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Blackberry KEYone announced: here's what you need to know

The new Blackberry KEYone has been officially announced. Here's all the details you need to know!

Published onFebruary 25, 2017

We first had the opportunity to check out Blackberry’s latest handset at CES, where it was referred to as “Mercury”. While we played with the phone a bit in January, we really didn’t get many details about what to expect in terms of under-the-hood capabilities or even launch plans. Thankfully, ahead of MWC 2017 the veil has been fully lifted on the Blackberry KEYone.

For those that were hoping for a super-high end experience, no such luck here. The KEYone’s specs are pretty mid-range. Of course the real value of the KEYone was never intended to be horsepower, instead it’s all about security and productivity via the integrated keyboard and Blackberry’s secure additions to Android.

The KEYone isn’t for everyone, but is it for you? Let’s jump right in and take a look at everything you need to know about the newly announced Blackberry KEYone.

Blackberry KEYone design and build

The Blackberry KEYone is certainly a unique looking device in today’s modern ‘all-touch’ world, with a design that would have seemed more commonplace five to ten years ago, before touchscreen advancements pretty much ate away consumer interest in physical keyboards. The phone features an anodized aluminum frame with a soft touch textured back that TCL and Blackberry claims allows for a very durable design. Plastic, soft-touch backs have largely moved out of style over the last few years, but then again, so have keyboards. We have to applaud Blackberry for going against the grain and doing its own thing, and we are sure long-type Blackberry fans will be happy with the overall result.

The main design element for the KEYone is the obviously the keyboard, which opens the door to some pretty cool extra features. First, the smart keyboard is capable of touch gestures that essentially emulate the Blackberry trackpad, making it easier to browse, read emails, and more. Second, you can program the keyboard with up to 52 customizable shortcuts, such as pressing M for maps, I for inbox, F for Facebook — you get the idea. There’s even a fingerprint scanner built into the spacebar.

Blackberry KEYone specs

As we already hinted, the hardware here isn’t exactly going to blow anyone away.

First, we have a 4.5-inch display with a 3:2 aspect ratio and a resolution of 1620 x 1080. Honestly for the size, this resolution is perfectly suited and anything higher would arguably be overkill anyhow. Considering the unique display size, you can count out VR support for Daydream or really any standard, though we doubt this will be a dealbreaker for most.

Display4.5-inch display (1620 x 1080), 3:2 aspect ratio
2 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor
Adreno 506 GPU
3 GB
32 GB
expandable via microSD up to 2 TB
12 MP rear camera, 1.55 um pixel size, f/2.0 aperture, dual-tone LED flash
8 MP front-facing camera
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.2
FM Radio
USB Type-C
3,505 mAh
Android 7.0 Nougat
149.1 x 72.4 x 9.4 mm

Under the hood, you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 with 3GB RAM, backed by 32GB internal storage with microSD for further expansion. This chipset isn’t exactly amazing, found mostly on mid-range devices in the sub-$300 realm. That said, it should be more than capable of handling most games and apps without any major issues, just don’t expect the kind of blazing performance you’d get from a more flagship-class chipset like the Snapdragon 821.

The KEYone has a 12MP Large Pixel (1.55 um) camera with an IMX378 sensor. There’s also auto-focus, phase detect auto focus, 4x digital zoom, and an f2.0 lens. On the rear you get an 8MP Large Pixel (1.125um) camera with a fixed focus 84-degree wide angle lens. Whether this is on par with other mid-range and flagship Android phones remains unseen, but we’d guess it should at least get the job done for all but the most picky photo hounds.

Turning to the battery, we get a fairly sizable 3505 mAh battery. Considering the relatively modest specs in play, we imagine this should easily handle a full day’s battery life — though we can’t say for sure until we get some more hands-on time with it. Regardless, the good news is that the phone also offers quick charging technology onboard. Blackberry boasts that its quick charging will allow the phone to go from 0 to 50 percent in roughly 36 minutes.

Blackberry KEYone software

The TCL-made KEYone runs a pretty stock looking version of Android 7.1 Nougat, though it has plenty of extras that are designed to increase security and productivity. This includes Blackberry’s suite of apps such as BlackBerry Keyboard, BlackBerry Hub, Notes by Blackberry, and more.

There’s also the DTEK security suite, which is designed to constantly monitor and protect the OS, letting you know when your privacy could be at risk and providing you options on how to improve your privacy.  A quick glimpse even lets you see the overall security rating for your device. This makes the Blackberry KEYone a great option for business users and others that value privacy highly.

Overall, Blackberry’s take on Android keeps its additions to a minimal, and that means that the UI is snappy, responsive, and not overloaded with unnecessary features.

Blackberry KEYone early price and availability details

The BlackBerry KEYone will be available globally starting in April. As for pricing? In their official press release Blackberry notes it will “be priced at or under €599EUR/£499GBP/$549USD”.

That’s pretty expensive when you consider low-cost flagships from OnePlus, HUAWEI, and others cost around the same or less and yet offer more power under the hood. Then again, the unique keyboard and Blackberry’s extra security features could be worth it for those who aren’t so concerned about raw horsepower.

More Blackberry KEYone coverage

We’ll update this section with hands-on and much more relating to the Blackberry Key One as it hits!

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