The BlackBerry KEY2 has been announced: improved keyboard, Optical Superzoom, 2-day battery life

The BlackBerry KEY2 has been announced: improved keyboard, Optical Superzoom, 2-day battery life

The BlackBerry KEY2 has just been announced. It's a reiteration of last year's KEYone and it looks like this is the smartphone that TCL Communication wants to push as its flagship device. Rocking the latest improvements in software and hardware and introducing a few features for the first time ever seen on a BlackBerry phone, let's dive in and see what it's all about!

Design


The BlackBerry KEY2 has been announced: improved keyboard, Optical Superzoom, 2-day battery life
The BlackBerry KEY2 looks a lot like its predecessor from last year. We don't mean this in a bad way, not at all. It's a classy-looking device, with a series 7 aluminum frame, the signature hardware keyboard up front, and a diamond-patterned, grippy rubber back.

On the front, there's still a 4.5-inch display with an almost square-ish 3:2 aspect ratio. The keyboard below it has seen slight refinements. Its keys are now 20% taller than the ones on the KEYone for a better tactile feel, with a more pronounced fret design for a more comfortable touch type experience.

There's also a new key — called the Speed Key, this one will give you quick access to a grand total of 52 customizable shortcuts. These could be anything from launching apps to triggering specific functions or calling your favorite contacts.

You'll also notice that the keys are now matte, instead of glossy, for a softer feel. However, they still retain the trackpad functionality and yes, there's still a fingerprint scanner embedded under the space key.


Hardware and camera


Much like last year's edition, the BlackBerry KEY2 still has a midrange processor. It's the octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 ticking at 2.2 Ghz — definitely no slouch, mind you, but also not the absolute best that's available in the market.

However, it does come with 6 GB of RAM, which is quite generous even for 2018's flagships, and will be available in storage variants of either 64 GB or 128 GB. Whichever one you pick, you will still have the option of enhancing that further via a microSD card slot.

You may have noticed that there is a dual camera module on the back. That's a first for BlackBerry phones and, we have to say, sounds quite promising on paper. There are two 12 MP sensors back there and the secondary camera sports a telephoto lens. Yes, this means we will be getting Portrait Mode shots, but there's also this thing that TCL calls "Optical Superzoom".



Basically, in order to improve zoomed-in shots, the BlackBerry KEY2 will take a few photos for every time you press the shutter button. Then, it'll stitch these images together to deliver a single noiseless image. Kind of like Google's HDR+ concept, but used to improve the phone's zoom shot features.

On the front, there's an 8 MP camera and the display will be able to flash in bright white when you need a selfie flash.

The BlackBerry KEY2 has been announced: improved keyboard, Optical Superzoom, 2-day battery life


The KEY2 will support Google Lens, meaning you will be able to feed whatever your phone is "looking" at through the Google Assistant and find products, information about locations or monuments, et cetera.

With a 3,500 mAh battery in the trunk — yes, it seems the rumors for a smaller battery were wrong — TCL promises that the BlackBerry KEY2 will be able to achieve a 2-day battery life. Of course, we will have to put that claim to the test, but it's worth noting that we did find the KEYone's battery life to be quite impressive when we reviewed it last year.

Software


The BlackBerry KEY2 will, naturally, come with Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box. But wait, there's more good news. The phone has been endorsed by Google's Android Enterprise Recommended program, which means that it will be receiving monthly security patches as required by Google. It also comes with a guarantee of at least one major Android update to be pushed to it down the line. In other words, this phone should get Android 9 P at the very least.

Of course, being a BlackBerry phone, the signature BlackBerry Hub is at the core of the experience here with its business-oriented software package and the BBM secure messaging platform.

The BlackBerry KEY2 will also have the Locker pre-installed on it. This is a feature that was added to the KEYone via a post-launch patch. Basically, it's a secure folder, which only opens up via a passcode or your fingerprint. It doesn't sync to the cloud, so anything you put in there stays there. The camera software works in sync with the Locker — if you tap on the fingerprint scanner, instead of the shutter, it takes a photo and instantly sends it to the secure folder, instead of your gallery.

The BlackBerry KEY2 has been announced: improved keyboard, Optical Superzoom, 2-day battery life


The DTEK security service is also here, giving you at-a-glance information about various app permissions and fishy activity on your phone. Even if there's nothing wrong with your phone right now. the new Proactive Health Check feature will perform a deep scan of all your apps and detect any potential weeknesses, letting you pre-emptively take care of problem apps.

Price and launch


TCL will kickoff the BlackBerry KEY2 shipments sometime later this month globally. We assume carriers will make sure to individually announce when the phone would be hitting their roster.

The price is a bit of a shocker — it'll retail for $649. With its midrange hardware, it'll definitely get some scoffs from the general poweruser crowd. However, it may still find its way to the hearts of BlackBerry users worldwide. We'll have to wait and see.

Related phones

KEY2
  • Display 4.5" 1080 x 1620 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 660, Octa-core, 2200 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3500 mAh

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17 Comments

1. Popop971

Posts: 44; Member since: Nov 24, 2013

Since I love the design of the Blackberry Passport SE, this is probably my next phone. Can't wait for the reviews and users opinions :D !

2. master-mkk

Posts: 214; Member since: Aug 27, 2014

yah it is expensive but if you really want a blackberry or/and physical keyboard it will be worth it

6. libra89

Posts: 2259; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Exactly this. It's a solid balance here that even includes a headphone jack!

3. Cat97

Posts: 1774; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

I am so jealous of that rubberized plastic back, which is also great looking. I hate my phone's glass back ! What I am not so jealous of is the Snapdragon 660 which is built on 14nm and also not very power efficient. The 10nm Snapdragon 710 would have guaranteed great battery life and would have made it an instant buy for me.

14. AngelicusMaximus

Posts: 636; Member since: Dec 20, 2017

Oh. You mean the chip that won't even be available until well after this phone comes out? Makes sense.

15. Guaire

Posts: 855; Member since: Oct 15, 2014

Mi8 SE will be on the market 5 hours later in China with Snapdragon 710.

19. AngelicusMaximus

Posts: 636; Member since: Dec 20, 2017

I guess you're right. I take it back.

5. gamehead unregistered

Ill take a regualr phone with a clip on physical kb over this

7. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3098; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

While the $650 price tag seems high, think about what you're getting in relation to other phones with similar features and what they retail for. This phone is NOT for everybody so if you're into gaming or spend your days on YouTube or Netflix, look elsewhere. For those who do a lot of text input and want day-long battery life, then you need to run, don't walk, to your nearest retailer. I'll probably wait until a Priv successor, my old eyes can't handle small displays anymore.

8. Cyberchum

Posts: 1016; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

The targeted buyers would probably find the Key2 appealing, but text input can't be said to be an advantage here. On a phone, a software keyboard trumps a physical one in speed and, with powerful auto-correction like the kind offered by SwiftKey, accuracy. And one would not have to deal with broken key(s), too!

10. Sparkxster

Posts: 1186; Member since: Mar 31, 2017

Sharp looking phone liking the all black edition. Wish TCL would make two sizes of the key series 4.5 inches is a little two small for my liking.

16. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

If the camera is great I will get one for my dad

21. Venom

Posts: 3143; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

One does not simply buy a blackberry for the camera. Generally on the Android front, usually no one can top Samsung, Nokia, and the superior Pixels when it comes to cameras. Not to say that the KeyTWO will have a bad camera or anything.

18. meanestgenius

Posts: 21485; Member since: May 28, 2014

If productivity, amazing battery life, an emphasis on security/privacy, and an iconic, innovative physical keyboard are what you are liking for in a smartphone, then the BlackBerry KEY2 is the way to go. If a large screen smartphone with the latest and greatest processor and more features than you have clothing is what you’re looking for, this amazing smartphone isn’t for you. Not everyone has the same wants/needs in a smartphone. For my wants/needs, the BlackBerry KEY2 fits the bill perfectly, which is why I will be buying one.

22. tevin

Posts: 4; Member since: Jun 11, 2018

It's been a while since I did not have a BlackBerry, but I do not doubt the quality of their smartphones, simply personally I could not return to the physical keyboard. In any case I find it very good that they continue even if they gave up their bone. The price is subjective but € 650 for a smartphone well finished and not found in the competition I find it quite correct. By cons passed the bar of 1000 € it seems really exaggerated and very overrated, especially if it's to have the same as what the Asian competition offers for half price. A good smartphone with physical keyboard now besides BlackBerry there is nobody who does that.

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