Update: The BlackBerry KeyOne is now on sale in London, with a UK-wide release date set for May 5.
The BlackBerry KeyOne was officially unveiled at MWC 2017 back in February, and along with that slightly awkward name we found a handset which could struggle to fit in to today’s mainstream mobile market.
BlackBerry KeyOne Full Specification, Features, Price, Release Date And Review
Originally launched at CES 2017 in January, this phone remained unnamed – dubbed only by the web as the ‘BlackBerry Mercury’ – until the end of February when TCL took to the stage in Barcelona to confirm the name, price and specs KeyOne.
It’s safe to say we’re not fans of the name, but those still yearning for a decent physical keyboard on their smartphone could well be in luck.
BlackBerry KeyOne price and release date:
The BlackBerry KeyOne price has been confirmed as £499 ($549, around AU$740), which makes it cheaper than its Android flagship rivals in the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG G6 and Huawei P10.
If you’re lucky enough to be in or around London, England, you can get your hands on a BlackBerry KeyOne right now – with prestigious store Selfridges securing world exclusive availability until May 5.
After May 5, you’ll be able to purchase the KeyOne throughout the UK at Carphone Warehouse, with more retailers and carriers coming on board through the month.
For those in the US, the wait for the BlackBerry KeyOne is longer, quite a lot longer. The State-side KeyOne release date is scheduled for May 31, with the same on-sale date in Canada too.
BlackBerry KeyOne keyboard:
The BlackBerry KeyOne is a blast from the past thanks to its physical keyboard. It combines what we liked about the BlackBerry Classic hardware with the BlackBerry DTEK50 software.
The familiar QWERTY keys are here with the quality feedback that you just can’t get with a touchscreen, but you can also use it to scroll through pages by lightly gliding your fingers over the keys – a feature first seen in phones like the BlackBerry Passport.
It’s like a giant trackpad, but it’s not as smooth as we’d like. During our hands on time with the KeyOne scrolling web pages and contacts lists wasn’t as smooth as using our finger on the touchscreen,
Non-Blackberry Android users may mistake the space bar/fingerprint sensor combo for the home button (since it’s way at the bottom), but the real home button is above the physical keyboard along with capacitive soft keys.
BlackBerry KeyOne interface and performance:
The keyboard design might feel retro, but the software on the BlackBerry KeyOne is futuristic thanks to the fact that it’s running Android 7.0 Nougat.
Instead of bloatware or menu changes, this new BlackBerry simply sticks to stock Android, and TCL and BlackBerry were pretty adamant about keeping it that way.
The real selling point here ( besides the familiarity of the Google Play Store and its ridiculously massive two million apps) is the highly secure encryption that’s good enough for world-leading governments.
We found general performance – provided by a Snapdragon 625 chip and 3GB of RAM – to be acceptable, but it’s far from the slickest implementation of Android we’ve enjoyed.
Another slight quirk is the face the app draw is still an icon press away, even though the KeyOne is running Android 7 Nougat which switches a swipe up gesture to view your apps.
There’s 32GB of storage housed inside the KeyOne, and that can be expanded by up to another 256GB via the microSD slot on the phone.
BlackBerry KeyOne design and display:
Combining a 4.5-inch touchscreen and sizable physical QWERTY keyboard was never going to be easy, and it means the BlackBerry KeyOne sits rather awkwardly in the hand.
Type on the keyboard and you’ll immediately need to grip the phone with both hands as it becomes very top heavy. That may not be an issue a lot of the time, but it rules out one-handed typing.
Another annoyance is the location of the Android navigation keys – which are on the screen, above the keyboard. This results in a rather awkward motion to hit -the home, back or multi-tasking icons, which detracts from the usability of the handset.
Something else we found a little confusing was the location of the power/lock button – which sits on the left of the phone. That’s not usually an issue, but on the right a near identical key sits below the volume rocker.
The KeyOne is also quite thick, and its overall body is dominating in the palm. Thankfully the soft-touch rear provides plenty of grip, which you’ll be pleased about as a lot of shuffling is required as you shift from the keyboard to the screen.
The soft-touch rear and metal round the edge don’t ooze premium appeal though, which is a little bit of a shame considering the price tag, but the weight and construction gives the KeyOne a well-built vibe.