BlackBerry KeyOne

Cool factor ****

Usability ***

Value for money ****



The BlackBerry KeyOne is the very first smartphone released since TCL Communication’s December 2016 licensing agreement with BlackBerry Ltd. The Chinese-owned company now designs, manufactures and markets smartphones under the trading name BlackBerry Mobile.

The KeyOne resurrects a physical keyboard, this time on an Android-powered device. It has a qwerty keyboard below the touchscreen, with the spacebar doubling up as a fingerprint sensor. If you’ve been a fan of BlackBerry’s classic design, the keyboard will appeal to you, but if you’ve become accustomed to a touchscreen, it may take some getting used to.

I repeatedly hit the wrong keys, which left me a bit frustrated as it took twice as long to text.

Another feature that requires some practice to perfect is remembering the location of the soft-touch menu keys that are standard on Android handsets, like the all-important home and back button — it’s above the keyboard.

A great new addition is the 52 custom shortcuts you can create on any key, for example E to open e-mail; T for Twitter; and I for Instagram. At a quick glance, you can view a consolidated feed of messages, e-mail, calendar and social media under the BlackBerry Hub.

The 4.5-inch screen is a less-than-ideal ratio of 3:2, with a 1680x1080p resolution. It is useful for replying to e-mails, but not so much for browsing the Web or looking at social feeds, because it cuts off the bottom half, noticeable on Instagram stories.

The phone is being punted as the most secure Android handset, which is no surprise as this has always been BlackBerry’s strongest point. The DTEK security app lets you see what "permissions" an app has, or if it is malicious; and lets you encrypt data. It also offers a factory reset protection feature that keeps data safe if stolen or lost, as well as remote management of apps for stolen handsets. The Privacy Shade app highlights a selected part of your screen if you don’t want someone to see sensitive information on your device.

The KeyOne runs Android Nougat 7.1 and is powered by an octa-core processor with 3GB of RAM, 32GB onboard memory (expandable up to 2TB), and yields approximately 26 hours of use from its 3,505mAh battery. The camera is a decent 12MP with manual controls, and an 8MP wide-angle front camera.

The BlackBerry KeyOne costs R9,649 on prepaid.

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