Business users can return to being glued to their BlackBerry smartphones with the release of KEYone, a touchscreen phone that comes with a physical capacitive keyboard that is Blackberry's calling card.
Local buyers here will get only the Black edition, which sports an all-business look. Other markets have a silver option. The phone, released here last Saturday, is a blend of nostalgia and modernity, with the familiar chunky keyboard slapped on a smartphone running Android 7.1.
It is still fundamentally productivity-driven, with a host of tightly integrated functions that make texting, e-mailing and communicating on the go an efficient process.
But mass consumers, who have a different set of requirements such as a good camera, are unlikely to take to it, hence relegating it purely to the realm of business users.
The KEYone's 4.5-inch touchscreen functions just like any other phone. But its LCD screen does look outdated, given the saturation of better-looking Oled screens in the market. It is also rather dim.
The main reason to pick up a BlackBerry over a premium flagship from other brands - which are also capable of high-octane productivity - is the keyboard.
The physical keyboard is similar to that on the popular BlackBerry Bold of yesteryear, if slightly wider. Adjusting to it from a virtual keyboard will need time and effort. I expect younger executives who grew up on virtual keyboards might find the learning curve too steep to justify the jump to BlackBerry hardware.
PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 (Octa-core 2.0GHz)
DISPLAY: 4.5-inch, IPS LCD, 1620 x 1080 pixels, 433 PPI pixel density
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 7.1
CAMERA: 12MP, f/2.0 (Rear); 8MP, f/2.2 (Front)
MEMORY: 64GB (microSD expandable up to 2TB), 4GB RAM
BATTERY: Non-removable 3,505 mAh
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
BATTERY LIFE: 4/5
Yet BlackBerry has done a great job of integrating useful functions into the keyboard. For instance, double tapping the keyboard enables a cursor for finer control. There is a predictive bar that suggests words while typing, which can be easily added into the main text body with a quick swipe from the keyboard instead of choosing from the bar.
The BlackBerry Hub, which consolidates all communication accounts into one app, is a useful nexus to view all text messages, social media and e-mail at a glance, while the DTek security app lets you monitor apps for suspicious behaviour or permissions requests.
For most users, the smartphone is primarily for entertainment. For serious work, the negatives of the KEYone, like a smaller screen real estate and mid-range processor, work to its advantage by making users focus on productivity instead of being distracted by entertainment.
• Verdict: The KeyOne's hardware and software features drive home that this is a machine tuned and designed for productivity, with a comfortable keyboard and useful software integration.