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Review #IFA18 5 min read 1 Comment

Hands-on: BlackBerry hopes to attract new clientele with Key2 LE

It’s no surprise, BlackBerry came to the IFA to present a new smartphone: the BlackBerry Key 2 LE. What’s surprising, however, is that it’s learned from its mistakes and proposed some changes. We’ll explain it all in detail here!

BlackBerry Key2 LE release date and price

The first interesting thing is the price. At a time when the competition is offering high-end equipment at mid-range prices, it wouldn’t be wise to persist with high prices for mid-range equipment. BlackBerry has understood this and lowered its price: the 32GB model will be available in the U.S. for $399 and the 64GB model will cost $449.  

A genetically modified Key2

In terms of design, the Key2 LE follows the design philosophy of its predecessor but makes a few tweaks. It comes in plastic (polycarbonate, to be exact) with a metal frame, which makes the device lighter in your hands at 156 grams. That’s a unique design choice for a device with a physical keyboard, and that makes it 12 grams lighter than the Key2. This difference in weight obvious plays a role in how it feels in your hand. So you can expect some slight differences, but the design is very similar.

androidpit blackberry key2 le red
The red model is the prettiest, and the color stands out even on the front. / © ANDROIDPIT

As for the rest, there’s nothing new: the physical keyboard and its Speed Key is there, along with a fingerprint reader on the space key. There’s no trackpad anymore, so you’ll have to scroll from the screen, but who cares?

BlackBerry has given up a little bit on its reputation as a manufacturer of professional smartphones and adapted to the market: it offers new colors. In addition to the gray editions. It’s also available in gold and, of course, in red. BlackBerry had its flashier fans in mind with this one.

androidpit blackberry key2 le keyboard
The physical keyboard is there but doesn’t come with all the features. / © ANDROIDPIT

The display? BlackBerry hasn't made any changes

The physical keyboard occupies a large part of the front face, which means the screen is somewhat smaller. That’s nothing new, every BlackBerry fan is accustomed to this. You’ll find exactly the same configuration as on the Key2 : a 4.5-inch LCD screen, 3:2 format with a resolution of 1080 x 1620 pixels and a density of 434 dpi. The only small difference (which will hardly be noticeable to the naked eye) is that the Key2 LE screen occupies a larger screen area at 55.6%, in comparison to 55.2% on the Key2.

It’s exactly the same configuration on the Key2.

Up-to-date software

It’s no surprise that the Key2 LE comes with the latest version of Android Oreo . The surprising thing is that the device already has the September security patch. In fact, if you’re a BlackBerry fan for its security policy, you’ll be delighted to see the DTEK again.

As far as bloatware is concerned, we’re unfortunately not immune to it. Besides Google apps (including Google News), it seems that BlackBerry has partnered with Facebook since Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram are all preinstalled.

Mid-range equipment

The device uses the same processor as the HTC U12 life in the Snapdragon 636 . Accompanied by 4GB of RAM and 32 or 64GB of internal memory (the price difference is indicated in the first section), the device didn’t show any signs of weakness during our first hands-on with the device. Of course, we’ll go into greater detail in our final review.

androidpit blackberry key2 le jack
The mini-jack port has stuck around. / © ANDROIDPIT

Not a super strong camera

There’s a dual camera on the back with  13 and 5 megapixel lenses with a f/2.2 aperture. As usual, the second sensor is mainly used for creating a bokeh effect. In the front, the camera takes pictures with a resolution of 8 megapixels. So what kind of pictures does the device take?

Only a complete review will give us the answer, but from our short time with the device, we expect the camera to show some prowess. In decent lighting conditions, the pictures are pretty good, but the camera’s abilities decline in bad lighting. We’ll see if the final version of the software has an effect on the results...

androidpit blackberry key2 le camera
The double camera is there but we’ll have to see how it fares… /  © ANDROIDPIT

Plenty of autonomy

Blackberry has improved the battery life of the device. Despite its capacity of 3000 mAh , which may seem a little low, you should also keep in mind that the display is only 4.5 inches and doesn’t have the greatest resolution. We’ll of course check back in about the battery life, but we can be optimistic for the time being.

BlackBerry Key2 LE technical specifications

Dimensions: 150.3 x 71.8 x 8.4 mm
Weight: 156 g
Battery size: 3000 mAh
Screen size: 4.5 in
Display technology: LCD
Screen: 1600 x 1080 pixels (434 ppi)
Front camera: 13 megapixels
Rear camera: 8 megapixels
Flashlight: Dual-LED
Android version: 8.1 - Oreo
RAM: 4 GB
Internal storage: 64 GB
Removable storage: microSD
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 636
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 1.8 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Dual-SIM , Bluetooth 5.0

Early Verdict

BlackBerry has broken its habits by offering a stylish red smartphone to attract a different kind of clientele. But, above all, it’s offering mid-range equipment at a mid-range price, which seems logical. But if you look at all the prices on the market, there are Chinese devices available for $400 with more powerful processors.

BlackBerry has made some decisions to attract new customers and it’s certain that BlackBerry fans will be delighted to find a smartphone almost as good as the Key2 at a much lower price. What do you think? Let us know if you’re interested in BlackBerry’s new device!

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  • I expect this will continue to be of limited appeal, mainly to enterprise users who spend a lot of time on email, messaging and Office docs on which the virtual keyboard a) cramps the screen down anyway, and b) is slower despite all the AI bad vocabulary guesses. BB will achieve a lot if it wins back some businesses, governments and individuals who went to iPhones and have been paying more to be less productive than they were in the old days.

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