It was only a few short years ago when Blackberry was one of the top smartphone makers. But now they’re playing catch up to the likes of Samsung, Apple and Huawei. To help improve their place in the smartphone market, Blackberry’s devices are now made by TCL Communication.

Even though the hardware is now made by TCL, Blackberry still includes their own software and are powered by Android. So far, TCL and Blackberry have released three devices under their agreement, the KeyOne, the Motion and now the Key2.

I’ve been using the Blackberry Key2 for about a week or so and while it does have a few quirks, it’s still a great device.

Design & Hardware

The Blackberry Key2 is an interesting device. The Key2 is one of the very few Android phones to be released with an actual physical keyboard.

The keyboard on the Key2 has been improved over the KeyOne with an all-new design. The body of the Key2 is made from series 7 aluminum with a textured soft grip on the back. The device has a premium feel to it which puts it up alongside the likes of flagship smartphones, even though the Key2 is technically a midrange device.

The keyboard on the Blackberry Key2 is also touch-enabled so you can use it to scroll on your device. The Blackberry Key2’s keyboard is good but it does take some getting used to, especially if you’ve never used a Blackberry keyboard before.

The space bar on the Key2 also acts as a fingerprint sensor. Each key on the keyboard can also be programmed to launch a specific app or certain action. You can have up to 52 shortcuts, whether you press it once or do a long press of a key.

The Blackberry Key2 has a 3,500 mAh battery and Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0.

The Blackberry Key2 has a 4.5-inch display with a resolution of 1620 x 1080 and 434 PPI. The display is good but definitely not the best out there. It’s powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor with 6GB of RAM. There’s also a USB-C port and a headphone jack.

The right side of the Key2 is where you’ll find the volume buttons, power button and Convenience Key, which can be used to access up to three of your favourite shortcuts.

The Key2 comes in two colours, silver and black. The Blackberry Key2 costs $829 CAD off-contract and available from Bell, Rogers, SaskTel and Telus.

Software

The Blackberry Key2 is running Android 8.1 Oreo with some of Blackberry’s apps pre-installed including their own launcher.

The Blackberry Launcher is fairly simplistic and looks similar to the Pixel launcher, meaning that it’s close to stock Android. Some of the software features that Blackberry includes on the Key2 are DTEK, Private Locker, Blackberry Hub and more.

DTEK will automatically monitor your phone and notify you when your privacy could be at risk and give you a glimpse of your phone’s overall security rating and what you can do to improve it. DTEK will track if your apps are accessing your camera without your knowledge, turning the microphone on, sending texts or accessing your contacts, location or financial info.

Private Locker allows you to store your data, apps, downloaded files and photos in an area that can be accessed via your fingerprint or password.

Blackberry Hub is a universal inbox for all your messages. Your emails, calendar events, social media, phone calls appear in one place.

 

Camera

The Blackberry Key2 comes with dual-rear 12-megapixel cameras, one telephoto and one zoom lens. Photos on the Blackberry Key2 look good but nothing compared to ones taken on the Pixel 2 XL or Huawei P20 Pro.

Since the Blackberry Key2 has dual-cameras, you can also take photos with the Bokeh effect. The Portrait Mode on the Blackberry Key2 is good when it works, but it has some trouble focusing.

There is still a lot of colour that pops and details in each photo taken on the Blackberry Key2. Videos look good but nothing too amazing.

Final Thoughts

The Blackberry Key2 is a great Android phone with a good physical keyboard that is easy to type on but takes getting used to.

Pros

  • Premium design
  • Great battery life
  • The keyboard is great to type on and can be used as a scroll pad
  • Smart & secure software
  • Good camera

Cons

  • Midrange specs
  • Kind of dull screen
  • Price is relatively close to flagship phones

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