This week, Mobile World Congress (MWC) returns to Barcelona, Spain. This is the platform most smartphone manufacturers use to release their latest handsets, or even tablets. With the exception of Apple who prefer to do their own thing, and again this year so will Samsung. We can expect to see some ground breaking new smartphones….. and even a modern day twist added to a familiar old one.
Ok so those that know me, will not be surprised to see me kick off this round of specials with the new Blackberry handset! I have a huge soft spot for Blackberry, and although I will not be using one any time soon (due to my needs from my handset) I’m still cheering them on at every release, and I still miss my BB Bold 9900 😦
Firstly, Blackberry no longer make their own hardware. Instead, for the KEYone it is under license from the Chinese handset maker TCL. In fact they have stopped doing their own operating system (os) as this is now handled by Android. So if someone else makes the device and another company power it with their OS, is it really a Blackberry at all? OH YES!
Let’s be honest from the start here, this handset was never going to be up there with the other flagship devices from Apple, Samsung, Google et al. Nor was it going to worry those battling it out in the mid range handset divisions for market share.
What it will do (Blackberry and TCL hope), is stop the rot from the hardened Blackberry users leaving the platform. This is aimed at those power users who have remained loyal to the brand, who own a smartphone for the sole purpose of getting things done! It is for the do’ers!
You can tell all this just by looking at it. The handset has everything a hardcore Blackberry user would want. Slick executive great looking device? Check. Market leading full physical Qwerty keyboard? Check. Big screen to get work done? Check. Customisable shortcut keys? Check. A leather or rubber back panel made of different material to the rest of the handset? Check.
I have no idea why Blackberry users like that last point, fact is, it just works!
So why, do you ask, is this handset not for everyone? Most phones on the market today try to tick as many boxes as possible to make them desirable for a larger audience. The KEYone does not do this.
Most of us, for example, are media hungry when it comes to our smartphones, me included. Whether it is to create, edit and share video or image content to watching and streaming movies. To achieve this you would expect a great screen. The KEYone has a rather unique 1620×1080 Display to make room for the keyboard. When you start using a service such as YouTube you will notice the screen adds black margins to compensate for the strange display size.
This is of little concern to a power user, but to you and I, it would matter!
Then we get to the keyboard. Most people reading this over the age of 30 will fondly remember keyboards being the most important part of a handset, especially when you had to tap 100 keys to send a 2 sentence text message!
Those under 30 will most likely have no idea why the KEYone has a QWERTY keyboard on it, and why should they! Virtual keyboards from the top brands are getting better with each new OS release and you can even download 3rd party ones from App stores which are equally as good.
Again, it is all about the power users!
The specifications for the KEYone place it firmly in the mid range smartphone market:
- Access to over a million apps on Google Play
- 4.5” scratch-resistant display
- Convenience Key
- 8MP front camera with flash
- 12MP auto-focus large pixel rear camera
- Fingerprint Sensor
- BlackBerry Security software
- Height 149.3 mm / 5.8 in – Width 72.5 mm / 2.8 in – Depth 9.4 mm / 0.37 in
- 1620 x 1080 IPS LCD
- Android OS – 7.1 Nougat
- 3 GB RAM
- 32 GB Flash (expandable to 2TB)
- USB Type-C USB 3.1
- 3505 mAh (typical) 4.4V non-removable Lithium Ion
There are however, some features that are worth noting for the non power users among us. The 12mp rear camera is from Sony and shoots in 4k at 30fps! Blackberry, have made the very bold claim, that the battery will last for 2 days!!
With Android 7.1 installed you will have access to the full range of Apps from Google Play. Something that was the catalyst for the Blackberry empire crumbling in the mid 00’s was the lack of apps!
There is one item that Blackberry do bring to this handset though, and it is possibly the most important piece. Security.
We now live in a world where we put everything through our mobile phones. Photos, contacts, banking, personal information, access to a microphone, access to our camera, passwords and much more. Then we assume a 6 digit pass code or finger swipe will stop anything bad happening to all that data!
The KEYone comes with DTEK the Blackberry Security software tool that polices your smartphone. If any App, official or 3rd party starts accessing items on your phone it should not DTEK will stop it and notify you. It will also give you a clear view of what access each app has on your phone and allow you to place restrictions if needed.
The KEYone is expected to be released in April for around $549. You can Pre-order direct from Blackberry.