Blackberry Key2 first look: The keyboard is back again

Key Features

  • Review Price: £579
  • 4.5-inch display
  • Snapdragon 660
  • 6GB RAM
  • 3500 mAh battery
  • 2 x 12-megapixel cameras

BlackBerry Key2 hands-on impressions: What’s new?

Following a year on from the resurrection of the keyboard-toting BlackBerry KeyOne, the Key2 has just been unveiled at an event in New York.

BlackBerry Key2 price

The BlackBerry Key2 will retail in the UK for £579, with US prices yet to be announced. BlackBerry also teased it’ll be available on carriers and sim-free.

Pre-order: BlackBerry Key2 for £579 SIM free from Carphone Warehouse

BlackBerry Key2 release date

No specific release date was given but expect to see the Key2 on shelves before the end of June.

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BlackBerry Key2

Like the KeyOne, the Key2 isn’t your typical Android phone: it harks back to BB’s glory days but ditches the proprietary software for Android. This is very different from every other Android phone out there for the simple reason that it has a physical keyboard.

Blackberry Key2 Blackberry KeyOne
Processor Snapdragon 660 Snapdragon 625
Display 4.5-inch, LCD 4.5-inch, LCD
Battery 3500 mAh 3505 mAh
Android version 8.0 7.1
RAM 6GB 4GB (6GB on the black version)
Storage 64/128GB 32/64GB
Dual-Sim Yes Yes
Expandable storage Yes Yes
Camera 2x 12-megapixel 12MP
Front camera 8MP 8MP

 

The keyboard was pretty good on the KeyOne, but it’s better here. Blackberry said the keys are 20% bigger – hard to tell this as they’re still kind of small – but the bigger difference during my short time with the device was the new matte coating. Instead of being glossy, the keys are now less slippery and a lot grippier. It’s much easier to comfortably, and quickly, move across the keys and to type faster.

There’s also a new button on the keyboard, which BlackBerry is dubbing the speed key. Press a combination of this and a letter key and you can easily jump between apps. For instance, if you set the ‘S’ key to open Spotify then pressing the speed key following by ‘S’ will open the app. You can set a different shortcut to each key, so if you frequent Maps, Instagram, Twitter and Gmail you can jump between all these without going back to the homescreen.

The rest of the keyboard remains very similar to the KeyOne. There’s a fingerprint sensor inside the home button; the whole thing acts as a touch-sensitive trackpad and it feels very clicky.

BlackBerry Key2

However good the keyboard feels though, I much prefer on-screen keyboards. Maybe this is just because I have got used to them, but jumping back to the BlackBerry feels much slower.

Along with the updated keyboard, BlackBerry has updated the overall phone design too. It’s slimmer, lighter and just feels a lot more modern than the slightly bulky KeyOne. It’s less rounded too, with a straighter and sharper look. It’ll also come in both black and silver versions at launch, rather than just silver.

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Sitting above the keyboard is a good-looking, 4.5-inch LCD screen and this has been pushed further up to make room for the larger keys. There’s a duo of 12-megapixel cameras on the back and an 8MP one on the front. BlackBerry is using the secondary rear shooter as a telephoto zoom, similar to the iPhone X, and enabling portrait mode shots too. There should also be improvements to white balance and focussing.

BlackBerry Key2

Powering the BlackBerry Key2 is a Snapdragon 660 mid-range mobile chip paired with 6GB RAM. You’ll also be able to pick between 64 or 128GB storage and either a single or dual-sim option. Yes, there are faster processors and GPUs around, but the 660 should be more than capable for a phone like this. Having increased the RAM is a nice touch here as multitasking could feel sluggish on the KeyOne. BlackBerry also said it has improved the microphones too, adding in HD audio and more effective noise-cancelling.

Arguably the best KeyOne feature was the fantastic endurance. The smaller screen paired with a power-efficient processor and a huge battery made for true all-day battery life. Hopefully things will be the same here. There’s a 3500 mAh battery inside that supports Quick Charge through the USB-C port.

BlackBerry Key2

In terms of software, the Key2 retains most of the same features as the KeyOne. There’s the DTEK app for a quick overview of how secure your phone is plus some new battery management features. BlackBerry’s overall focus when it comes to software is making the phone security as robust as possible, so it’s added stuff like a hardened OS and you can run a health check. It also offers timely updates to the latest security patches released by Google

Pre-order: BlackBerry Key2 for £579 SIM free from Carphone Warehouse

Opening impressions

With the Key2, I don’t think BlackBerry is going to entice anyone who didn’t like the KeyOne, but if you’re a fan of the keyboard-toting Android phones then there are enough upgrades to get you interested again.