BlackBerry’s decline as a brand has been sad to see over the past few years, but it’s good to see it’s not bowing out without a fight

Remember the Priv? That weird passport-sized, keyboard-equipped Android handset that didn’t fit very well in your pocket? Well, BlackBerry has released its successor (sort of) and it’s called the BlackBerry KeyOne.

Just like the Priv, the KeyOne has a physical keyboard with touch-sensitive tricks; however, unlike the Priv, it’s manageable, pocketable and actually rather nice to look at. The new BlackBerry smartphone will officially be launched on 27 April in London for £499.

BlackBerry KeyOne specifications

  • 4.5in, 3:2 aspect ratio, 1,680 x 1,080 screen
  • 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 32GB storage
  • microSD slot
  • 12-megapixel f/2.0 rear camera with phase-detect autofocus and dual-LED flash
  • 8-megapixel f/2.2 front camera
  • Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Price: £499
  • Release date: 27 April 2017

BlackBerry KeyOne: UK price and availability

We’ve been invited to the UK launch in London on 27 April, which will be for the announcement of the BlackBerry KeyOne. The phone has a confirmed price of £499 and can be found at Carphone Warehouse.

Following the launch event, we expect it to be available on a contract soon.

BlackBerry KeyOne: Key features and first impressions

I’m going to ignore the question of whether any modern Android smartphone should have a physical keyboard or not and just assume for a moment that it makes sense for some people. That’s who the KeyOne is aimed at after all, so how good is it?

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Well, it isn’t typical BlackBerry fare, that’s for sure. The click of each domed key is positive enough, but it’s a little soft and rubbery in feel – a long way from the hard, plastic keys of old. And yet I found it easy enough to type on quickly when I tried it out at the BlackBerry stand. The keys are nicely separated and the spacebar doubles as a fingerprint reader.

It’s also a pretty good handset to hold in your hand and to look at. It’s constructed from matte silver or black aluminium; has Gorilla Glass 4 on the front above the keyboard; has a 4.5in, 3:2 aspect ratio screen with a resolution of 1,620 x 1,080; and there’s a 12-megapixel camera on the rear (based on a Sony-manufactured sensor) with phase-detect autofocus, a bright aperture of f/2.0 and a dual-LED flash.

I rather like the rounded edges and textured, soft-touch plastic back, and while the phone is a little light, it’s definitely the best-looking phone since TCL began to produce BlackBerry handsets, and the most eye-catching BlackBerry since the Priv. More importantly, it’s a phone that begs to be used one-handed, due to its handily narrow profile.

What the KeyOne certainly isn’t, though, is a flagship smartphone. It runs a 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor instead of one of its top-of-the-line 820, 821, 825 or 835 processors, has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. Still, the phone felt perfectly responsive in use, and the positive flipside of this decision is that it should be more efficient than most, especially when coupled with the high-capacity 3,505mAh battery. For reference, the Moto Z Play offers a similar combination of battery and processor, and that phone achieved among the best battery-life results we’ve ever seen.

As for software, the BlackBerry KeyOne has Android 7.1 Nougat onboard, as you’d expect of a smartphone launched in 2017. It also comes with the usual selection of BlackBerry software preinstalled, including BBM and BlackBerry’s DTEK software, which is designed to keep the phone running quickly and smoothly.

BlackBerry KeyOne review: Early verdict

BlackBerry’s decline as a brand has been sad to see over the past few years, but it’s good to see it’s not bowing out without a fight.

If you still hanker after a phone with a keyboard, the BlackBerry KeyOne is a phone you might actually want to consider, although when it ships in April it will cost a rather hefty £499.