The BlackBerry KeyOne may be unconventional-looking, but true to BlackBerry's legacy, it has a powerful amalgamation of touch screen and physical keys.
In its candybar design, the display measures 4.5 inches with a physical Qwerty keyboard. The three touch navigation keys for home, back and multitasking are placed just above the keyboard, on the screen, making them intuitive to use. Those of us used to the 5.5-inch display will, perhaps, not appreciate the smaller display, especially when reading and watching videos. But when it comes to work, the KeyOne means business.
While it took some time to familiarise myself with the keyboard, typing e-mails, texting and chatting was a breeze. The physical keyboard has been made 'smarter' by BlackBerry. Scrolling through e-mails and web pages is possible by just moving your thumb over the keyboard. Shortcuts can be assigned to the keys to launch apps, eliminating the need to use the touch screen. For instance, the letter 'b' can launch the browser and 'c' composes e-mails. So, to open the Chrome browser, you only need to long-press 'b'. Many of these shortcuts have been assigned by default; one can change them as per preference from the shortcuts tab in the app tray. I assigned Gmail to 'g', Facebook to 'f' and Settings to 's'.
There's more novelty. The fingerprint scanner is hidden inside the space bar and unlocks the phone quickly. The power key is placed on the left panel (unlike other smartphones), and is a bit of a bother. But, thankfully, as the thumb rests on the space key (with fingerprint scanner), it was easy to unlock the phone. There is also a convenience key on the right that I used for controlling/muting the ring volume. It is customisable and can be assigned to any app.
The KeyOne, although unusually long (at 149.3 mm), has an ergonomic design. But the hardware disappoints. TCL Communications, manufacturers of the latest BlackBerry smartphones, has not been able to live up to the promise of the good old days. As a result, the device lacks the premium feel.
The user interface is neat and offers customisation. There is a BlackBerry Hub widget that fetches all the notifications from across your apps into one useful feed. There is also a productivity tab that can be accessed on the homescreen by swiping sideways. It showcases upcoming appointments, unread messages and favourite contacts. Running on Android 7.1.1, KeyOne packs in Google apps along with utility apps such as BBM, DTEK for security, device search, password keeper, and power centre.
KeyOne is also powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, paired with 3 GB of RAM that handles most apps with ease without any heating issues. The battery back-up, too, is impressive - the 3,505-mAh battery lasted close to two days on a single charge.