Thursday, 31 August 2017

Blackberry KeyOne ★★★☆☆

Blackberry is still alive! They’ve been coming out with one phone annually if you remember the Z3, Passport, Priv etc. As a brand, BB doesn’t make phones anymore but licenses its name and software to other companies. TCL is the major license holder and has launched the KeyOne with the classic Keyboard and Android OS, perhaps the one of the only phones to be launched recently with this combination. Read below to find out if you’d want to own one of these...

The unit I’m using is a Limited Edition Black - available only in India as of now, with a 4GB RAM and 64GB built in memory combo. The international variants have 3GB RAM and 32GB built in memory. The Keyboard below the 4.5” screen is the USP of this device that has the fingerprint scanner on the space bar to unlock the device. The power button is weirdly on the left while volume rockers and Convenience key are on the right. The 3.5mm jack thankfully is still here at the top while the charging port is now a Type C at the bottom with a speaker grill on the side. The Android navigation buttons are capacitive, sitting at the bottom of the screen just above the keyboard. Design wise, it’s rectangular from the top but curved at the bottom, the screen isn’t curved and the rear is the classic Blackberry rubberised grip that feels solid in the hands. The phone is a tad heavier than most phones today at 180 grams and when you want to use the physical keyboard to type, you’ll have to hold the phone at the bottom with both hands and it feels pretty awkward and heavy.

If you’ve never used a blackberry with the QWERTY keyboard this will be a challenge at first. The surface of the keyboard is touch sensitive so you can slide across it to scroll up, down, left, or right like a normal trackpad! Swype can also be enabled in the settings. An interesting feature is the ability to assign shortcuts to each key for an app. So a short and long press can be assigned to every key letting you trigger 52 shortcuts to apps or settings or music etc. 

In terms of processing power, the KeyOne uses a dated Snapdragon 625. It’s a hybrid single & dual SIM phone (india only), supporting VoLTE and Quick charge 3.0, NFC,and FM Radio.The camera has 12MP rear camera and front 8MP camera. On the software front, the Blackberry UI is atop the Android 7.1 OS that has quite a few customisation options and widgets that can be accessed just by swiping up on the app icons. The BlackBerry Hub is still here showing all your messages and emails across every account registered on the phone.

There is a chance that some apps and games might not work full screen. Although the screen is quite crisp and at 434ppi daylight legibility is good. All apps and games run smoothly but there are a few noticeable lags that not everyone will relate to unless you’re coming from a flagship device.The speaker output is good as well and surprisingly listening to music from the headphones felt great! Battery does last well over 12 hours on average usage and a full charge is done under 1.5 hours. 

The 12MP rear camera takes pretty good pictures without any oversaturation with respectable bokeh shots as well. Night photos are still a disappointment with grainy images and wavy autofocus.You can record 4K videos up to 30fps and also have the slow-mo option. The front 8MP camera captures crisp selfies as well without any filters. Overall at this price point, you’ll want to buy the KeyOne only if you need the physical keyboard. For every other feature in this phone, there are phones at almost half the cost that can do the same job.

Pritesh Khilnani

Blackberry KeyOne at CeX

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