Review: BlackBerry Keyone


For the better part of a decade, there was nothing more impressive than owning a BlackBerry. Walking down the street, both hands on the soft-touch sides of the handset, thumbs flying around the keyboard as you plowed through emails, BBMs, and texts. You could wear ripped jeans and a paint-stained shirt, but your BlackBerry still told the world you were a Very Important Person. Maybe you weren’t the hippest kid on the block, but you were definitely the most likely to own a yacht and know how to properly pronounce Gstaad.

You know what a BlackBerry says about you now? Specifically the newest BlackBerry model, the BlackBerry Keyone? It says you haven’t bought a phone in a decade, because wait, do they even make Blackberries anymore? It says you probably still have an AOL email address, carefully curate your MySpace Top 8, and the email you’re sending begins with “forward this to seven people or your crush will die.” It says, above all else, that you bought the wrong phone.

Before we go too far, let’s do a little corporate landscaping. BlackBerry is no longer the only company that makes BlackBerry phones. The Keyone was made by the Chinese company TCL, which makes excellent televisions and washing machines. TCL licensed the BlackBerry name, but also uses BlackBerry software. Except BlackBerry uses Android, not its own software. It just adds a few apps, tweaks some settings, and oversees the security of the device. So, to recap: The Keyone is a BlackBerry that was built by TCL, runs Google software, and has BBM and stuff. Got it? Cool.

The thing that really makes the Keyone a BlackBerry is the hardware keyboard. Four rows of keys, below the 4.5-inch screen, with all the clicking you think you miss from the year 2006. These 35 slightly convex keys are supposed to make you feel productive, keep your inbox clear and your day-trades rolling. It’s a very good keyboard, generally speaking. The only problem is that physical keyboards are a bad idea. They’re not more efficient, no matter what your nostalgic brain tells you. Touchscreen keyboards are faster, more versatile, more usable. They can do swipe-typing, change size and shape to your liking, and switch languages at will. They go away when you don’t need them. That feeling of Doing Work you get while using a BlackBerry? It’s a lie.

Strange as it sounds, your phone’s keyboard isn’t as important as it used to be. A 2009 study, for instance, found that four of the seven social things teens did every day involved typing: IM, texts, emails, and messaging on social networks. (The other three were cell phone and landline calls, and…

11 reasons why you should dump your iPhone for the BlackBerry KEYone

The KEYone is BlackBerry's best phone in years.
The KEYone is BlackBerry’s best phone in years.

BlackBerry’s back and this time it’s finally got a winner with the QWERTY keyboard-equipped KEYone.

With a physical keyboard, a handsome aluminum design, and the latest version of Android, the KEYone is the BlackBerry that should have been released years ago.

Another plus: Its $549.99 unlocked price is much more affordable than the $699 BlackBerry Priv was at launch.

I’ve been testing the KEYone for a little over a week and as with every phone phone, there’s a lot I like and dislike. Yes, the KEYone is a BlackBerry and has a keyboard in an era of touchscreen-only phones, but it’s also running Android, and that makes all the difference. The apps problem that plagued BlackBerry’s old phones is no longer an issue with the KEYone.

Is the KEYone perfect? Of course not, but with all phones now just glass slabs, the KEYone’s somewhat throwback keyboard and industrial design is kind of refreshing. So here’s why you should consider dumping your iPhone or Android for the KEYone. (To learn why the KEYone isn’t worth it, click here.)

1. It’s got a physical keyboard


Let’s be real: The No. 1 reason why anyone should consider buying the KEYone is for the keyboard. It’s a good keyboard… if you embrace it. The glossy transparent buttons are a little mushy in my opinion, but if you liked the BlackBerry Passport or Priv’s keyboard, you’ll like the KEYone’s.

2. Screen is pretty nice


At a time when phones are getting taller, the KEYone’s squat 4.5-inch display with 3:2 aspect ratio is quite unusual. Despite having fewer pixels (1,620 x 1,080 resolution) than most Android phones, the KEYone’s screen is still quite bright and sharp. It doesn’t have any fancy curved edges or rounded corners, and that’s A-OK with me.

3. Scroll with keyboard gestures


It’s no classic BlackBerry trackball or trackpad, but the KEYone’s QWERTY keyboard does support limited gestures like on the BlackBerry Priv. You can swipe up and down on anywhere on the keyboard to scroll up and down through apps and websites, and you can swipe left and right to switch between homescreens. It’s nice not having to smudge up the screen with your fingerprints. You can also swipe up to quickly select suggested words when you’re typing and swipe left to delete words.

4. Space bar doubles as fingerprint sensor


Unlike most Android phones that have fingerprint…