It’s been a long windy road for BlackBerry. And no, it isn’t dead. Yet. At the Mobile World Congress (MWC17) in Barcelona today, TCL Communication has just launched its latest Android smartphone – the BlackBerry KEYone.
Sticking to a candybar form-factor (not a slider like the PRIV), the KEYOne continues where the BlackBerry Classic left off. It features a physical keyboard, and a 4.5-inch Full HD (1620×1080) scratch-resistant IPS LCD display, protected by Gorilla Glass 4.
Having a physical keyboard tucked underneath the biggish screen, the KEYone appears long. Constructed out of anodised aluminium, with an aluminium frame and soft textured back, it looks and feels premium – very BlackBerry.
The physical QWERTY keyboard is touch-sensitive like the PRIV and Passport, so it can act like a huge touchpad for swiping and ‘flicking.’ Keys are also programmable, with the ability to launch apps with a short press or long press.
Interestingly, there’s a fingerprint sensor embedded in the spacebar.
Under the hood is a 2.0GHz Snapdragon 625 octa-core chip mated to 3GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. The good news is that It supports microSD expansion, up to 2TB’s worth.
The KEYone keeps up with the competition in the camera department, utilising a 12MP f/2.0 rear camera sensor with PDAF. The sensor uses a large 1.55-micron pixels and impressive 1/2.3” sensor size. Expect some respectable low-light optical performance.
On the front, it features an 8MP shooter with 1.12-micron pixels.
In the battery department, the KEYone chassis houses a large 3,505mAh that supports Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging technology, via its USB Type-C port.
What’s also interesting is that the KEYone is the first ever BlackBerry to run Android 7.1 Nougat out-of-the-box.
The KEYone is designed by BlackBerry and made by TCL Communication (the same guys who make Alcatel and Flash devices). It’s the last BlackBerry-TCL hardware device collaboration. From this day on, TCL will be solely responsible to design and develop BlackBerry hardware. BlackBerry itself will be focused on mobile security.
Pricing and availability
According to BlackBerry, the KEYone will go on sale around the globe starting April. It is expected to retail at US$549/MYR2,437.
For more info, check out http://blackberrymobile.com.
What can I say? On first impressions, I think the KEYone looks great. The question is, does the world still need smartphones with physical keyboards? Again, is this targeting at merely BlackBerry fans or will it appeal to the “rest of the world”? We’ll see won’t we?
Official product photos
Hands-on photo gallery