There was a time where it appeared as if everybody in South Africa owned a Blackberry.
The handset of choice for many was the Blackberry Curve 8320 and while it wasn’t very smart, the data was cheap.
Sadly Blackberry’s market share was eaten up by the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the iPhone. Then last year the manufacturer came roaring back with the Priv.
An elegant handset with a slide-out keyboard and enough security features to keep even the strictest IT teams happy.
Now we have a similar handset in the KEYone which features an always visible QWERTY keyboard, touch-screen and Android software.
After two weeks with the handset I’m happy to say that Blackberry is back.
Blackberry KEYone review – Not just business
Let’s face facts, the KEYone is aimed at business folk. It’s chunky but not cumbersome and the keyboard screams “working professional” whenever you put it on your desk.
The display is great for watching videos with colours looking true to life and even photos look incredibly sharp on the 4.5inch display.
The KEYone’s speaker array sits at the bottom of the handset. While the speakers are plenty loud for a bit of YouTube before bed the arrangement of them means your hand will muffle the sound if you happen to place it incorrectly.
Blackberry KEYone review – KPI
Upon reading the KEYone’s spec sheet I was excited to see that the handset boasted mid-range specifications. My excitement was due to that meaning the price was going to be low and it is at R9 649 or R479 on a Flexi 200 contract.
Android is a great choice rather than Blackberry trying its hand at creating a new OS. The best news is that handset will support Android Oreo according to Crackberry, Phonearena as well as 9to5 Google.
Users can split the display so that two apps are open at the same time but this does only work with some apps. That having been said even while searching Google and browsing Twitter we never felt a performance lag.
As for raw performance numbers our benchmark results follow below.
The numbers above place the KEYone firmly in the middle range of smartphones. We can live with that considerinmg the KEYone retails for just under R10 000.
It’s also worth noting that during our benchmarking the handset performed incredibly when tasked with spreadsheets, word documents and web pages.
Blackberry KEYone review – A surprisingly good snapper
At the back of the handset sits a 12MP camera with a f/2.0 aperture which translates into great photos in well lit environments but slightly grainy ones in badly lit ones.
I must say that the camera is rather good for a phone that screams “business professional”.
The same can be said for the 8MP snapper at the front of the handset though in the realm of business this makes sense for video conferencing.
The camera also has a wealth of options that you can adjust to your heart’s content to get the best photo possible. It’s a wonderful experience.
Blackberry KEYone review – Consciously secure
My colleague Deon du Plessis reviewed the Blackberry Priv last year and one of his favourite features was the DTEK software. I must say, after using this handset I can understand why.
This software encrypts your data and then helps you use best practices such as setting a screen lock and adding a Google account.
Beyond that whenever you add a new account you are required to verify that it is indeed you that wants to add that account to your device.
Some might see this as a chore but to a paranoid user such as myself its a nice assurance that my device is not compromised.
It’s comforting to know that my smartphone is protected out of the box though it doesn’t hurt to add a third party solution as well.
The fingerprint scanner is located in the space bar and I have never had any issues unlocking my handset despite how small it is.
Blackberry KEYone review – Likes, dislikes and battery power
There is a lot to like in the KEYone but there are also a few things I dislike. For instance; just below the volume rocker is a button that seems to be the power/unlock button but it’s actually a programmable key. The number of times I pushed that key to unlock the handset cannot be counted by humans.
That programmable button also acts as a mute key during calls.
The layout of the KEYone also presents a few problems for those with bigger hands in that you will likely touch the navigation keys accidentally while typing.
It’s annoying but not a deal breaker.
I am positively in love with the physical keyboard. It takes a bit of getting used to but after one or two messages you get the hang of it. The keyboard also doubles as a scrolling wheel of sorts. Simply drag your finger across the keyboard and you can scroll through a webpage.
Perhaps my favourite part of this handset is the battery life.
Earlier in September we attended Leaderex; an all day event in Sandton. During that time I was snapping photos, using the KEYone as a mobile hotspot and it lasted all day. The kicker is that I started that day with 50% battery. I sipped an extra 10% of power from a battery bank but the handset lasted from 6am through to 7pm with no worries.
On average the KEYone lasted me two days with a charge only being required on the morning of the third. Charging back up to 100% took an hour and a half with Boost Mode enabled and two and bit hours without that feature enabled.
Blackberry KEYone review – Conclusion
So is the Blackberry KEYone worth your money?
At its core the KEYone is a mid-range phone. You have a Snapdragon 625 chipset, 4GB of RAM and a very capable camera. The specifications are hardly worthy of praise but the phone does operate at a reasonable pace and I never experienced any lag or slowdowns or hiccups in operation.
What sets the Blackberry apart however, is that it offers something unique. While Samsung and Apple can go on about how its handset is suited for business professionals, the Blackberry feels more suited to business than any of the others.
It’s also frighteningly secure considering how prevalent cybercrime has become in recent months.
The battery lasts for around two days, the camera is great for even the most creative of business people. It’s a very good handset and aside from the gripes I’ve already mentioned I see no reason why anybody would refuse to use this handset, even if your business is scrolling through social media.
Disclaimer: A Blackberry KEYone was provided by the manufacturer and will be returned.