- Impressive 3505 mAh Li-ion battery with USB-C fast charging is sufficient for everyday usage
- Software runs the latest Android 7.1 (Nougat) and BlackBerry Apps
- Great camera with 4K video capability
- Very compact 4.5-in LCD touchscreen with Gorilla Glass 4 protection
- Powerful processor and GPU
- 3GB RAM is always a plus
- Great BlackBerry hardware keyboard
- Non-removable battery
- Weighs a bit heavy for one-handed use
- Chipset and GPU should be more advanced for a smartphone of this price range
- Only one color option available (Black)
- Camera resolution could be better than 12MP, and even the 2015 Priv has an 18MP camera.
- Display resolution of 1620px is small compared to similarly priced Android devices
Design and build
Once you hold the KEYone, you can tell that it is pure BlackBerry quality. The device has a nice weight, not flimsy like the DTEK60. The KEYone has resurrected the physical keyboard, the first Blackberry device to have once since the Priv in 2015. This iteration of the keyboard is called the “Smart Keyboard” and lives up to its name. The keys are small and square, well-backlit and framed with the standard metal rim between each key row like the evergreen Bold series. They also have a nice click when depressed.
The KEYone build is premium, no question about it unlike the DTEKs and has a silver metal framing its 4.5in display and keyboard. The back has a firm rubber grip that works for most one-handed users. The clean look is only broken by the BlackBerry logo, the camera, and dual-LED flash. The bottom contains two stereo speakers and a USB-C port. There is also a fingerprint sensor in the spacebar key for enhanced security. The KEYone looks and feels like a flagship BlackBerry device without a doubt.
BlackBerry is right to establish the KEYone as a battery, and usability-oriented smartphone with a physical keyboard and the best software Android has got to offer now. Based on the KEYone, it is safe to say BlackBerry is not done yet as a leader in the smartphone market and this union with TCL and Android has got potential to look forward to.
The KEYone comes with amazing features and design which we will look at in-depth during this review.
The KEYone has an unusual body ratio of 3:2 (149.1 x 72.4 x 9.4 mm) but its 4.5-inch touchscreen is just right for its size. This is because having a physical keyboard means the screen is never obstructed by an on-screen keyboard (You have the option though). The IPS LCD touchscreen has a 1620 x 1080 resolution at 434ppi. Made from Gorilla Glass 4, it is oleophobic and resistant to most scratches and everyday bumps.
The 12-megapixel back camera comes with software-assisted face detection, dual LED flash for light support, geotagging as well as HDR and panorama support. The front camera has a large 8MP sensor for amazing selfies in most light conditions. It would have been a nice touch to enable a screen-aided flash like in the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy line even the bright screen makes up for it most times. The sample videos we shot came out amazing with a max resolution of 2160 @30fps. This should suffice for most occasions for users. It’s not a professional video recorder, but you won’t be disappointed with the results either.
Processor and Memory
BlackBerry chose to go with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 Processor with 2.0GHz Octa-core clock speed for a smooth multitasking experience. The Adreno 506 GPU backed by 3GB of RAM ensures that users can have lag-free gaming experiences. Internal storage allocation of 32GB should enough for most multimedia needs and can be upgraded by up to 256GB through a handy microSD card slot included in the KEYone.
Software and applications
BlackBerry runs its variant of Android OS version 7.1 (Nougat) that is the latest OS. We found it very responsive, and it handled running several applications simultaneously like a real champ. It’s hard to imagine the KEYone lagging or freezing in ideal situations of daily use. BlackBerry Hub is still the central meeting point of all your app notifications with the cool “pinch to view” feature one of the things we loved the most about it. The DTEK software that is proprietary to BlackBerry is also presence as in all devices since the Priv. It might look like too many stock BlackBerry apps, but the KEYone depends on Google apps too. Gmail and Messenger for SMS are also included.
Another useful feature is the widgets are accessible from an app icon, and three dots allow you to swipe up and view information quickly in apps like email and calendar. You also have the option to make quick actions using a one-button keyboard shortcut from the home screen. These features of the software come together to give a much better experience than in the Priv and Passport, its predecessors. As we used the KEYone, it grew increasingly easier to use.
In summary, this is the first time that the vision of BlackBerry’s superior hardware works seamlessly with its software and this can only get better in future devices. We are eagerly looking forward to more fruits from BlackBerry’s marriage to TCL (who have exceptional design skills) and Android software.
The KEYone comes with a massive 3505mAh Lithium Ion battery. By comparison, the Google Pixel packs a 2770mAh battery while the Galaxy S7 has a 3000 mAh battery. You can immediately see that the KEYone did not come to play when it comes to battery life. Especially for a smartphone that is not carrying a massive screen or camera sensor, the benefits are immediately obvious. The KEYone should be able to go far on a full charge. As if that was not enough, it also promises a Quick Charge feature that will fill the battery back up to 50% in less than 40 minutes. Pretty impressive! With Nougat also being very power-efficient, KEYone users will not be hugging walls (sorry Apple, we could not resist) anytime soon as it promises up to 24 hours of talk time. Everything about the KEYone battery is great except one tiny little detail. It is non-removable. Yes, we know it sucks.