In the vast sea of smartphones, it is easy to be swayed this way or that by the galaxy and iPhones of the world but in doing so you can miss an opportunity to find dry, solid nay hallowed ground in a device that is not only built well, performs superbly but could also be the sleeping giant this company has been looking for. Even though we are not quite in the business end of 2017, the best smartphone you are not buying and should be is the Blackberry KEYone.
Blackberry/TCL has been clawing its way back into the smartphone space like a wounded wilder beast for some time now. After a mediocre offering in the Priv and Dtek60, the company went back to the drawing board, took into consideration some much needed consumer feedback, and reared up and knocked out the stunning KEYone, and this thing really is beautiful. Equipped with an aluminum chassis, rubberized back cover, a physical and very tactile keyboard plus a gorilla glass display – this thing is unapologetically robust and built to work for you. We especially love the look of the KEYone, it is unlike anything else on the market and isn’t a slippery shattered screen or glass back panel waiting to happen.
The device is also fitted with some solid future proofing including a USB-c charging port with quick charge 3.0, a very capable Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, 3gb or 4gb of ram and a sufficient 32gb or 64gb of storage capacity with rare microSD expandability. You also get Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, and even a FM radio.
Before we move on, it is important to address the inclusion of the now niche keyboard on the KEYone. The layout is throwback Blackberry, the buttons are very responsive and are back-lit which is necessary with this kind of device. We will admit that it did take some readjustment time from our classic software based iPhone set up and the buttons are a little on the small side plus having to use buttons to control capitalization and punctuation was somewhat challenging/annoying at first, but that is not to say that we didn’t end up loving it. The thing is, sure this will be very different for some but we found that after some time, while we weren’t faster at typing messages or emails, we were more considerate with what we typed and how we phrased it because it requires you think more using physical buttons. The surface of the keyboard is also touch-sensitive, you can slide your finger across it to scroll up, down, left, or right just like you would on a track-pad. When typing, you can hold shift and swipe around to select text and a feature we really loved was the ability to assign shortcuts to the keyboard by using a short-press or long-press of the letter keys, it can trigger an app, toggle a setting, or a call a specific contact.
The Blackberry KEYone is also backed by some powerful software, based on the latest Android 7.1, you get the traditional BBM messenger and HUB services but also the DTEK security suite which ensures your device is configured to be the most secure it can be, something we appreciated in this technological age. This is powered by a 3505mah battery which has been an absolute powerhouse and reminded us of the Blackberry of old. In our moderate usage, we were easily getting 2.5-3 days of use from a single charge and about 6 hours screen on time. We didn’t think anything could top our iPhone 7 plus in battery life, but this thing punches above its weight and comes close.
We can’t end this review without commenting on the KEYone’s camera. Now, Blackberry are not known for their camera prowess in the smartphone world but this little beast has a damn fine camera to top off an already impressive package. The main 12MP camera captures a large 1.55um and is coupled with auto-HDR, Phase Detect Auto Focus and electronic image stabilization (EIS) for steadier photos and video recording resulting in some stunning daylight photographs and above average night shots as well. The camera is so impressive that it is worth noting that the KEYone shares the same Sony IMX378 camera sensor with the Google Pixel phone, a phone rated as having one of the best cameras on the market. The front facing camera on the other hand is comprised of a modest 8MP shooter with f2.2 aperture and takes decent photographs and video if the subject is not moving too much.
The Blackberry KEYone is not a smartphone for those who like pretty things, it is a robust productivity device that has amazing battery life, an exceptional camera, and a strong suite of software. In our testing, we did not run into any instances of lag or forced crashes and that is just the thing, it works and does what it says it can very well. In 2017, we read many stories about smartphone makers that have cut corners and have put your personal details at risk, Blackberry took a different approach and made a smartphone that puts your security first but can also stand up to the most demanding of tasks and sail through them with ease. We cannot praise the KEYone enough and truly believe it should be getting more attention from consumers in this fickle market. TCL has revived the Blackberry brand and for that we salute you.
Check it out at http://www.blackberrymobile.com
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