BlackBerry KEYone Black Edition hands-on: the powerful new dark side of BlackBerry

One of this year's most divisive handsets has been the BlackBerry KEYone. Is its unusual shape and hardware QWERTY keyboard trying too hard to play into the nostalgia some (presumably older, stuffy, businessman-type) users still harbor for the early days of smartphones? Or is this interesting mix of unique input schemes, insane battery life, and pricing that's on the affordable end of the flagship scale a welcome change of pace in a market that far too often can feel a bit uninspired when it comes to phone choices?

But even if you're a dedicated KEYone fan, things can get a little stale with only one option for the phone: one color, one set of specs – take it or leave it. At least, that was the case until a few weeks ago, when we first learned of an upgraded black KEYone hitting the Indian market.

At the time, we were hopeful that this fresh KEYone option would soon make its presence felt elsewhere, and that's exactly what we saw today at IFA 2017, as BlackBerry announced the coming global spread of the new KEYone.

A New Look


The most obvious shift with this new KEYone, which is going by the appropriate label “Black Edition,” is the new coloring. The phone is still made with the same solid-feeling aluminum frame as the original, but this time that matte silver finish has been replaced with a new anodized black exterior. The effect is striking, and almost aggressive looking.

Nearly all the phone's exposed metal gets this new black treatment: the sides and top, obviously, but also the ring around the camera, the BlackBerry logo on the handset's back, and even the horizontal bands between each row of keys on the phone's iconic keyboard.

Even with this heavy overhaul, a hint or two of silver still manages to peek through, in the form of the beveled edge circling each of the phone's three side-mounted buttons. 

Internal Tweaks


That fresh paint job is just the half of it, and the Black Edition KEYone also gets some upgraded silicon. We're not talking about anything so extreme as a Snapdragon 835 chip or anything, but instead a boost from 3GB of RAM to a slightly more modern-looking 4GB, and increasing the KEYone's storage from 32GB to 64GB. You can still take that even further with microSD expansion, but by starting off with twice the internal storage you might be able to put that purchase off a little longer.

It's easy to take the RAM upgrade for granted, or just dismiss it outright – who really needs an extra gig of RAM when you're running a mid-range Snapdragon 625 chip? But while we haven't been able to thoroughly investigate performance gains for ourselves, our conversations with BlackBerry execs suggest that this Black Edition really can feel slightly faster than the original model, especially for heavier users.

We doubt a lot of shoppers will be picking up the KEYone Black Edition just for the extra RAM, but if you're already coming for the cool new black look and the extra storage, you're not going to turn down a 33% memory boost. 


Appearances Can Be Deceiving


The new KEYone Black Edition is set to hit markets around the globe, including Europe, the Middle East, Japan, and BlackBerry's native Canada. You may notice that the United States is conspicuously absent from that list; what gives?

BlackBerry tells us that the priority for the Black Edition was getting it ready in time for the holiday season, and that the phone's new hardware would have required another lengthy approval process with American carriers before they'd give their blessing – delays the company would rather not have to deal with.

That said, though, there is a new black KEY just hitting the US now, after being announced as an exclusive for AT&T about a week back. This “Space Black” KEYone looks practically identical to the Black Edition, but with a couple critical differences: it's still got the original 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage.

While it's nice that US shoppers can still scratch that itch for a new KEYone color, we can understand how they might feel disappointed to miss out on the hardware upgrades. At least the hardware's still close by in Canada, should you feel like tracking it down.


Conclusion


The new KEYone Black Edition doesn't re-invent the wheel, and instead feels like the KEYone version 1.1: a minor upgrade that you might prefer to pick up if given the choice, but not such a revelation that you'll feel compelled to ditch your existing silver model for it.

If you do go about tracking one down, expect to pay a small premium for it, with the Black Edition set to fetch about 650 EUR, instead of the nearly 600 EUR the original model goes for.

What do you think? Is this the KEYone you were waiting for all along? Or are you still not sold on this unique keyboard-equipped Android phone?


Related phones

KEYone
  • Display 4.5" 1080 x 1620 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, Octa-core, 2000 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3505 mAh

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16 Comments

1. Flash

Posts: 1972; Member since: May 19, 2017

If you ask me, it wouldn't have hurt to use the SD 821 or whatever the one before the 835 is. They humped up the RAM and storage. Blackberry could have at least bumped up the SoC. And I feel like they should have already released this model from the start. And before someone says that I'm being negative, I'm not. The same thing applies to LG with their fragmented G6 release. So save your tears.

3. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2450; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Then it would've taken a hit on battery life compared to the 625 which is one of the main selling points of this device. Also, there are videos of people testing the CPU performance against flagships like the S8 and the Keyone has shown to hold it's own weight. Remember, this device is running pretty much a clean build of Android instead of a heavier skin like Samsung or LG. I think what they really should've improved on was choosing an OLED display instead of an LCD one.

6. GreenMan

Posts: 2698; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

Well, you're the Doc, Doc! Yes, you're correct. Those Kryos on 821, though powerful, are pretty dang hungry. They're custom A72s , after all! They battery life would've taken a massive hit, no doubt. Same goes to Snapdragon 650 which BTW is built on 28nm fab. And considering the weird 3:2 display aspect ratio and the MASSIVE keyboard beneath it, no one in his (or her. Respect the femininists, shall we?) right mind would play some engaging FPS video games on this thing, and all that extra muscle would've gone to waste. Most KEYone users are going to use this phone solely for Emails, calls, texts and of course; checking their bank account, tops. That's what I used to do on my company's Blackberry Bold when I had a job in marketing and a bloody, bullying, barking, boss! And SD625/6 is more than sufficient for it. Oh well, G'Day!

7. jellmoo

Posts: 2625; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

I disagree. I think the 625 is perfect for the device. Plenty of power savings, which is more important for a productivity device than raw power. Nobody is buying this as a gaming device.

16. DoggyDangerous

Posts: 1028; Member since: Aug 28, 2015

But I agree with him. Instead of cosmetic changes, why not upgrade the soc as well?? Sd660 would be the perfect choice. I love this phone and feel sad whenever I see any news about it. Sad because it is a lovely looking device and I am not buying it due to the soc. I hope after black edition, BB will launch prime/plus/pro model with upgraded soc.

14. aegislash

Posts: 1517; Member since: Jan 27, 2015

But the funny thing is...nobody asked you, nobody has ever asked you, and nobody will ever ask you, because you repeat the same thing on every article. You've made it loud and clear that you think BlackBerry is underpowered garbage that should be universally unlocked, blah blah blah. We get it; Meanest triggers you so much that you'll never agree with anything that BlackBerry does. Why stick around and make yourself look like an idiot on a daily basis?

15. meanestgenius

Posts: 22272; Member since: May 28, 2014

BOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!! Went the dynamite! Nothing but facts you just put on him, to which he will deflect from or avoid completely, or a give some BS response without ever having addressed what you said to him, because he has no real answer to the truth.

2. Tipus

Posts: 894; Member since: Sep 30, 2016

And off we go again.. :)))))

4. GreenMan

Posts: 2698; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

This black edition has a pretty grand flair to it, I must admit! Seems like a phone a 'cowboy lawyer' would use, whatever that means. Ah! No wonder I'm all about brunettes with big grey eyes... Or perhaps, blacked out motorcycles like the recent Indian Dark Horse... Green like black, fellas! G'Day!

5. Plasticsh1t

Posts: 3109; Member since: Sep 01, 2014

Darkside? https://imgur.com/gallery/jtoYP Looks dope though.

8. meanestgenius

Posts: 22272; Member since: May 28, 2014

Can't wait to get my hands on this version of the KEYone, the extra RAM and ROM is welcome, even though it's not really needed with the SD 625 and expandable storage on place. The color is freakin' awesome, though. Can't go wrong with either version of the KEYone, despite what the crybaby hater that has have never used a BlackBerry KEYone, or any other BlackBerry handset, has to say about it.

9. TeriusRose

Posts: 108; Member since: May 12, 2017

Meanest! How you been my dude? I haven't talked to you in months. Wait, you don't already have one? Huh. I kind of expected you to pick up a KEYone the day it dropped.

10. meanestgenius

Posts: 22272; Member since: May 28, 2014

What's up, my dude? I'm doing well. How are you? Hope all is well. I have the original KEYone, not the all sexy black attack edition. I want to pick it up based on the color alone, to be honest. Black is my favorite color.

11. TeriusRose

Posts: 108; Member since: May 12, 2017

I'm pretty damn good, just focused on growing my businesses and working on a few creative projects. And thank you, I hope things are going your way as well! Ah, I misread your comment as saying you wanted either version of the KEYone. Hey, go for it. If I've learned anything this year, it's to take your pleasures where you can.

12. Gadgetex

Posts: 199; Member since: Nov 10, 2013

The new Snapdragon 660 with 4GB of RAM along with 64gb and I would have picked one up. With these specs I will pass

13. aegislash

Posts: 1517; Member since: Jan 27, 2015

I'm glad I held off on getting a KEYone, in hopes that they'd eventually release more color options...but this is just an added bonus! New color as well as beefed up internals? Yeah there's a small increase in price to pay...but whatever! Count me in.

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