Remember BlackBerry, the once-mighty Canadian smartphone brand that was popular with business executives, legal professionals, journalists and government officials? BlackBerry was synonymous with a QWERTY keyboard and BBM messenger service. Not to miss, it was the first portable to bring in the revolution of having your e-mails on the move! As fate would have it, the company soon got into trouble. In the absence of interesting and innovative apps, there was a steady migration of customers.
The adoption of Android OS has been a bold attempt by BlackBerry to stay relevant. BlackBerry KEYone is the latest Android device to reach the Indian shores. The limited edition Black variant will be made available by Optiemus Infracom—it has the license to manufacture and sell BlackBerry devices in India—on Amazon from August 8. Without doubt, the KEYone is designed to impress; it has a BlackBerry mark to it and would remind you of the remnants of its previous devices. The phone combines design elements from the company’s first Android handset, the Priv, and honestly, it resembles the Z10 a lot but in a bigger frame and with a physical keyboard.
The KEYone is the first BlackBerry handset to offer dual-SIM capability. Build quality is solid and the phone is equipped with a metallic black frame and soft touch textured back. It features a 4.5-inch scratch resistant display (1620 x 1080 resolution/ 434 PPI 3:2 aspect ratio) with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 offering scratch resistance. The device combines a touch display with a physical keyboard to give users more useable space for typing compared to a typical 5.5-inch all-touch smartphone. It aims to offer the classic BlackBerry keyboard experience to folks who remember the original Bold. As typing experiences go, the KEYone’s keyboard is certainly top-class, especially its nifty flick system that lets you quickly accept on-screen word suggestions.
The KEYone’s smart keyboard responds to touch gestures mimicking the original BlackBerry trackpad making web browsing, reading e-mails and writing messages with flick typing a much smoother and intuitive experience. Interestingly, the keyboard can also be easily programmed to launch up to 52 customisable shortcuts, providing even greater ease of use. The device offers the security of a fingerprint sensor built directly into the keyboard spacebar for added functionality and security. The shortcuts are activated with either a short or long press and are great for people who want to quickly activate or launch regularly used applications and services.
Probing the innards, the KEYone comes with a 4 GB RAM and 64 GB ROM (expandable upto 2 TB). At its core, the device is powered with a 2GHz Octacore Snapdragon 625 processor. It includes Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 technology, making it possible for the 3,505 mAh battery, the largest ever in a BlackBerry device, to receive up to 50% charge in roughly 36 minutes. And, it will last for roughly two days. When you have only a few moments to charge your phone, BlackBerry’s Boost can turbo-charge the battery to get maximum juice with the limited available time.
The device runs on Android 7.1—giving users access to the Google Play store and the entire galaxy of apps. It comes loaded with BlackBerry Hub, a unified messaging inbox which combines e-mails, texts and messages from social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, BBM, WhatsApp, Instagram and others. Another benefit of the Hub is the ability to manage multiple e-mail accounts without switching between apps, with support for Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook, Microsoft Exchange, and many other IMAP POP3 e-mail providers. When I used it, the Hub was pretty nifty and it did not lag or hang even once during the trial period.
The KEYone is designed to deliver professional-looking photos with an 8 MP front facing camera and a wide-angle lens and a 12 MP auto-focus rear camera. With a large pixel size and Phase Detect Auto Focus, moments captured on the device are pretty crisp and clear. Additionally, for video conference or streaming, it includes an 8 MP front camera with fixed focus and 84-degree wide angle lens.
Clearly, the KEYone is a top-class device and a definite head-turner. It distinguishes itself in a crowded Android market with its powerful performance and efficient multitasking. While it is not the powerhouse that OnePuls 5 is or what the upcoming Note 8 may be, price would be an important determinant for BlackBerry’s return to the market. At Rs 39,900, the phone may not find many takers as OnePlus 5 is trading at Rs 37,999. But with a great screen, powerful processor and a fine camera, BlackBerry can be a good catch. There are plenty of work-related apps too, which makes the phone a great buy for die-hard BlackBerry loyalists and task-oriented professionals.