Today marked the North American launch of BlackBerry KEYone, the first BlackBerry branded smartphone sold and marketed by BlackBerry Mobile, a subsidiary of TCL Communication.
BlackBerry KEYone is built by TCL Communication, incorporating several hardware features and software applications under license from BlackBerry. The former leverages Blackberry’s legacy hardware patents, such as for the keyboard; the latter includes BlackBerry Hub+ and DTEK security monitor. It runs on a security enhanced Android 7 Operating System which, in turn, is produced by BlackBerry but takes full advantage of the millions of applications available on the Google Play Store.
Compared to the BlackBerry PRIV, the “orginal” BlackBerry’s first Android phone, it has the following advantages:
- a faster Qualcomm 625 processor selected not simply for speed but also for its ability to optimize battery drain
- a significantly better auto-focus, large pixel 12 MP camera, addressing low light conditions and also capable of recording 4K video at 30 fps
- a much longer battery life – in addition to its large 3500 mAh battery the 625 processor design also plays a role
- a fingerprint sensor built into the keyboard’s space bar
- runs Android 7 Nougat with monthly updates
These features all address significant shortcomings of the BlackBerry PRIV whose major feature, however, is its support for all the applications in the Google Play Store.
Within the overall Android market the BlackBerry KEYone offers several security features including:
- the fingerprint sensor
- security embedded within the hardware’s firmware
- BlackBerry’s DTEK security monitoring software
- Android 7 Nougat OS
as well as features included on the BlackBerry PRIV:
- a hardware keyboard with keyboard shortcuts; it also serves as a trackpad for scrolling and flicking predictive text (that allows one to type about 25-35% of the actual letters usually required when typing a message or Facebook post).
- BlackBerry Hub+, which consolidates all received messages into a single application but also integrates into the various messaging applications for replies, etc. Includes support for phone logs, SMS, Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Hangouts, etc. The “+” adds in BlackBerry Calendar, BlackBerry Password Keeper, Contacts by BlackBerry, BlackBerry Device Search, etc.
CrackBerry Kevin, who has played a major role in preparing for the launch of this device, provides a much broader review but also covers the role of BlackBerry Mobile vs. the “original” BlackBerry and how the two work together.
When I visited a Rogers store today they had one available for purchase (see the photo) but also had several ready to deliver to those who gave pre-orders. With a list price of US$549 it comes in at a mid-range price for a smartphone. Rogers, Bell and Telus offer them in Canada while it is available for purchase via Amazon and Best Buy in the U.S.
Bottom line: a price competitive, security enhanced Android phone, incorporating BlackBerry features, built and marketed through a channel devoted to mobile hardware.