Blackberry KEYone Review – Available July in Australia: $899

it's back baby, the keyboard is back

After months of teasing us with it, Blackberry’s relaunch device – the KEYone is finally coming to Australia and we’ve been putting it through its paces to see how it will stack up in the market.

Available next month (July) from JB HiFi, the KEYone will set you back $899 – $100 more than was foreshadowed at the launch of the device in Barcelona, but still a very competitive price for a flagship smartphone.

 

Here’s Trevor Long’s First Look at the KEYone:

Before the device hits stores, keen buyers can register their interest at blackberrymobile.com.au with a pre-sale kicking off in mid-June.

Using the device for the last week or so has reminded me why  was so excited about this device after the launch in Barcelona.  It’s solid, it’s well made, it does everything you will want of it.

Design

A 4.5 inch touch screen used to be a standard smartphone size – these days 5 inches and more is the norm.  However, when you pack a 4.5 inch screen into a device as well as a fully QWERTY keyboard you get the best of both worlds.

I think what I love most about this device is that Blackberry (made by TCL) have not tried to be just another smartphone here.  If Samsung thought they “unboxed the smartphone” with their Galaxy S8, Blackberry have re-designed the smartphone with the KEYone.

It’s not the thinnest phone on the market, but it feels really comfortable in the hand. The large rounded edges give you comfort, while the back of the device is a every so slightly rubberised surface with dimples all over it.  Again – very comfortable, and doesn’t for a second feel like it will slip out of my hand.

The camera is a feature of the rear of the phone, while the black and silver colour tones really look the part.

Keyboard

This is no knock off – this is the real deal.  It’s as if the mother company Blackberry in Waterloo – who for so many years made the iconic keyboard devices – had a pallet load of keyboards they shipped to TCL to throw into the KEYone.

It is quite thin, and it sits slightly lower than you are normally used to on a phone when compared to the average on-screen keyboard.

Getting used to pressing the keys takes a while, certainly not overnight – not in a bad way, it’s just a re-adjustment.

The keyboard is the fingerprint scanner and it works well and fast.  But most notable are the almost pure bread Blackberry keyboard features.

Accessing the numbers with the “alt” key, holding a letter for a capital or using the shift arrow.  Keyboard shortcuts and there are stacks that you can program; using each key for an application launch, short press and long press being different applications.

There is the convenience key on the right hand side which can be programmed to launch your favourite app, and most notably the keyboard is also a trackpad. You can scroll up and down on a page without covering the screen with your finger.

In fact you use the touch-screen a lot less with this multi-purpose keyboard.

For a Blackberry fan it’s like riding a bike – for the first time in 20 years – for those new to the physical keyboard they may choose to use a hoverboard instead of the bike, but get back on and keep trying you will learn to love it.

That though is the real stumbling block for Blackberry – it’s a new again feeling, many will possibly shun.

Camera

In 2017 you can’t make a smartphone without a great camera.

Fear not, this KEYone has you covered.  The camera app is fast, shutter fires fast, and the quick access to exposure is probably the best I’ve seen on a smartphone.

Quality is on par with almost any other you’ll be using.

I took some snaps at The Oval in London and frankly I think it’s hard to judge the difference here.

Same with the Panorama, a feature that is well executed with a “join the dots” style approach;

Android

And the real feature here is 100% access to Android.  This is a pure Android with some extra Blackberry apps – not a Blackberry “change” to the Android OS.

All your favourite apps will work with ease, and Blackberry are committed to the regular Google Security updates.

That, plus the Blackberry DTek software which monitors and enables security will be a desirable feature for many corporate clients.

 

Overall

Battery life was excellent, this is a “charge me once a day” device, be that at home or the office, with Blackberry calling it a 26+ hour mixed use battery.  The 3505mAh battery will cruise through the day, while Qualcomm Quick Charge tech will push 50% battery into the phone in just 36 minutes.

I absolutely love the design and the feel of this device.  I’ve got no complaints about performance or quality, I just need more time to adjust to the keyboard – and that’s coming from a former crackberry addict.

Sadly, no telco deals are in place, so the KEYone is relegated to the JB HiFi 5×5 smartphone wall.  A great place to be for outright sales, and at $899 alongside some quality phones.  But plan based deals with Telstra or Optus would have made much more sense in a corporate world where hardware and device credits often fund the phone purchases for staff.

I thought it was a steal at $799, and it would have got some real attention there – at $899 it’s great value, outstanding device, well worth consideration.  Register for the pre-sale at blackberrymobile.com.au.

Blackberry KEYone
Date Published: 06/01/2017
So glad to have them back, this device stands out from a crowd of sheep, is very well built and offers all the power and performance you need
4.5 / 5 stars

 

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Tech

Trev produces two of the most popular technology podcasts in Australia, Your Tech Life and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He hosts a nightly radio show on Talking Lifestyle, 8pm Monday to Friday in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show and A Current Affair. Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave. Like this post? Buy Trev a drink!
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