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Why I'm still using a BlackBerry KEYone in Spring 2018

If you had asked me, or anyone, really, two years ago if I would be using a BlackBerry in 2018 I'd have quietly replied with a no. Like everyone else, I was sure the company was a goner and I hated thinking about that. BlackBerry was not only in financial trouble, but had a stigma following it through conversations on- and offline. BlackBerry was on its way out and it was time to wave goodbye or send a farewell text from a Samsung phone. Thankfully, I'm here to tell you that BlackBerry never left and the KEYone is one of the best Android phones you can buy today.

I've been a BlackBerry user forever. It's awesome to be able to still be one.

I hated saying goodbye to my old Curve. I was a BlackBerry user since forever, as the company I worked for issued me a big, blocky BlackBerry 857 so they could bug me 24 hours a day. Being able to read more than the 240 characters (and the 10-digit sending number counted against them) and reply made the BlackBerry a step above a pager or PDA, and I was fascinated. I'm sure there were some other reasons the IT department loved them, but I got hooked on being able to carry a tiny computer with me wherever I went. I stuck with BlackBerry as my personal phone through the years where it seemed the company struggled to keep up with Apple, but when the T-Mobile G1 was announced I decided I was going to jump ship. I never thought about carrying two phones because nobody did back then. Ahh, the good old days.

My boss can send me any phone I want, but I don't want a different phone.

Thankfully, BlackBerry and Android have hooked up, and after releasing a couple of good phones (the Priv in particular got me itching for a BB again) its new overseer, TCL Communications, released the KEYone. While most every review of the phone was very positive, I think I went a step further than most tech bloggers and knew it was the phone for me. I was lucky enough to get one a bit early, and have been using it ever since. Like a lot of people who also use and love the KEYone (those capital letters, ugh) it does everything I want my phone to do and does it all really well. I also use a Pixel 2 (I ended up carrying two phones after all) and really like it, but it's in my pocket because of where I work — Android Central means I need to know "regular" Android inside and out. But if I'm in your phone book and you give me a call, it will ring on my KEYone because that's my phone.

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I want my phone to do three things flawlessly: have a great battery, be secure, and be able to act as my mobile office. I know a lot of people have other priorities when it comes to the things their phone can do, but those are mine. I use a handful of apps, but if you see me with my phone in my hands, chances are I'm "talking" to someone. My phone is a tool. So is yours. And we all need the right tool for the job just as a mechanic or plumber does.

My KEYone will go two days on a single charge easily. Granted, I'm not watching movies or chasing Pokemon with it, but I am using it — location is turned on, messages never stop coming (the Mobile Nations Slack channel is noisy), it's syncing two email accounts that get a lot of mail and doing all the other things that need to be done to make all this happen. You can ask anyone who uses or has used a KEYone and they'll tell you that it's a total battery life champ.

BlackBerry wants to keep intruders out of your phone but also makes sure they can't do anything if they get in.

BlackBerry thinks about security the same way I do: focus on what can happen once something or someone gets in, not just keeping that someone or something out. If an app or any type of other silliness tries to modify the core system, the phone shuts off and won't restart. You can't get at someone's data when it's offline. I'll admit I don't agree with BlackBerry's corporate policy of giving encryption keys to governments (after a lawful order, mind you) and if I happen to visit China or Pakistan, or chat regularly with someone from either country, I'll need to consider what I do. And while I'd like to see the latest version of Android because of the features, Google isn't doing anything that BlackBerry isn't already doing when it comes to security. I have absolute faith that if my KEYone gets hacked it's because I did something really, really stupid and not just because of an app I installed.

The marriage of physical keys to capacitive sensing make the KEYone's keyboard the best BlackBerry has ever had.

My favorite feature is the keyboard. There was a time when all smartphones had physical keyboards, but none measured up to what BlackBerry offered, and seeing it in 2018 and better than ever is downright glorious.

BlackBerry users know what I'm talking about here; it's the most natural way for me to communicate with my phone. I can type just fine on a standard on-screen keyboard, but I can type better and faster on my BlackBerry. And I can do it without looking at it with enough proficiency that I'm not embarrassed to send anything I type with my one blind thumb. I can reply to friends or family or I can get some work done — I've written blog posts here at AC using my KEYone. That's not my favorite way to work, but knowing I can is great.

This is the phone BlackBerry fans have deserved for years.

Add in the things Android brings to the table; things like application intents and information sharing, a gigantic app store that will have whatever thing I might need in it, and the integration with Google's online services and the KEYone is one of the best phones you can buy in 2018. I don't see myself replacing it until we see a KEYtwo.

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Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

53 Comments
  • This sounds like a phone ill use at my secondary to replace my priv. The price is nice in terms of hardware, aside from the curved screen and snapdragon 808, which on turn lags the whole thing. Im hoping the soc in the keyone and nougat will fix the issues with the priv.
  • The Priv really drew me back. I had said for awhile I wanted a Torch that ran Android and it almost fit. I was able to deal with the lag, but the timing meant I didn't get to use it very long as the Nexus 6P + big changes in Android took all of my attention.
  • Using the blackberry cause notches are horrible?
  • I agree with this article. I love my BlackBerry KEYone and I would not give it up for any phone (except maybe a future KEYtwo or KEYthree)
  • Great article. I hope blackberry/TCL can bounce back from past mistakes and associated stigma just so I can feel comfortable knowing I will still be able to choose a blackberry as my next phone should I wish. I use my keyone in a similar manner and the battery and this keyboard take a beating but just keeps trucking along. Looking forward to a KeyTwo announcement soon!
  • I'd go BB anytime if stupid Verizon carries them again. It's so sad that those two fat guys (forgot their names) that ran RIM were such sleepy heads and killed a once leading tech company. Unfortunately also, that people seem to know only Apple and Samsung, letting great phones and their makers be niche products.
  • I believe BlackBerry Mobile sells a CDMA version of the KEYone
  • More specifically, they sell a 'Verizon compatible' unlocked KEYone. - http://bbmobile.me/CBKEYoneBLartBestBuyUSCDMA
  • Not that it matters, but I think only one of them (Mike L) had what you might call weight issues, the other one (Jim B) was quite fit if I recall correctly . . .
  • Well i had 2 days of battery life for the first maybe 6 months or so, but now I get about a day and a half :( . But I still think the KEYone is the most perfect phone i've ever had the opportunity to use. Love the keyboard shortcuts, great reception, and overall quality of the phone. I have an S8 has my back up in case anything happens to my KEYone, but it's pretty much built like a tank! :)
  • I picked one of these up. It was a nice phone and I would have kept it if it were able to multi-point pair and if it had another gig of ram. I'll wait for the update to see what they bring to the table next.
  • Pretty sure there is a black edition with 4 gigs
  • Will it ever get Oreo?
  • Yes, Motion and KEYone will get Oreo eventually.
  • 👍
  • I love your optimism, Bla1ze, but it's been 8-9 months since Oreo was released. It's pretty embarrassing that they haven't done something by now for their "flagship" device.
  • didnt the note 8 just get oreo a week or 2 ago? i think that would be considered a flagship
  • It took about 4+ mo to get the oreo update.
    But the Key is on 9+ and still no release.
  • I'd like only a couple of different things. Beefier specs, and no, not 800 series, just high end 600 series as well as more ram, and keep up to date with the latest android and not just security updates.
  • Every once in a while I think about switching from my KEYone, but the keyboard always pulls me back in. I think the only thing that'll get me to change is a second gen version, even having my "Q" missing.
  • My only complaint with mine is that after many months of updates, it got janky slow. I ended up having to reset it, and I'm back to fast again. I also had an issue with the screen trying to fall out, but $40 at my local repair shop kept me from having to send it in.
  • I'm on the KeyOne Black edition. Best phone I've ever had...
  • I loved having a BB in my hands again. The KEYone was built like a tank, fantastic battery, and dat keyboard. However, the KEYone delivered okay mobile reception on Verizon, I never could get Android Auto to work consistently, and those updates (at least on the Verizon version) were slow. I also felt like the KEYone was a bit slow in processing as well. I suppose having a Pixel XL next to it did not help, lol. Although I did sell my K1, I will say that I liked how I was able to use it in my workflow. With the K2, I hope to see 4GB of RAM (just like the black K1), 64GB or higher of onboard storage and a better processor. Make that happen, and I'll be carrying two phones again.
  • My wife really uses her black edition like a workhorse. The only thing was at a certain point the Hub started slowing down, or it just wouldn't send a new forwarded message, as it got "lost in space" . All it took, the first time this happened was a factory reset, and the second time it was just a matter of cleaning the cache. Beside from these "glitches" , which I'm sure every phone, be it Android or Apple, has, the phone is awesome. In regards to the BlackBerry stigma or lack of brand recognition right now, it is something you can deal with if you do not operate through peer pressure or "what others might think" .
  • I just ordered a Black Edition Keyone. Got a Note 8, but sadly, it's not a productivity workhorse. After the Oreo update, my battery life really stinks. Tried Iphones, and the same results. I need something with a solid battery life. My Note is great for videos and media. But when it comes to the basic producivity things like phone calls, email, texting, the basics, the Keyone just seems like a better fit. I hope I've made the right choice.
  • Spot on with this article.
  • Still using my PRIV and will upgrade to a KEYone black edition soon... Love the BlackBerry apps and the Hub... Still love using a physical keyboard, the touch screen keyboard on my PRIV is the best I've used on any phone... My PRIV battery life and performance was awful, changed the full Facebook app for Facebook Lite and it sorted all my issues...
  • You are in for a very pleasant surprise. The only thing that you may miss is the heater doesn't work on the Keyone.
  • Just remember that the updates for this phone will end in less than a year. They only support their phones for two years and the K1 came out early 2017. If they were still updating the PRIV I would using it right now.
  • Regular monthly updates will end. Serious security issues will still be addressed, and major updates will be released, as was recently done for the Priv.
  • Yeah the update that you have to go through hoops to get it to work. No thanks Blackberry, you blew it with Android.
  • Thanks for this article. I’m still very sentimental about my BlackBerrys, and happy that they still put out a solid and secure product.
  • I switched to a pixel 2 xl from a Priv because the keyone didn't seem like a real upgrade and the black edition didn't appear to be coming to the US. Finally got to play with a standard keyone at Best buy the other day and I've gotta say I was pretty impressed with the build quality and design. It really felt like a blackberry to me (unlike the Priv...)
  • Ironic
  • Is the screen not too small to read notifications? I struggle at times on a note 5 to see notifications when there are lots.
  • It is the size of the font rather than the size of the screen that matters for reading notifications and the difference in the size of the font itself is so minuscule as to make very little difference if your eyesight isn't so great. I have a priv and a Keyone and can't read either without glasses having destroyed my eyesight with computer screens over the years.
  • Thanks for the reply. I am in the same boat, too many years working with PC's. I could read the font on my Note 4 notifications no problem, then Google decided to condense it all in Nougat to a ridiculous degree with no options, and I have struggled since. I bought a Priv and knew as soon as I booted it I couldn't use it. The Keyone would be even harder to read then. What a shame. Short of making the rest of the interface comically huge there's no real solution.
  • Just made the switch from iphone! Best decision ever, so glad BB is making a comeback I love the physical keyboard!
  • They sell a Black Speical Edition 4GB RAM / 64 GB Storage (although this is not needed since it supports SD card up to 2 TB), for those complaining about RAM.
    www.amazon.com/Blackberry-Factory-Unlocked-BB100-7-Limited/dp/B073ZLLVQ9
  • If Blackberry came out with a KeyOne successor on Android One and bumped up the SOC to the SD 640 at minimum, I would be the first in line for it. I would like a Priv successor though. Optional slide keyboard may be the happy medium for non BB enthusiasts and keyboard enthusiasts.
  • I've had my KEYone for 10 months now, and I just can't imagine using anything else. The battery life and the physical keyboard are amazing!
  • I have the black limited edition with 2 sim slots and I absolutely love it. Battery life, ability have 2 separate numbers in one phone, clean android, and pretty good camera. Camera quality is not my Note 8, (no bokeh effects) other than that though pretty good. Also feel of the phone is just soooo good. Just solid. If BlackBerry makes this phone with flagship specs and keeps the integrity of the design, I will fork out 800 for it and wouldn't even think twice.
  • I don't change phones very often, and when I do, I often switch back to by old phone because we don't get on, but the Keyone is truly outstanding. I can get 250 miles using Waze on battery power and still have enough left to use it as a wireless hotspot when I get to my destination; oh! and make various phone calls along the way. I left it at work one Friday and came back to it on Monday and it still had 60 percent of its battery left (and that was after a full day's use of the Friday) DTEK is fantastic and if you set it up right it will monitor your apps and let you know if anything is using sensors that you do not want to use in the background (which is about the best you can ever hope for in security on an android phone). Setting up the keyboard shortcuts is a must, and having an assignable button on the side really helps. I could go on all day about how good this phone is, but if you are a heavy business user then you may not know it but you need one.
  • It’s not really BlackBerry anymore, it’s more a TCL Communications phone rebranded as blackberry. Blackberry is now more a security software company
  • Other than the removable display feature that the salesman threw in along with some air fresheners, best phone I've ever had and I've had a bunch like a lot of you.
  • Not really a fan of keypad after the BlackBerry flick typing experience but the KEYone looks solid and better than the BlackBerry Motion. I want to get the Motion though as I am a heavy user my DTEK50 might be failing to cope with the demand.
  • I just wish it had bigger buttons. The Passport is easily my favorite phone ever and while I enjoyed the Priv and KEYone, I am now just using the Pixel 2 XL with the BlackBerry Keyboard. Give me a Passport running Android with the Pixel 2 camera and software, it would be the most perfect phone.
  • Jerry, what cell carrier are you using on your Keyone and how's calling quality and data speeds been for you?
  • What I missed most about moving form the BB was their software not so much their hardware. Hated their keyboard because my thumbs were too big to type on them. I did like their mobile office ability and the
    hub thr BB use to give me. But now the Note series just give me similar capabilities and so much more. As a power user it's hard to go back to a BB.
  • I have a KEYone and a Pixel 2 XL - the KEYone is my work phone (it has my work number but thanks to Google Voice it also has my personal number), I use it all day for email and texting and I know if I get trapped somewhere that I can't use a charger it's good for two days. The Pixel 2 XL is my personal "weekend" phone: my audio player, my navigation device and my primary camera these days. I pick up the KEYone at 7 AM and don't set it down again until I get home, around 6:30 PM. After that I only look at it if the LED shows work email has come in or I get a work call. The keyboard makes it the typing champion to the point if I know I'm going to be involved in a long texting session at home I'll put down the Pixel and pick up the KEYone (again, Google Voice to the rescue) so I can use that fantastic physical keyboard for speed and accuracy. The KEYone's camera doesn't compare to the Pixel 2 so I never think about using it, and it doesn't make the best car navigation phone, so I feel lucky I can have the Pixel 2 XL as my other device. My only real complaint with the KEYone is it seems to get bogged down fairly regularly, to the point where I have to clear the cache then reboot about once a week, otherwise simple things like opening mail become agonizingly slow.
  • Well, let me tell you this - KeyOne in 2018 is trash. It's painfully slow, the performance is really sluggish everywhere and all the time (Snapdragon 625 was already outdated in 2017); the 3GB version can barelly hold 3 apps in RAM (thanks, Android); it's full of questionable decisions (power button on top left, show me who came up with this idea); and annoying bugs (if you swith off short key press shortcuts, long key press won't work; as of April 2018).
  • Just like any Android, gotta clear the cache when it reaches 1gb, gotta turn down animations to 0.5x, and the phone should be flying again.
  • 1. I use AOL email. KEYone cannot get AOL emails on its hub. I was told Blackberry and AOL do not speak with each other. I was also told you can separately download AOL and get and send emails that way - is that correct? 2. Can you get Waze, Uber and Instagram on KEYone? Thank you, Jerry!