It was just a little over a decade ago when BlackBerry was a strong competitor in the smartphone market, with many professionals choosing BlackBerry devices to organize their daily activities.
However, the rise of more advanced smartphones and the preference for touch screen soon left BlackBerry phones in the dust to the point that, on Feb. 15, BlackBerry literally held 0 percent market share in the smartphone operating system business.
But BlackBerry is aiming to make a better comeback in 2017 with its newest Android-based smartphone. On Feb. 25, TCL USA finally unveiled the new BlackBerry KeyOne at the 17th Mobile World Congress, and the new BlackBerry device already has critics applauding its sleek and stylish design.
BlackBerry KeyOne Specifications
BlackBerry released the official specifications of KeyOne on its website — and it seems impressive. The hardware was actually made by TCL USA, but the device itself is still distinctly reminiscent of BlackBerry's trademark design.
The body is made of a strong aluminum frame but has a soft, textured back combined with a 4.5-inch impact-resistant touchscreen display. This is in line with BlackBerry's promise that the KeyOne is built to last.
It has a 12-megapixel rear camera and an 8-megapixel front camera with wide-angle lens flash. Both utilize the industry leading Sony IMX378 Sensor to ensure perfectly sharp and crisp photos even in low light. It also supports MicroSD card expansion of up to 2 TB.
It runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor to ensure that the non-removable Lithium-ion battery, which promises a 50 percent charge in 36 minutes, would last longer.
What makes it distinctly BlackBerry is the keyboard, which is very touch-capacitive and has a personalized learning engine that gets to know your typing style with on-screen flick typing.
The best part of KeyOne actually comes in two parts. First is that the KeyOne already runs on Android 7.1 Nougat so users will get the best and most recent Android version available and will have access to thousands of applications available in Google Play. Second is that Blackberry promises monthly security updates to ensure that user data is always private and the device is always secure.
What Critics Say
After much excitement at the unveiling, critics finally got to test the new BlackBerry Phone and all of them seem to agree that it is a much better smartphone than the Priv.
Sascha Segan, PC Mag
Segan loved KeyOne's keyboard. Specifically, she enjoyed how touch capacitive the KeyOne is but she noted security and privacy as one of the best features of the smartphone.
"BlackBerry's Android skin is evolving to provide the kind of control over security and privacy that users expected, but didn't get from the company's earlier Priv phone," Segan writes.
Sam Byford, The Verge
Like Segan, Byford also enjoyed the KeyOne's keyboard and noted the promised consistent security from BlackBerry.
"But the real story is clearly the physical keyboard that sits below the screen [...] I personally doubt I would ever be anywhere near as fast typing on this keyboard as I am with a touchscreen, but I can't deny that it feels a thousand times better [...] BlackBerry is also concentrating on security with the KeyOne, launching the phone with Android 7.1 and committing to issuing Google's monthly security patches," Byford writes.
Aaron Pressman, Fortune
Pressman saw the KeyOne as a cool fusion of a BlackBerry phone and current Android smartphones but he wondered if KeyOne can generate enough enthusiasm from smartphone users.
"The new phone certainly looks like a cool blending of Blackberry's past with the latest hit Android phones [...] But in a smartphone market that sold 1.5 billion devices last year, even huge enthusiasm from a few million fans may not be enough to create a hit," Pressman thinks.
Jessica Dolcourt, Cnet
Dolcourt says that the KeyOne seems to be fulfilling BlackBerry's hopes for a comeback but it still faces tough competition from already established players.
"[While] we're impressed with the KeyOne's feature set so far, we'll simply need to spend more time testing the phone before we know how well it's done," Dolcourt believes.
Things are still up in the air for BlackBerry KeyOne until its release in April but, as far as experts can tell, the KeyOne fused together the best of BlackBerry and Android.