I'm sitting here at my desk going through my schedule of things to write in the next week or so. A good bit of it all is centered around the BlackBerry KEY2 because it's a new phone and we write about new phones, but also because it's a phone I am pretty sure I'll enjoy using for the next year. So I did some testing.
That's how I stumbled across what I think is the best feature to come to a smartphone in a long while — keyboard shortcuts. BlackBerry phones have always had keyboard shortcuts. With an app open you could perform an action using a specific key, and on the home screen you could open a handful of apps or settings through the keyboard.
Custom keyboard shortcuts came with BB10, but really got good on the KEYone because of Android and intents.
When the Priv came along I had to take a look at and write about keyboard shortcuts for a group of users who might not have ever used a BlackBerry and had no idea they existed. When I saw how they worked with Android, I knew right away that they were a thing I was going to be using a lot of.
Instead of a predefined group of actions, you could choose what happened when you pressed or long pressed a key through a settings menu. Defining my own shortcuts made the feature so useful for me, and through I really didn't have much time with BB10, seeing something new that I liked was cool, even if it wasn't exactly new.
Here I am a couple years later and I'm still thinking that keyboard shortcuts are the best feature on a smartphone that I could ever ask for. Yes, I know that you need a phone with an actual keyboard to use them, but that's a conscious decision I've made — different strokes and all that. It's changed the way I use my phone, for the better.
A feature needs to do one thing to be a success: make a difference to the user.
I know some of us like to do about a million different things on our phones. I'm not really one of those people and I'm almost never without a Chromebook nearby. I call it my mobile office (my wife calls it my trash can) and like to leave all the heavy lifting to something with a bigger screen and a better keyboard. Most of what I do with my phone are the same things I did five or even 10 years ago — talk to my people in one way or another.
It's simple: A is for Ashley. B is for Bruce. C is for Cheryl. I like simple when it works great.
Just because I'm not opening a bunch of apps throughout the day doesn't mean keyboard shortcuts aren't a godsend, though. One of the things you can do with them is to message or call or email a specific contact through the address book or even send a message using a service like Slack. I have a few well-used apps as shortcuts via my keyboard, but most of them are set to "talk" to a certain person a certain way. It might be complicated to initially set up, but knowing I can start a text to a family member or friend by pressing the Speed Key and letter on the keyboard makes a big difference to me. That's what a feature needs to do: improve the user experience.
There are plenty of other things to like about the KEY2, but for me, keyboard shortcuts are its showcase. I'll be talking more on what I love (and what I don't) about the KEY2 in the near future and am thinking of a good way to field some questions if anyone wants to ask an old nerdy guy about a phone he really likes. So leave a comment down below and let's chat!
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