Review: BlackBerry's KEYone phone brings back the keyboard

Computerworld | May 4, 2017

BlackBerry's new KEYone Android phone, complete with a real keyboard, could win back some of its enterprise customers.

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DAN ROSENBAUM: Maybe the biggest two surprises of 2017 are that Blackberry still exists, and that Blackberry’s new phone is actually not bad.

Admittedly, the specs of the KeyOne are strictly mid-level. Playing Temple Run will underwhelm you, and you definitely won’t want to stream Netflix. But if you live in email and texts, you should give it a look.

The KeyOne, which is actually manufactured by the company TCL, is an Android 7.1 phone that’s a tiny bit wider than a Samsung Galaxy S8. Along with its signature hard keyboard, the KeyOne’s brushed aluminum frame and pebbled leather back give it a distinctive all-business look. The KeyOne managed a solid 6 1/2 hours in our intense battery drain test, and quick-charged from zero to 100 percent in just two hours.

But that four-row hard keyboard is really what makes the KeyOne different. You might think it would be a little cramped, but the keys are sculpted and spaced well enough that typing is a perfectly good experience.

Besides acting as an input device, the keyboard is a big touchpad. The space bar holds the fingerprint sensor. You can page through your Android screens by flicking left and right, and scroll up and down through documents by dragging your thumb up and down.

What’s more, the KeyOne’s predictive typing lets you flick words into your documents, building up a good head of steam. And if you make a mistake? Flick left to delete the last word.

And the Blackberry Hub software lets you collect all your emails, text, calendars, and Facebook messages into a single interface.

The KeyOne is not a phone for playtime. This is a productivity device – something that can live comfortably in an enterprise. There’s a reason that executives used to choose Blackberrys; and the KeyOne is a good update that reminds us why.