WATCH | BlackBerry has been more or less off the map since the arrival of smartphones. The new BlackBerry KEYone phone could change that.
BlackBerry didn't completely disappear after iPhone and Android took over the worldwide cell phone market, but you probably missed its strange square-shaped BlackBerry Passport, quirky hidden-keyboard BlackBerry Priv or even its ho-hum smartphone slab BlackBerry DTEK50.
With the new KEYone, however, the brand is, for the first time, combining the things that made it once so popular with everything people want today in a smartphone to create a real iPhone or Galaxy rival.
The KEYone is actually built by Chinese smartphone maker TCL, under license by BlackBerry.
The KEYone is set up in the model of an old BlackBerry Bold; it's built like a brick but with a soft-to-the-touch back panel, the screen is square-ish and set atop, of course, a real button-ed keyboard -- so you can dig into long emails like our cell phone forefathers in the 2000’s used to.
Inside of that novel-slash-familiar build is a phone that runs Android -- just like the Samsung Galaxy or a Google Pixel. It runs all the same apps those phones can and even comes with some extra BlackBerry-specific messenger and security apps.
You remember BBM (BlackBerry Messenger), right?
Other small touches that make this BlackBerry an appealing phone for modern users: there’s a Touch ID-like fingerprint reader in the space key, a cutting edge USB type-C charging port, 8 and 12MP cameras and a claimed two-day battery.
That last part is aided by the fact that the KEYone doesn’t come with the high-level processing power you’d find in the latest Galaxy or iPhone. It’s something you can feel when multitasking with a lot of power-hungry apps, but not as much when you’re just using the phone for simple web browsing, emailing or messaging.
The other obvious caveat with the KEYone: Its screen isn’t exactly perfect for watching videos.
So now, years after the smartphone explosion, BlackBerry may have finally found its counterpunch -- and it was a fairly obvious one: a real BlackBerry smartphone.
Available now at a reasonable starting price of $549, there probably isn’t a former BBM addict out there who wouldn’t give it a sniff.