BlackBerry announces the KEYone

Premium pricing for mid-range specs — apart from the camera — and a physical keyboard, but it's the security and promise of monthly updates that has BlackBerry banking on its KEYOne being a success

KEYOne
The BlackBerry KEYone. Will this put BlackBerry back in the game?

How much are you willing to pay for an Android phone with something rarely seen these days — a physical keyboard? Would you pony up $549 (Dh2,015), even if the rest of the specs are rather average? Well, BlackBerry certainly believes there are enough die-hard fans out there who would not mind paying a flagship-level price for a mid-range phone, just to flick-type on what the company claims to be the “world’s most advanced keyboard to date”. Here’s what you need to know about the KEYOne.

BlackBerry, now owned by the Chinese electronics major, TCL — which has also bagged the Alcatel brand — was among the first to hold a press conference at MWC 2017. On display was the keyboard-toting BlackBerry KEYone. Incidentally, the same phone was also shown back in January at CES, but under the name of Mercury. We imagine someone in TCL’s marketing department felt Mercury did not do justice to the phone’s signature feature — “Look here, it has a keyboard! A KEYBOARD! So let’s call it KEYsomething. Okay, how about KEYone?”

The BlackBerry KEYone. The key to BlackBerry’s return to form?

Anyway, first let’s get the specs out of the way. The KEYone runs off a mid-tier 2.0GHz Snapdragon 625, packs in 3GB RAM, comes with 32GB onboard storage with room for a microSD card. It is powered by a quick-charging 3,505mAh battery that is apparently good enough to last a couple of days. BlackBerry has moved on with times, and its latest device uses the reversible USB Type-C port. The display is a diminutive 4.5-inch panel — remember, this is phone with a physical keyboard and something had to be sacrificed. But the resolution is still a top-notch 1,620×1,080 pixels — yes, you get a 1080p panel. Another interesting decision has been the choice of the optics — BlackBerry went for the best camera tech currently available and you get a shooter that is on par with the one found in Google Pixel line-up.

On the software front you get Android 7.1, layered with BlackBerry’s acclaimed suite of security software. That, in fact, is another justification for the premium pricing — you are getting the “most secure Android smartphone”. BlackBerry is also promising “best-in-class” monthly Android security updates, which should please users and corporate IT chiefs alike. It also helps that the phone looks good and might do well in BlackBerry’s former dominion — the market for business phones.

Are you tempted?