BlackBerry KEYone :: Are you in the target audience?

by Volker Weber

IMG 9829

It's interesting to see how Android reviewers struggle with the KEYone. Most start out with the hardware keyboard and quickly reason that BlackBerry is passé. How uncool! What is the KEYone really? It's an Android Phone with some midrange components (SD 625, 3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage), an excellent camera chip (same as Pixel), a huge battery (3500 mAh), a small screen (4.5" 1080x1200 pixel), all packaged in a sturdy aluminium frame, but without dust or water protection.

We cannot get far with looking at the hardware specs. So what does it feel like?

  1. It feels right. Kind of heavy for its size. Narrower than a PRIV but the same height when the slider is closed.
  2. The keyboard is a BlackBerry keyboard, much like the Classic, not like the PRIV.
  3. The materials are right. Nothing lies. No fake leather or fake metal.
  4. I can hold it comfortably and use it with one hand. Non-slip back.

Are you faster with a hardware keyboard? I am not. A Windows Phone keyboard or an iPhone keyboard feel more natural to me, and I am faster on them. And I am a BlackBerry user, so I know to press Alt-P for an @. If you have to learn the keyboard, you will be slower. Plus, I use voice-to-text a lot. So I don't type as much as I used to. The benefit is that you don't have to look at the keyboard. You can type away and just look at your text. It won't have emojis or stickers. Just plain old text.

You are in the target audience if you had a BlackBerry once and remember the no nonsense character. If you have old muscle memory for the keyboard. And you get the versatility of the Google store and the protection BlackBerry provides for Android. If that suits you well, you may want one. But be careful. An iPhone is a much safer bet. There is zero probablity that Apple abandons you, there are tons of accessories, and if you break it, you will find help around the corner.

KEYone shipped with Android 7.1.1 and April 05 security patch level. I expected it to download and install May 05, but it does not. BlackBerry Mobile has committed itself to monthly security updates for a minimum 24 months from launch.


Every now and then I swear I'm ready to ditch the iPhone and go back to Blackberry -- usually when it does something other than I expect. But I just turn on my old Q10 and use that for part of a day until the feeling goes away.

David Schaffer, 2017-05-16

"There is zero probablity that Apple abandons you, " - I wouldn't bet my money on that. Apple abandoned me several times, changing the technology overnight which required me to replace my devices, find new software, solutions to be able to continue to work.

After my brief stint with Blackberry - had it only for 2 years, but it was the most productive device so far, really a working tool for working, period - I faced the Android : iPhone dilemma and decided for fruit. Still can't type on glass (arrgh), have given up that things simply don't work (try getting a file over from a non-fruit phone, no NFC, funny business with bluetooth, etc.), but the platform feels more solid than android.

Give me a blackberry with apple-size appstore :/

Gregor Jeromen, 2017-05-17

That's exactly what this is, isn't it? A BlackBerry with Google Play Store.

Volker Weber, 2017-05-17

I don’t wish to be contrary but I can’t think of a single time Apple changed technology “overnight”.

They’ve pushed us away from stuff, sure (68k ⇒ PowerPC ⇒ Intel, ADB ⇒ USB, no more floppies, etc.), but overnight? No.

Ben Poole, 2017-05-17

Just met a fresh KeyONE user the other day. Having asked how he liked it he told me that missing umlauts on the keyboard were an issue for him. A few minutes later we had set up his multilingual Blackberry keyboard. A day later the device felt *much* better to him.

The way this works on a Blackberry device is so good that people coming from other Android platforms simply don't expect it. Another thing is translit cyrillic input on the device's hardware keyboard.

Apart from that I can only second what was said. Regardless whether it's running on Android or BB10, this is a device to get stuff done. This is why I love it and why I sincerely hope that there will still be Blackberry (-branded, OK if they're as good as the KeyONE) devices with physical keyboards in the future.

Martin Dietze, 2017-05-17

Six months ago I would have agreed (and argued) to be part of the target audience, when I bought my PRIV for three reasons: Android for essential work apps, physical keyboard and regular security updates. I had used a Nokia E72 for a couple of years as my business phone and loved the keyboard. A screen keyboard with it's successor devices felt like a compromise at best.

Now looking at the KEYone with my PRIV experience I am not sure and tend to think I'm off the target audience. For two reasons: I use the physical keyboard less than expected (still the BB's screen keyboard is far better than from other brands, even Apple) and just two years of security updates is too short for my usage pattern. I tend to use my work devices 3-4 years, thus I need security fixes for this period.

But I haven't had the chance to experience a KEYone by myself. While this may change my opinion regarding the need for a physical keyboard, there still is the security update commitment issue.

Christian Rosner, 2017-05-17

Volker, earlier this year you said about the KeyOne: "This is a solid business phone with Android, but it does not make me drop a PRIV." Has this changed now that you've had a chance to get to know the KeyOne better? And how does it compare to the S8, both in terms of hardware and software?

Jochen Kattoll, 2017-05-18

Yes, the KEYone looks better now, although the PRIV has the superior screen.

KEYone and S8 are on opposite sides of the Android spectrum. KEYone is very close to the Google experience, with added security. S8 is a Samsung phone. KEYone looks very solid and tough, while the S8 is so fragile with glass all around. I expect Samsung to sell a 100 times more S8 than BlackBerry Mobile will sell KEYones.

I always had difficulties holding the S8 without obstructing the display. There is a good reason for having space on the front where you can grab the device.

Volker Weber, 2017-05-18

Thanks, Volker, that's very helpful. I always liked the backs of all my BB phones and never understood why Apple and Samsung and others put slippery glass on the back of their phones. Does not make sense to me and requires customers to wrap their shiny expensive phones in cheap and ugly plastic cases.

Jochen Kattoll, 2017-05-18

Indeed. I felt the DTEK60 needed a case, the DTEK50 does not. I have friend who smashed his PRIV and could not get the screen replaced for less than a new PRIV cost. Using the S8 without one is reckless.

With they KEYone I am confident I don't need a case.

Volker Weber, 2017-05-18

Great, thank you, Volker.

Still, I am inclined to wait for the new iPhone and a plastic case ... :)

Jochen Kattoll, 2017-05-18

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