When we talk about smartphones in the modern world, BlackBerry - the veteran smartphone maker that once ruled the mobile phone territory hardly makes it to the list. Once in a while, we come across a device from the company that tries to gain back the long-gone customer-base by pitching company's secure ecosystem and much appreciated physical QWERTY keyboards.
One such handset is BlackBerry KEYone, which the company has announced today in the Indian market at a price of Rs. 39,990. BlackBerry KEYone tries to offer the best of both the worlds - company's iconic design boasting the QWERTY keyboard, and all the goodies you expect from the Google's Android OS.
The smartphone does not offer the flagship processor, nor does it feature the dual-camera setups that have gradually become a key selling point these days. Instead, it tries to create its own space in the cluttered smartphone market by pitching the good old days of physical keyboards, retro and robust BlackBerry design and secure ecosystem. Moreover, it's also the company's first dual-SIM smartphone for the Indian market.
Do all of these make BlackBerry KEYone the smartphone you were waiting for? Can this handset bring back the golden days for the company in the Indian market? Let's try to answer this with the first impressions of BlackBerry KEYone.
Classic Blackberry design packing a 4.5-inch Full HD Screen
In one word, Blackberry Keyone is gorgeous. The smartphone beautifully combines the classic Blackberry keyboard with a crisp Full HD screen that is very touch responsive and produces vibrant colours.
The display size is 4.5-inches and it delivers a resolution of 1080 x 1620 pixels. The IPS LCD screen punches a ppi count of 433 pixels which makes the screen quite crisp to enjoy multimedia content. In my brief usage, I found the screen quite bright and lively.
It might not come as the best display out there to watch movies or play games, but when combined with the BlackBerry's touch enabled smart keyboard, the user experience it delivers is one of its kind.
Premium, Robust and Ergonomic design
BlackBerry devices are known for their sturdy design and the new KEYone is no different. The handset oozes premiumness and the build quality speaks for itself. The smartphone feels rock solid in hands and it will easily survive accidental falls. The KEYone feels much more solid than the metal glass premium handsets from other flagship brands. The company has introduced the all BlackBerry KEYone Limited Edition Black hat will certainly turn eyeballs.
The design team has also emphasized on ergonomics to make KEYone a comfortable fit in one hand. The phone's sides are curved that makes it easy to operate in everyday use, unlike the previous BlackBerry Passport which was a nightmare for users who prefer handy devices.
The tough metal body is complemented by faux leather back panel that gives the mobile device a good grip. The right side of the handset has volume rockers and a customizable key that can be set to activate any application for ease of use. The power button sits on the left side and the Type C USB port is placed at the bottom along with two speaker units.
Overall, the design is very Blackberry, practical and will please smartphone enthusiasts. The only thing that seems missing in the design part is some sort of water and dust resistivity which would have made KEYone a great overall mobile device of modern times.
Keyboard: Engineered to deliver the best in class typing experience
The QWERTY keyboard is undoubtedly the highlight feature of the KEYone and completely justifies its existence even in the days of full touch screen devices. It is technically a smart keypad where all the 52 keys can be programmed to launch the most used apps or contacts. So you can technically set upto 52 customized shortcuts to pace up the mobile user experience.
The QWERTY keypad also doubles as a touchpad and lets users slide across in order to navigate between the webpages and the home screens, which is my favorite feature of the handset. In addition to offer a seamless typing experience, the touchpad also makes sure your fingers does not block the screen. You can scroll the content on the display without even touching it, which in real life works very well as you get more real estate to consume the multimedia content. It's a smart and neat feature that makes the 4.5-inch screen works like a big 5.5-inch display.
Last but not the least, the spacebar key integrates the biometric sensor and can be used to unlock the device. You can check our first impressions video of BlackBerry KEYone to see the keypad in action.
Camera: Best ever camera on a Blackberry phone?
During the launch, BlackBerry said that the KEYone features the company's best camera hardware. The smartphone sports a 12MP large pixel rear camera that works on a 6P Element lens and is equipped with PDAF. The camera also has a low light enhancement mode and can also record 4K at 30fps.
For selfies, KEYone offers an 8MP camera that supports a selfie flash and a wide angle frame to capture group selfies.
I did not get much time to evaluate the camera performance but the output seemed pretty decent in daylight. We will evaluate the full potential of both the cameras in our comprehensive review of the handset in the coming week.
First ever dual-SIM Blackberry in India
Most of us are carrying two SIM cards these days and you will be happy to know that the BlackBerry KEYone supports dual-SUM connectivity. It is the company's first handset with such feature for the Indian market.
Hardware: Budget smartphone’s CPU paired with 4GB RAM
What powers the BlackBerry KEYone- the Snapdragon 625 CPU can also be found in some of the budget and mid-range Android device such as Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, Mi Max 2, etc. It's not a bad performer and is quite efficient, but we cannot ignore the fact that the same price-point also offers the flagship Snapdragon 835 chipset (OnePlus 5).
The chipset is paired with 4GB of RAM and there is 64GB internal storage that can be further expanded by up to 2TB via microSD card slot. It is worth mentioning the standard BlackBerry KEYone edition in the US market gets 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.
BlackBerry KEYone is backed by a modest 3,505 mAh battery unit that also comes with Boost charging and is said to regain 50% charge in just 30 minutes. For connectivity, you get 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2, USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm audio jack.
Software: Latest Android 7.1.1 Nougat with BlackBerry’s ecosystem
As far as software is concerned, the company is making sure that the end users don't feel left out when they purchase the new BlackBerry smartphone. The BlackBerry KEYone runs Android Nougat 7.1.1 and gets the entire suite of BlackBerry's app ecosystem and customizations.
You get the BlackBerry Hub to manage all your messages and notifications. BlackBerry DTEK takes care of for security, Power Center app optimizes apps to give the handset a longer battery life and there are some other deeper customizations to improve the overall user experience. We will talk more on the software part in our detailed review.
BlackBerry KEYone has a lot on its shoulders. The smartphone might not offer the latest flagship CPU or the best camera in town, but it still has a lot to offer.
The intuitive physical QWERTY keypad, premium and robust iconic BlackBerry design combined with the latest Android flavor and deeply integrated security features makes for a great mobile device. After all these might be the features that BlackBerry boys were waiting for.
Priced at Rs. 39,990, the BlackBerry KEYone will go on sale starting August 8 exclusively via Amazon.in and will face a tough competition from OnePlus 5 (8GB RAM), Honor 8 Pro and LG G6.
Can BlackBerry actually win this time? Stay tuned on GIZBOT to find the answer.