After years of struggling, it appears BlackBerry has finally figured out how to update its iconic design for modern times. The BlackBerry KEY2 pays homage to past devices such as the Bold 9000 while adapting to modern times with the Android OS. The result is a device that might be the best BlackBerry to date.
The TCL-manufactured smartphone learns from user complaints and feedback for the original KEYone and corrects them. The result is a phone with a smaller bezels and a bigger keyboard, pleasing old and new fans alike.
However, the KEY2 is more than just a looker. BlackBerry added several small enhancements that not only improve the overall experience, but allow you to be more productive. Here are seven of the coolest features found in the KEY2.
Like its predecessor, security was a top priority with the construction of the KEY2. When BlackBerry made the switch to Android, they brought along many of the security enhancements found in the BB10. The result is a phone that is not only very secure, but likely the best device for those concerned about preserving their privacy.
Like the KEYone, the KEY2 has cryptographic keys injected into its processor during manufacturing. These keys are unique to the device and are used to verify each stage involved in booting up, ensuring that no tampering has occurred.
The Linux kernel, a prize target for hackers, received additional protections to those provided by Android, reducing its chances of becoming compromised. Additionally, BlackBerry will continue to update all components of the KEY2, including all security enhancements. And, BlackBerry guarantees two years of Android monthly security patches, something which they are currently fulfilling with the KEYone.
The bootloader has also received additional protection which blocks any attempts of it becoming unlocked or tampered with. As a result of these changes, the KEYone has still never been rooted, and it appears the KEY2 will follow in its footsteps.
While this feature was included in the KEYone as well, we felt it was too important not to get its own section. DTEK acts as a dashboard to the security system BlackBerry designed for the KEY2's software. DTEK makes cybersecurity easy for users by automating most processes and alerting you to potential vulnerabilities. Furthermore, any compromises to the integrity of the security system can be corrected within the app.
DTEK scans apps for unnecessary permissions, monitors the operating system for actions which endanger the security of the phone, and much more.
With BlackBerry Integrity Protection (a component of DTEK), you can set up alerts for apps requesting specific permissions such as when an app asks to use the camera or microphone in the background (a feature coming later in Android P).
The BlackBerry KEY2 also has an app called Locker which locks app, photos, and files behind a passcode or fingerprint authentication. Additionally, apps placed here are hidden from the app drawer, preventing anyone else from even knowing that you have the app installed.
For many BlackBerry fans, the most important feature is the keyboard. Easily the most recognizable feature, BlackBerry devices in the past have been heavily judged on their keyboard performance alone.
When BlackBerry released the KEYone last year, fans praised the inclusion of a keyboard, but criticized the size and the glossy finish which would rub off. BlackBerry learned from feedback, creating an improved keyboard for the KEY2.
BlackBerry has moved the display higher, providing more room for a 20% larger keyboard (it also reduced the "forehead" size, allowing it to match other phones in its price range). With the larger keyboard, BlackBerry was able to improve the overall feel, including making it easier to distinguish individuals keys when typing without looking.
The backlight is also improved. Now it adjusts its brightness based on the ambient light around you, and it can even make one side brighter than the other if light isn't uniformly reaching the keyboard. Additionally, the glossy finish is gone, replaced by a matte finish which should last as long as the device itself.
The BlackBerry KEY2's keyboard is for more than just typing. Each key in the top three rows can be programmed to launch an app or shortcut. And each key can launch two apps: One with a short press and one with a long press. However, last year's model required you to return to the home screen to launch new apps. Well, this is no longer the case with KEY2, and it's thanks to the "Speed Key."
The Speed Key is a new key located to the right of the "sym" or currency key on the bottom row. By pressing the Speed Key and a key that's programmed to launch an app (whether by short or long pressing), you can start an app or shortcut from any location.
Additionally, the KEY2 brings back the "Convenience Key." The Convenience Key, which is the third button on the right side of the device, can be programmed to launch any app or shortcut. However, its versatility is much more than an app launcher.
The Convenience Key can also create profiles for the various location you visit during the day. Using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and events saved in the BlackBerry Calendar app, the key can determine where you are and switch to that profile. Each profile can have its own set of apps and shortcuts, allowing you launch the apps you will need at that particular time of the day. For example, you can have a car profile launch Spotify while a work profile brings up your emails.
While the KEYone was no slouch, the KEY2 is even better in the battery life department. Not only did they bring back the 3,500 mAh battery capacity but paired it with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 660. With this processor, Qualcomm switched to semi-custom Kyro cores designed to prove maximum power while remaining highly efficient.
The result is a phone that won't get bogged down over time and still provide you industry leading battery life. While many have claimed to have all-day battery life, the KEY2 actually does with moderate usage. And when your battery finally does get near death, with Quick Charge 3.0, you can return to 50% in no time.
Not only does the BlackBerry KEY2 include a headphone jack (a rarity nowadays), but it also added a Hi-Fi DAC for improved audio. With the DAC, it joins LG and Sony as the only Android OEMs to truly prioritize the wired audio experience.
Additionally, with Android 8.1 Oreo on board, its also supports Hi-Fi audio codecs over Bluetooth. So even if you opt for a wireless connection, your audio will still be top-notch quality.
The BlackBerry KEY2 is more than just a business phone. It is a device designed for consumers who value their security and privacy. It is also a modern-day BlackBerry, blending the classic design language with modern hardware and OS features. The result is a phone that should please both longtime fans and new ones.
Oh... and if you're working from home these days, be sure to check out Gadget Hacks' Working-From-Home Essentials.