BlackBerry KeyOne brings the keyboard back at Mobile World Congress

The first BlackBerry device manufactured and designed by TCL was unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Saturday, and the KeyOne is clearly aiming its first effort clearly at the hearts of longtime BlackBerry fans.

The KeyOne features a physical keyboard, sacrificing some touchscreen space to make room for the QWERTY keypad that is also touch-sensitive. In addition to the 4.5″ touch screen, the keyboard area can also be used like a trackpad, allowing users to swipe across it to scroll down as they power through reading and responding to hundreds of email messages. The keyboard can also be used to program shortcuts – like pressing “B” to launch your web browser – reviving a much-loved productivity feature on devices like the BlackBerry Curve or Bold.

Like the other more recent BlackBerry releases, TCL is keeping in the habit of releasing a souped-up Android device. Android 7.1 Nougat comes installed on the device, along with BlackBerry’s trademark Hub messaging app, the DTEK application security feature, and a commitment to quickly patch any Android vulnerabilities that are discovered.

The device doesn’t display the most premium specs, but definitely a respectable list for the mid-range market. The screen has a 1620×1080 resolution, the IPS LCD screen delivering 433 PPI and 24-bit colour. The KeyOne is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 Octa-Core 2.0 GHz, 64-bit processor with a 650 MHz GPU. It has 3 GB of RAM memory and 32 GB of Flash storage, and supports expansion with a microSd card slot.

It’s being billed as featuring the biggest battery ever seen on a Blackberry, which is a 3505 mAH 4.4V Lithium Ion battery. Real BlackBerry power users who used to carry around multiple charged batteries for their device may be disappointed to learn this particular battery is sealed into the device. To make up for that, it claims a 50 per cent charge can be achieved in just 36 minutes.

The front and back camera look very competitive, with a 12 MP large pixel camera supporting 4K video on the back and an 8 MP camera on the front. The device features a USB-C port for charging and connectivity.

The KeyOne was previously bandied about at CES 2017 under the code name BlackBerry Mercury. Don’t expect this to be the only device TCL pushes out to the market for this product cycle – the company has previously said it plans to have multiple new devices on the market at once, and a successor to the DTEK line is in the works.

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Former editorial director of IT World Canada. Current research director at Info-Tech

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