“Vintage vibes and an old school OS,” the headline from an Engadget article points out about the touchscreen-based smartphone with physical QWERTY keyboard developed by Chinese electronics conglomerate TCL Corp., through a licensing deal with BlackBerry.
“Surprise, surprise: It’s a pretty great little phone, too. Fans will be glad to know the KeyOne is the best Android-powered BlackBerry to date, but I don’t expect this to move the needle for many others,” says Engadget’s Chris Velazco.
Of course the KeyOne can’t claim to be for everyone. As Dan Seifert of the Verge points out. “It’s not the best choice for watching hours of YouTube videos, sending thousands Snaps, or reading novel-length ebooks (though it can technically do all those things).”
“It is for sending emails. Lots of emails,” he says. “…Getting shit done is really the entire ethos of the new KeyOne, and arguably, the many BlackBerry devices that preceded it. The KeyOne is a phone for a very specific person, one that longs for the days when the BlackBerry Bold was the most important device in the office and the majority of business communications happened over email.”
But even as some reviewers appear to have given the KeyOne a passing grade, others question if the age of physical keyboard-equipped phones has passed.
Here’s a rundown of some of the KeyOne review we saw today and some photos of the new BlackBerry phone.
MobileSyrup: BlackBerry KEYone review: Classically unusual
For some, BlackBerry’s new KEYone flagship phone will seem like a pointless attempt at regaining lost respectability, but with less risk attached this time around, the device may hit the right note for a modest user subset.
It’s such a polarizing phone. I’m honestly torn on the KEYone. On the one hand, it’s the best BlackBerry in years, finally successfully melding Android with a touchscreen, a physical keyboard, and a striking metal design. On the other hand, the KEYone still falls short compared to the latest premium phones like the iPhone 7, Galaxy S8, and Google Pixel.
BlackBerry’s latest phone has a particular set of skills acquired over a very long career
You’ve got to give BlackBerry credit for refusing to die. After the underwhelming launch and life of BB10, the company pledged allegiance to Android, whipped up a strangely cool slider phone then farmed out production of all new BlackBerrys to external partners.
The KeyOne is supposed to be a throwback to BlackBerry’s glory days, but it’s really a reminder of how far smartphone typing has come without real keys.
But it’s hard to ignore the sneaking suspicion that the ship sailed for BlackBerry long ago. If some equivalent version of the KeyOne had arrived in time to take on the earliest iPhones and Android handsets, perhaps we’d be living in a very different timeline.
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