BlackBerry KEYone returns with QWERTY keyboard running on Android

BlackBerry launched a new smartphone called KeyOne, the last phone designed and engineered in-house by BlackBerry, ahead of the official commencement of MWC 2017 yesterday. The new BlackBerry KeyOne, which was earlier known with its codename called Mercury, sports the physical keyboard and comes with a large screen.

“The new BlackBerry portfolio has a chance of success, because few companies now offer BlackBerry-style design and features, and the productivity-focused smartphone segment is underserved. But TCL must be careful not to price itself out of its target segment,” Ian Fogg, head of mobile analysis at IHS, said, adding: “Microsoft’s failure to establish Windows 10 Mobile as the enterprise smartphone OS provides a second chance for BlackBerry to re-establish its mobile market presence.”

The KeyOne is a phone made by BlackBerry’s new hardware partner TCL. Announcing the KeyOne, BlackBerry on its blog said, ” KeyOne pairs the best of BlackBerry software and security with TCL’s commitment to delivering high-quality, reliable smartphones to markets around the world. And we are very enthusiastic about how our long-term partnerships with TCL and our other partners, BB Merah Putih in Indonesia and Optiemus for the Indian sub-continent, will ensure availability of BlackBerry-branded smartphones to every corner of the world.”

The KeyOne comes with a 4.5-inch LCD display (resolution 1620 x 1080) and aspect ratio of 3:2 that would make browsing or reading an email a nice experience. It will sport a 2.0GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor and run on Android 7.1 Nougat with BlackBerry’s security-related tweaks. The device also has a physical keyboard under the screen, which is a rarity in smartphones these days. Further, it comes with 32GB of internal storage, which can be expanded via microSD (up to 2TB).

On the camera front, it will sport a 12MP rear camera with aperture of F2.0 along with 8MP front camera with F2.2 aperture lens. The phone draws power from a 3,505 mAh battery with quick charging that should last a full day on a single charge. BlackBerry calls the feature “boost,” which puts the smartphone in battery saving mode while charging, so it charges even faster. The KeyOne also supports Quick Charge 3.0. BlackBerry claims you can get to 50 per cent in 36 minutes.

Just like on other BlackBerrys, the keyboard is touch enabled that allows you to scroll by swiping over the keyboard. A new feature lets you to program all the hardware keys to do something on a long press. For instance, “B” can launch the browser, or “F” could launch Facebook. The traditional programmable BlackBerry “Convenience Key” is on the side.

On the connectivity front, the new KeyOne comes with standard set of connectivity options, including 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth v4.2, NFC, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a USB Type-C port. Consumers will also get the DTEK security app with monthly security patches. You will also find some BlackBerry Apps preloaded on the device including BlackBerry Keyboard, BlackBerry Hub and DTEK by BlackBerry.

The black KeyOne will go on sale in April for $549/£499/€599 and will be available around the world through various retailers and carriers.