Black­Berry KEYone

£499 inc VAT •­

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KEYone is go­ing to be the best Black­Berry phone on the mar­ket when it comes out in April. It just should have ex­isted about three years ago in­stead of the Pass­port.

Or, the Pass­port should have run An­droid. But af­ter we took the KEYone for a spin at MWC in Barcelona, maybe we can for­give Black­Berry for its tar­di­ness. The KEYone was just about worth the wait, and is a strong An­droid de­vice re­gard­less of the brand.


The KEYone will be avail­able in the UK ‘dur­ing April’ ac­cord­ing to Black­Berry and we will re­port the

of­fi­cial sale date as soon as pos­si­ble. It will re­tail for £499 in the UK.


It’s no se­cret any­more that Black­Berry phones are now de­signed and man­u­fac­tured by its hard­ware part­ner TCL. Thank­fully, as soon as you hold the KEYone, it doesn’t mat­ter. Qual­ity has not been lost; this is pure Black­Berry.

The de­vice has a pleas­ing weight to it, un­like the light, slippy DTEK60, which was Black­Berry in spirit but not in prac­tice.

The KEYone brings the phys­i­cal key­board back and is the first Black­Berry hand­set to do since 2015’s Priv. This one is called a Smart Key­board and, to be fair, it can also claim to be just that. The keys are small and square like the Priv’s, with an at­trac­tive see-through tone and the fa­mil­iar metal rim be­tween the keys like the clas­sic Bold hand­sets circa 2010. They click pleas­ingly un­like the com­par­a­tively soft re­sponse found on 2014’s Pass­port.

The KEYone may have a clunky name, but the build qual­ity on show is far from shoddy. It is truly premium, some­thing we couldn’t say of ei­ther the DTEK50 or even DTEK60. The sil­ver metal frame re­calls the Pass­port while fram­ing the un­usual 4.5in dis­play and black key­board.

The back of the phone has a rub­bery grip ma­te­rial that hard­core Black­Berry key­board fans will ap­prove of – the hand­set never feels like it’s go­ing to slide out of your hands, plus the slim form means you can use it one-handed with rel­a­tive ease.

This rub­ber grip is in­ter­rupted only by the fa­mil­iar Black­Berry logo and the cam­era with flash. The right edge houses the vol­ume rocker and fa­mil­iar con­ve­nience key for open­ing an app of your choice, while the left is clean metal save for the power/lock switch. The bot­tom has two speak­ers and USB-C port. The look is rounded off with the nice touches of per­ma­nent ca­pac­i­tive nav­i­ga­tion but­tons and a fin­ger­print sen­sor in the space­bar key.


The KEYone mea­sures 149.1x72.4x9.4mm, an odd shape at first at 3:2, but the 4.5in screen is ac­tu­ally per­fect for a de­vice of this size. Hav­ing the phys­i­cal key­board means the touch­screen isn’t ever ob­structed by a soft­ware key­board (though you can in­ter­est­ingly turn on an on-screen key­board if you want).

That touch­screen is an IPS LCD with a res­o­lu­tion of 1620x1080 and 434ppi and uses Go­rilla Glass 4. Just above it is the 8Mp front-fac­ing cam­era, while the lens on the rear is a 12Mp with the same sen­sor as the Google Pixel. We’ll have to wait and see if it pro­duces sim­i­lar qual­ity im­ages in our full re­view. It can at least record in full 4K at 30fps.

TCL has made some in­ter­est­ing spec de­ci­sions, but they make sense to us. The octa-core 2GHz Snap­dragon 625 may not be cut­ting-edge high­end, but it needn’t be for a phone whose in­tended tar­get mar­ket are more con­cerned with bat­tery life and power ef­fi­ciency than pro­cess­ing speeds.

The 3505mAh bat­tery is the largest ever for a Black­Berry, so hope­fully paired with the 625

pro­ces­sor we should see a phone that can last well into a sec­ond day off a sin­gle charge. It will cer­tainly charge quickly with the Qual­comm Quick Charge 3 sup­port.

All re­gions will get the KEYone with 32GB stor­age and 3GB RAM, with a mi­croSD slot for ex­pan­sion up to 2TB.

So far, so or­di­nary for an An­droid de­vice in 2017. But that’s the thing – An­droid has turned this Black­Berry into a gen­uinely vi­able choice for con­sumers again, pair­ing good qual­ity hard­ware (and a touch of nos­tal­gia) with Nougat 7.1.


It’s great that the KEYone will ship with An­droid Nougat 7.1, but it’s the tweaks that the com­pany makes to the soft­ware that work ex­cel­lently with the hard­ware on of­fer. Black­Berry Hub re­mains an ex­cel­lent cen­tre for all your worldly no­ti­fi­ca­tions,

with the ex­cel­lent ‘pinch to see un­read’ fea­ture one our favourite ever, not just on a Black­Berry.

The DTEK soft­ware is here, as it was since the Priv, and for the av­er­age con­sumer there might be a touch too many Black­Berry apps pre­loaded. No mat­ter; it re­lies on pre­loaded Google apps too such as Gmail and Mes­sen­ger for SMS to avoid dou­bling up on apps.

An­other great fea­ture is the wid­gets avail­able right from an app icon. If there’s three dots un­derneath an app, you sim­ply swipe up and a mini wid­get win­dow to view info quickly (par­tic­u­larly with the cal­en­dar app). There’s also the abil­ity to as­sign things spe­cific as com­pos­ing a new email to a par­tic­u­lar per­son us­ing a one but­ton key­board short­cut from the home screen. Once you’ve used the KEYone for a time, you’ll def­i­nitely ben­e­fit from these lit­tle perks.

The soft­ware re­mains oddly un­re­mark­able on the DTEK60 – but with the phys­i­cal key­board of the KEYone it makes so much more sense. You can swipe up on the ca­pac­i­tive key­board to aut­ofill a sug­gested word. This just doesn’t work in­tu­itively on a touch­screen and we’re ex­cited to see Black­Berry re­fine hard­ware to work with soft­ware bet­ter on the KEYone.


The KEYone isn’t per­fect, and it may well strug­gle to sell. How­ever we are ex­cited by the time we’ve had with it. It mar­ries Black­Berry’s (and TCL’s) un­doubt­edly stel­lar de­sign tastes with soft­ware that helps you get stuff done. Maybe it’ll even be enough for peo­ple who want to use In­sta­gram as

well as Gmail to pick one up. The com­pany still has a way to go but the KEYone is a con­fi­dent step in the right di­rec­tion. Henry Bur­rell


• 4.5in 1620 x 1080 IPS touch­screen, 434ppi

• An­droid Nougat 7.1

• 2GHz Qual­comm Snap­dragon 625 CPU

• Adreno 506 GPU


• 32GB stor­age

• 12Mp main cam­era with LED flash, sup­port for 4K video at 30fps

• 8Mp front cam­era

• 802.11ac Wi-Fi

• Blue­tooth 4.2

• 4G LTE • Nano-SIM



• 3505mAh non-re­mov­able bat­tery

• 149.1x72.4x9.4mm

• 180g

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