A BlackBerry phone always stood for three things: a physical keyboard, long battery life and secure software. And this is exactly what you will get in the new BlackBerry Key2. But the question is will you ditch your iPhone or Android flagship for the Key2? That’s the question I asked myself when I started using the BlackBerry Key2 as my primary phone.
Before I reveal more about the Key2, you should know that the newest BlackBerry device isn’t even manufactured by the iconic Canadian company. Rather, it is manufactured by Noida-based Optiemus Infracom, which has a long-term licensing deal with BlackBerry. And yes, it doesn’t run BlackBerry software, but the latest version of Android.
While the Key2 doesn’t have the specifications to match the likes of the Galaxy S9+, it has a number of unique features. Of course, the physical keyboard remains the Key2’s highlight, making it one of its kind phones with the dual-camera an added bonus. At Rs 42,990, the Key2 is an unconventional smartphone and will strictly cater to BlackBerry fans at the moment, or maybe someone who can’t cope with touchscreens. Here’s our detailed review of BlackBerry Key2 which is now available exclusively on Amazon India.
BlackBerry Key2 price in India: Rs 42,990
BlackBerry Key2 review: Design and aesthetics
BlackBerry Key2 looks alien when you compare to any modern day smartphone. For a second, you would wonder whether this phone even belongs in 2018. But as you start using the Key2, you will understand why the phone has been designed to mimic a classic BlackBerry device.
The Key2 sports similar dimensions to the KeyOne, something you will notice immediately. Unlike its predecessor, the Key2’s design has been altered a bit. The result: the Key2 is slimmer, lighter and has a more mature design. The chassis of the Key2 is less curved, instead the phone has sharper lines and edges. The frame is made of aluminum, whereas the back has a smooth rubbery plastic covering, rather than the glass case seen on a majority of flagships in 2018. The Key2 lacks a water-resistance rating, though.
BlackBerry Key2 review: Display
The Key2 sticks to a square-shaped 4.5-inch 1080x1620p panel. And yes, it is pretty much identical to the one fitted in the KeyOne. It is sharp, bright, and offers decent colour reproduction. This is an LCD panel, so it would be wrong to even compare with OLED screens –known for producing deep levels of black. Since the screen size is small, I would not even recommend you to play games on the Key2. Watching YouTube videos on the Key2 is not a terrible experience, though.
BlackBerry Key2 review: Keyboard
If you are new to Key2, it will take some time getting used to the physical keyboard. Since my entire day spent on either writing stories or responding to emails, I got used to the physical keyboard in a day or two. The keys are 20 per cent bigger so it allowed for more space to type on. Plus, the buttons are backlit which obviously comes handy when typing in the dark.
For a change, a new key has been introduced, which BlackBerry likes to call the speed key. What it does is that it lets you programme a shortcut. For instance, if you set the ‘S’ key to open Saavn, then pressing the speed key followed by ‘S’ will open the app. It is possible to set a different shortcut to each key. The idea is simple: open apps without going back to the home screen.
Coming to the experience, it was still no faster than using an on-screen keyboard found on a full-touch display, especially longer sentences. In fact, I was able to type much faster on the Key2’s onscreen keyboard than using the physical keyboard, but I like the idea of integrating the phone’s fingerprint sensor into the spacebar. The keyboard also functions as a trackpad, which in my opinion is a great way of scrolling through web pages. No doubt the physical keyboard is handy at times, but I am not ready to ditch an on-screen keyboard just yet.
Blackberry Key2: Performance, battery
Even though BlackBerry Key2 is priced at par with a premium smartphone, the hardware is similar to what you would find in a mid-end smartphone. The Key2 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor. Though the company has tried to balance it by adding 6GB RAM, a jump from the 3GB on the KeyOne. Our review unit came with 64GB of internal memory.
In my testing, the Key2 performed flawlessly – from switching between apps to web browsing. The phone feels super fast in every day of use, and that’s what I expect from every phone. The Key2 isn’t made for gaming, but I did play Super Mario Run. I believe the Key2’s clientele would rather be interested in using the physical keyboard, than play games on the device. The Key2’s call quality was impressive and so was the single mono speaker.
Another standout feature of the Key2 is the software experience. Although the phone runs on Android 8.1 Oreo, the interface has been customised to suit the needs of business users. BlackBerry Hub, for example, combines all your messaging and email platforms together into a single inbox. The launcher has been heavily modified, which shows that the phone is designed with productivity in mind.
The DTEK app focuses on security, which tells you how secure the phone is. I also liked a built-in Password keeper feature which lets you securely save all your passwords in one single location.
The 3500mAh battery on the Key2 impresses and as a result, the phone lasts a day and a half on a single charge. Let’s be clear: I used the Key2 as my daily driver and not as a secondary phone for a week. Charging usually takes around 60 minutes from zero per cent to 70 per cent with the supplied charger.
BlackBerry Key2 review: Camera
The Key2 is the first BlackBerry smartphone to feature a dual-camera setup, and yes, it allows for 2x optical zoom and portrait mode. The handset features a pair of 12MP snappers, a f/1.8 aperture for the primary camera and a f/2.6 aperture for the telephoto lens. However, the Key2 doesn’t feature optical image stabilisation.
Shooting outdoors, the Key2 achieved excellent results in terms of image quality. I rate the Key2 as the best BlackBerry smartphone from the camera point of view. The images I shot were mostly noise-free, colourful, and well-balanced. Even the portrait mode works, delivering sharper images with a nice blur on the background. Though I was certainly not convinced with the Key2’s performance in taking low-light images. The 8MP front-facing camera is nothing to write home about.
Overall, the Key2’s camera is not as good as the OnePlus 6, but it is miles ahead of the single snapper we saw on the KeyOne.
BlackBerry Key2 review: Conclusion
The Key2 is a solid phone and offers all the feature that you would like to see in a premium BlackBerry phone. But as I said in the beginning, the Key2 caters to specific users who have owned a BlackBerry device in the past or those who prefer a phone with a physical keyboard. BlackBerry phones always command a high price so I wasn’t surprised to see when the Key2 was announced at Rs 42,990. If you are keen to buy a phone with a physical keyboard, BlackBerry Key2 is the only option in the market.