BlackBerry’s upcoming KEY2 smartphone is a refreshed successor to last year’s KEYone that addresses most of the issues of its predecessor. At 151.4 x 71.8 x 8.5mm and 168 grams the KEY2 is slightly taller, but skinnier, thinner, and lighter than the KEYone with less rounded edges and no camera bump. The KEY2 comes in silver or black and features an aluminum alloy frame, soft touch non-slip back, and a 4.5” display and 35-key backlit physical keyboard around front. The smartphone runs the Android 8.1 Oreo operating system along with BlackBerry security features like a hardened kernel, secure boot, full disk encryption, DTEK security suite, Locker, and the privacy focused Firefox Focus browser.
The 4.5” IPS display remains the same as the KEYone featuring a 3:2 aspect ratio and 1620 x 1080 resolution, but the BlackBerry KEY2 does feature an updated camera system and a tweaked keyboard. The dual rear 12MP cameras work with a dual tone LED flash and laser and phase detection auto focus (one camera supports a 2X zoom and supports portrait mode) to offer up high-resolution HDR images and 4K30 or 1080p60 videos. Around front, BlackBerry includes an 8MP camera for video conferencing or “selfies”. The keyboard has been updated with 20% taller keys and a matte finish while the right shift key has been swapped out for what BlacKBerry calls the Speed Key which allows users to hold in combination with any other key to open applications of their choice. The keyboard can be used as a trackpad with gesture support and hosts a fingerprint sensor in the space bar. According to YouTube vloggers at a BlackBerry event the keyboard feels more like the BlackBerry Bold keyboards of old which is a good thing. The keys are reportedly more clicky and less mushy as well.
The KEY2 features a headphone jack up top, power, volume, and convenience keys along the right edge, and a single speaker and USB-C port on the bottom edge.
Internally, BlackBerry has slightly updated the specifications to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660, 6GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of flash storage, and a 3500 mAh batter. While the Snapdragon 660 is still a solidly midrange part, it is at least a good bit faster than the SD620 used in the KEYone thanks to the move to Kryo 260 CPU cores. Specifically, the Snapdragon 660 has four Kryo 260 CPU cores at 2.2 GHz and four cores at 1.8 GHz along with an Adreno 512 GPU, Hexagon 680 DSP, and X12 LTE modem. Wireless I/O includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, LTE, NFC, GPS, and FM radios. BlackBerry claims that the KEY2’s battery is good for up to two days of mixed usage and it supports USB Power Delivery 2.0 v1.2 and 9V2A 18W along with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 for charging.
This secure Android experience with physical key goodness comes at a cost, however. TCL’s BlackBerry KEY2 will be available later this month starting at $649 for the 64GB version (there is no word on the 128GB version’s price).
From my understanding the KEYone was a successful product for the company, and the improved KEY2 is sure to find a market among physical keyboard enthusiasts and security conscious business users even at the premium price.