At the Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona, TCL officially presented the BlackBerry KEYone. The device formerly known as BlackBerry Mercury brings back the physical QWERTY keyboard along with other features, and it will cost $549.
The KEYone marks a return to the brand’s iconic roots with some changes to adapt to the world of today. For instance, the phone will keep its focus on mobile security and productivity, but it will now run on Android Nougat 7.1.
TCL is launching the new flagship in April in the United States and Europe. Some people have pointed out the specs of the handset are somewhat underwhelming for the price tag, but it is expected to do better than previous products like the Priv.
BlackBerry KEYone brings back popular features of the brand
Those who attended CES got an early look at the BlackBerry KEYone back at the beginning of January and little if anything has changed since then.
Design-wise, the phone remains the same. It is nearly 6 inches tall and 10 mm thick. The unique form factor fits both a 4.5-inch LCD with 1620 x 1080 resolutions and a physical QWERTY keyboard that is also touch-enabled for gestures.
Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protects the screen, while the keyboard is packed with a fingerprint reader on the spacebar and support for shortcuts on each one of the keys by performing a long press.
On the inside, we now know what makes the KEYone so bulky in comparison with current devices. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 CPU with eight cores and 2.0 GHz of power, paired with an Adreno 506 GPU.
TCL and BlackBerry offer 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage, expandable up to 256 GB with a microSD card. The phone has a 3505 mAh battery that supports fast-charging via USB-C connections.
While these phones have never been famous because of their cameras, the KEYone wants to step up its game with a Sony IMX378 sensor, the same one Google Pixel phones have. The main camera has 12 MP, and the selfie one has 8 MP.
The KEYone brings back beloved features like the customizable Convenience Key on the side, and the strong security that made BlackBerry famous in the past. Productivity apps also come preloaded as well as support for Google Play’s wide array of apps.
The BlackBerry KEYone is certainly unique in 2017
The BlackBerry KEYone is like nothing out there right now. That could prove both an advantage and an obstacle to TCL’s attempts at bringing the brand back to its former glory.
The company has admitted the phone appeals mainly to BB loyalists, although there are people who might also see the attractive in going back to physical keyboards in 2017.
— Simon Hill (@IamSimonHill) February 25, 2017
What most do agree on is that, at a $549 price tag in the U.S. and €599 in Europe, the latest TCL flagship may not be accessible to everyone who may want to try it.
ARS Technica notes that there are brands like Xiaomi who manufacture and sell devices carrying the same Snapdragon 625 chip for less than half the cost of the KEYone.
It may not be for everyone, but those who have tried it say it is a unique experience to have this kind of technology come back enhanced nowadays. The BlackBerry KEYone launches this April.