BlackBerry KEYone Android smartphone goes on sale July at $899

By David Flynn, June 1 2017

Calling all BlackBerry enthusiasts – your next phone is about to land in Australia.

The BlackBerry KEYone will be available from July at JB HiFi stores for $899 on outright purchase.

However there's no word as yet on which mobile networks will add the Android-powered KEYone to their line-up with repayments across 12-month or 24-month contracts.

But if you're eager to get your hands on the phone with the world's most thumb-friendly keyboard, it'll be available for pre-order from the middle of June – and you can register your interest in a pre-order at blackberrymobile.com.au

PREVIOUS | BlackBerry is back – or at least so it hopes, with the overnight launch of the KEYone ahead of a mid-year Australian release.

After months of hiding under the catchy Mercury codename, the all-new BlackBerry KEYone broke cover at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress techfest, which is also due to see new smartphones from Sony, Huawei and LG.

The KEYone is manufactured by Chinese colossus TCL, which purchased BlackBerry manufacturing and marketing rights in December 2016 while the brand’s Canadian parent company focusses on the ‘software and services’ side of the equation.

TCL wants the KEYone to be BlackBerry’s ‘Comeback Kid’, although there’s no hope of a return to the glory days when the iconic smartphone ruled the corporate world in the days before Apple, Android and apps.

The KEYone’s far more modest mission is to make the moribund BlackBerry brand once again relevant in the modern smartphone world.

Central to that is the resurrection of the thumb-friendly BlackBerry keyboard, albeit in a straight-across design similar to the short-lived BlackBerry Passport and Priv rather than the curved keyboard of 'classic' BlackBerrys.

It packs all the familiar shortcuts for super-fast texting and emailing, along with a thumbprint scanner embedded in the space bar, and doubles as a trackpad for scooting around the screen.

The letter keys can also be programmed for short-press and long-press access to device actions and favourite apps. For example, a short-press on the M key could open the mail app while a long-press would call up Google Maps.

Such QWERTY goodness will undoubtedly differentiate the KEYone from the crowd of all-glass Android slabs, but whether it can woo former BlackBerry fans back to a physical keyboard is another matter.

Atop the keyboard sits a 4.5-inch (1620 x 1080 pixel) touchscreen display protected by Gorilla Glass 4; and behind that, the brains of Android 7.1 driven by a Snapdragon 625 2GHz processor and Adreno 506 GPU backed by 3GB of RAM.

The 3,505mAh battery sports quick-charge technology to juice up to 50% in just under 40 minutes via the USB-C port, although the turbo-charge Boost mode is smoke and mirrors – all it does is activate the device’s own Power Saving mode during recharge.

Onboard memory is capped at 32GB but can be boosted by a microSD card of up to 2TB.

Of course, the BlackBerry OS was long ago sent off to the knackery and replaced by Android, in this instance 7.1 Nougat – which puts the Google Play store and a zillion Android apps at your fingertips.

However there’s also a dash of BlackBerry baked into the mix, such as the very practical  BlackBerry hub 'universal inbox’ and the these-days less-useful BlackBerry Messenger, along with some security-minded enhancements – although none of that is a deal-breaker.

TCL expects the BlackBerry KEYone to be sold in Australia in late May or June at $799.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

25 Feb 2013

Total posts 59

It's a shame they don't put more effort into updating and (properly) promoting the PRIV as well.

I had to order mine from overseas. But it's the best damn phone I've ever had - full screen and a full keyboard. 

I wish them the best in their comeback. I tried a dalliance with Apple and Android but it just isn't the same. But old BB was definitely missing the apps and Android really takes it to a new level 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 362

Agreed! I'm on my second Priv because the first was washed into the ocean during the Olympics when I fell at a Rio beach. Shouldn't admit it. No wasn't drinking. :) But you are right, the Priv is pretty good.

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 37

Hooray! 

I currently use the Blackberry Passport Silver Edition. While I love it as a piece of hardware - a virtual keyboard just can't compare to the tactile reliability and accuracy of a Blackberry - the lack of popular apps on the Blackberry 10 operating system has drive me nuts. 

The Keyone will be the best of both worlds - BB QERTY hardware meets Android apps galore. 

Australian price is on the higher side of global pricing, but generally BB handsets drop in price pretty quickly these days.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1380

I think the price generally is high in all markets for a mid-range chip (Snapdragon 625) and a small screen (which is the most expensive component) -- but as the only model with a keyboard I guess they can charge a premium.

Good battery with 3500Mah as the 625 is a very efficient chip, and glad BB has kept the SD card (if only they would also do a dual SIM I'd consider going back)

Spec-wise I would compare it to the import only Asus ZenFone3 ZE520KL which you can pick up for under A$350

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 448

That is one ugly phone

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