BlackBerry devices, initially manufactured by Canada-based Research In Motion (RIM), slipped into oblivion as iPhones and Android smartphones eclipsed the QWERTY handsets that were once a style statement with corporates.
To make a comeback, the company has been experimenting with models like BlackBerry ‘DTEK 60’, ‘DTEK 50’, ‘Priv’, ‘Passport’ and ‘Leap’, etc. But none of the devices have heralded its revival yet.
BlackBerry ‘KEYone’, introduced earlier this year by Chinese firm TCL, has now been launched in India by the homegrown Optiemus Infracom — one of the three licensees of ‘KEYone’ devices across the world.
The Rs 39,990 KEYone Limited Edition Black promises to give users the best of both worlds, with the latest Android OS and BlackBerry’s trademark QWERTY keyboard.
Will KEYone help BlackBerry make a mark in the cut-throat Indian smartphone market? Let’s find out.
We usually come across smartphones with big, candybar form factors that jut out of pockets. Take a glance at BlackBerry KEYone and you will notice that the company hasn’t stopped inventing when it comes to look and feel.
The physical QWERTY keyboard comfortably sits at the bottom of the touchscreen smartphone. Unlike the pronounced QWERTY keyboards on classic BlackBerry devices, the company this time has compressed the keyboard a bit.
What we loved most was the keyboard that doubles up as a track-pad and lets you scroll through pages which, currently, no other flagship phone offers.
The fingerprint sensor is embedded in the spacebar and unlocks the phone in a snap.
The device is made of an anodised aluminium frame that makes it sturdy. Corning Gorilla Glass 4 sits on top of a 4.5-inch IPS LCD display (1620 x 1080 pixels) with 3:2 aspect ratio on the front. The colours looked rich and sharp.
The rear of BlackBerry KEYone has a soft, matte rubberised finish which renders a premium look and comfortable grip.
A 12MP primary camera with optics from Sony and f/2.0 “Large Pixel” is similar to the camera on the Google Pixel.
Though it did not click images as good as the Pixel, this is the best-ever camera on a BlackBerry phone till date.
Images taken in the day came out really well with enough detail. The photos did not look over-saturated at all. The macro shots also had good depth-of-field and detail.
Talking about performance, BlackBerry has customised the Android experience with its own useful applications such as “DTEK” which keeps your device safe and secure.
The company has also added a software privacy shade that hides the screen from prying eyes.
“BlackBerry Hub” is another useful app that compiles all emails, across multiple accounts and services, and messages.
A great value-addition to the device is the 3,503mAh battery with boost-charging technology that lives up to being the best-ever battery in a BlackBerry device.
The Indian version of KEYone supports hybrid dual-SIM connectivity and 4G VoLTE, which are great value-additions.
What does not work.
A Snapdragon 625 chipset powers the phone which is a bit dated now. Considering the price, we would have loved a higher-end chip in the device.
Other flagship smartphones such as Honor 8 Pro and OnePlus 5 use better and latest chipsets.
Photography in low-light conditions was a bit disappointing.
The power key is on the left edge towards the top of the phone which might be confusing for some users.
Conclusion: BlackBerry has beautifully combined Android with its trademark physical QWERTY keyboard and security to deliver a great product. The device definitely stands out in a universe of metal-and-glass bodied smartphones.
KEYone is the device for people who want a phone with a physical keyboard, good design and a dose of nostalgia.