BlackBerry Key2 review. BlackBerry used to represent the business end of smartphones, while the iPhone and Galaxy were more casual. If you wanted to get any real work done, you’d buy a BlackBerry Bold. .
This is business. Six years later, almost everyone’s forgotten about it. Business users that need a smartphone now have an iPhone, a Galaxy, or some other Android device. Now it’s 2018, and here’s the new BlackBerry KEY2.
It exists in the landscape of phones that are shedding bezels and going for full-screen designs, not keyboards. You’re used to most smartphones trying to be the best or the cheapest. But the BlackBerry KEY2 isn’t trying to be either of those things. It’s trying to be the best business phone.
But in 2018, is this BlackBerry really what business people or casuals want? The KEY2 is made by TCL, a Chinese manufacturer best known for its cheap 4K TVs, and now they’re responsible for BlackBerry-branded phones. The KEY2 is trying to take home the “most secure Android phone” tagline, with monthly security updates on Android 8.1.
There’s device encryption, a built-in information locker, password manager, and the DTEK app, which rates the KEY2’s overall security based on the apps’ information you program. And yes, it will get upgraded to Android P at a later date. Specs wise, the KEY2 isn’t blazing fast like its rivals, but has Snapdragon 660, six gigs of RAM, 64- or 128-gigabyte storage options, with microSD expansion.
And, sure, that it can run decently enough for the stuff it’s really designed for: email and messaging. It opens apps quickly, doesn’t stutter, and has never crashed on me, which is good. The other reason why this processor’s really interesting is because of battery life. When using the KEY2 for the stuff that it’s really made for, email and messaging, I can get one or two days of battery life easily.
After all, watching YouTube or playing PUBG on a three-to-two ratio screen is a stifling experience that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. Both business and regular users will appreciate just how far TCL has gone to make the BlackBerry KEY2 feel more like a BlackBerry phone and not an Android phone. There’s even a redactor app that acts as an overlay and lets you block sensitive information on screen and in screenshots. Dark modes are available for the Hub, BBM, and App Launcher.
The red notification asterisk makes a return, as well. And there are 52 possible customizable shortcuts, one for each key, that you can use to quickly start anything from the home screen. Unfortunately, simply typing on the keyboard from the home screen doesn’t trigger a Google search, but I wish it did. If you know anything about BlackBerries, you’d know about BlackBerry Messenger.
Before the age of iMessage and Facebook Messenger, BBM was the app to beat. I would tell you what BlackBerry Messenger’s like to use on the KEY2, but I don’t know anyone that still uses it. Alternatively, Slack is a lot of fun to use on the KEY2, and the Hub makes it obvious that you missed a few direct messages. So it can be useful.
Here’s the thing: the KEY2 isn’t really that great at being a keyboard-equipped phone for productivity. Still, the KEY2 keyboard has some neat tricks, like swiping across it to quickly erase all the texts in the line, as well as scrolling on webpages, the home screen, or in emails. It can even swipe to text on the physical keyboard, which is cool at first, but if you think about it, it defeats the purpose of having a physical keyboard in the first place.
Everything here feels slightly cramped and not tactile enough. I’ve been using it a fair amount, yet I can still type better with on-screen or mechanical keyboards. If you look past the keyboard and added security, the KEY2 starts to lose its luster. The space bar, which also acts as a fingerprint sensor, does a decent job, but doesn’t register consistently at an angle when you use your thumb.
The cameras aren’t that good, despite the KEY2 being the first BlackBerry with a dual 12-megapixel camera design. For some reason, auto-focusing before capture isn’t turned on by default, resulting in some blurry photos. And it’s only marginally better when it’s enabled.
The camera setup also supports 4K video recording at 24 or 30 FPS, but the results are a bit choppy. The verdict on the BlackBerry KEY2 is that it’s a perfectly usable smartphone with a keyboard in 2018. The real issue isn’t that it doesn’t have a full screen, blazing-fast processor, or amazing cameras. It’s just fulfilling a simple need for its clientele: being a new an updated BlackBerry.
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The problem with that is, its clientele deserves a better smartphone, something like a Galaxy, an iPhone, or a Pixel. Let us know what your favorite BlackBerry was in the comments.