougat
RAM:3GB
INTERNAL MEMORY:32GB
REMOVABLE MEMORY:micro SD
CHIPSET:Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
NUMBER OF CORES:Referring to Fig.
MAXIMUM SPEED:2 GHz
CONNECTIVITY:HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2
Author

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