Starting off this year’s Mobile World Congress 2017 with a bang (or possibly a loud thud) is BlackBerry with somewhat less than surprising announcement. The company that time forgot is hoping to keep the dream of the 2000s alive with their latest release: the BlackBerry KeyOne. This time around they’ve managed to convince TV manufacturer TCL to build their new smartphone which is the same semi-premium Android device that they initially showed off behind closed during CES earlier this year under the codename “Mercury.”
Premium feel, mid-range hardware
This time around we’re getting a look at the final hardware and despite feeling like a premium Android flagship thanks to a solid aluminum frame and soft touch back, the KeyOne isn’t really on the same playing field as other high-end Android devices. In fact, the BlackBerry KeyOne is pretty mid-range, sporting a lower-end Snapdragon 625 processor, 3GB of RAM, and 4.5-inch 1620 x 1080 LCD display that gives the phone an almost square 3:2 aspect ratio. Yeah, not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a top-tier Android flagship, especially considering the KeyOne’s premium pricing.
At $560, the BlackBerry KeyOne is definitely a tough sell, but it does offer a few unique features most other guys don’t. The most obvious feature is the phone’s unique candy bar design with almost half of the phone’s real estate being devoted to a full physical QWERTY keyboard. They keys feel nice and clicky and are your standard BlackBerry fare, so any fans of older the company’s older devices are sure to feel at home. There’s even an additional customizable hardware button on the side that can be programmed to launch any app/shortcut.
Because it’s now 2017, the keyboard does more than just type. It also acts as a sort of touch pad with swiping gestures that can be used to choose word predictions or help you scroll through your home screens. Each and every key can also be programmed to act as an app shortcut, launching from the home screen with a simple long press. There’s also a refreshingly beefy 3,505mAh battery onboard that BlackBerry says should deliver “all-day” battery life, something you typically only find on larger phablet devices.
BlackBerry’s top notch security features
BlackBerry is hoping not only to entice business-y folks with the KeyOne’s ability to fire off a barrage of emails, but also with their promise of extra security features like the BlackBerry’s special DEKT security software. DEKT gives users the ability to see the status of their smartphone’s security by displaying things like specific permissions being requested from apps, and how to improve the security by performing their own diagnostics and helpful tips. The KeyOne comes out of the box running the latest version of Android 7.1 Nougat, along with the promise of Google’s monthly security updates to keep everything nice and secure.
When can you buy?
BlackBerry says we can expect to see the KeyOne launch sometime this April around the globe, with carrier availability being announced at a later date. For more on the BlackBerry KeyOne as well as other devices being announced at Mobile World Congress 2017, stay tuned as our coverage from Barcelona continues.