It was called the KeyOne, and it was the cause for much excitement among both die-hard BlackBerry fans and those who left BlackBerry for Android or iPhone years ago but still felt a passion for the former Canadian tech giant.
There's no doubting the KeyOne was a success. It was never going to be competing for sales in the same numbers as Apple or Samsung, but it's enabled TCL to plan and build even more BlackBerry branded phones.
Following comments from BlackBerry's global general manager, Alain Lejeune, at CES 2018 in Las Vegas during January, we know that the company is planning "at least two new BlackBerry smartphones later this year". One of those is sure to be the follow-up to 2017's KeyOne.
BlackBerry Key2: the name
To start with, BlackBerry were calling it the KeyTwo, which certainly made sense. But now BlackBerry has confirmed in a tweet that the official name is Key2 (no space) although as always, expect some people to write it "Key 2" erroneously.
As you can see, the 2 looks almost like superscript in that picture, which could be a reference to the phone being more square than its predecessor. However, next to nobody uses quirks like superscript when writing names - aside from marketing teams - so we'll stick with Key2.
BlackBerry Key2 release date and price
- Launch during early Summer
As you saw above, BlackBerry's official Twitter account posted a teaser for an upcoming event on 7 June at 10am in New York, where it apparently plans to unveil "an icon reborn", aka the BlackBerry Key2.
BlackBerry has to be careful not to price people out of buying the Key2, and so the company can't charge top dollar for the device, especially given its mid-range specs. The sub £500 price point of the first one, we think, was just about right. We think it's likely to be a similar £450-£500 price this year too.
BlackBerry Key2 hardware
- Snapdragon 660 processor
- 6GB RAM
The new BlackBerry has appeared on an official "Interoperability Certificate", approved by the Wi-Fi Alliance on 7 May.
Information gleaned from the certificate reveals some pretty standard smartphone stuff. The KeyTwo will have dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz) like the vast majority of recent handsets. And it will come with Android Oreo out of the box. Its model number is listed as BBF100-6.
Purely for reference, BlackBerry devices on Android tend to follow a pattern of model numbers. As an example, the BlackBerry Motion is BBD100-1 and the Black Edition KeyOne is BBB100-2.
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This test indicates a device powered by the new eight-core Snapdragon 660 processor with 6GB RAM. If accurate, and this is the next gen KeyOne, that would mean a device with a more powerful processor and more RAM, which should mean a faster, more efficient device.
One thing we can be sure if is a big, long-lasting battery. Both the KeyOne and Motion have focussed on being devices for productive people that need a phone they can use all day long without reaching for the charger.
As such, the Motion has a 4,000mAh battery, while the KeyOne sports a 3,505mAh. We'd expect a minimum of 3,500mAh battery on the new one.
BlackBerry Key2 design
- Physical QWERTY keyboard
- Convenience Key is likely
In comments made in January - as reported by CrackBerry - BlackBerry's head of device portfolio confirmed that two of the devices launched this year will have physical keyboard-based designs.
This confirmed that the company is planning to launch a device like the KeyOne, improving areas that need improving to bring performance up to date.
The keys on the new phone are a lot flatter in appearance, and have a matte finish compared to the glossy finish of the KeyOne. They also appear to be slightly larger and the chrome frets between the keys have been ditched too.
Also new on these images is a different key in the bottom right of the keyboard, that can't be seen in the renders. The key in question looks as though it may open an app drawer.
The handset has been shown from every angle in supposed press images posted on Slashleaks.
If genuine, you can clearly see the front, rear, left and right sides, plus top and bottom of the forthcoming handset.
There are a number of key, visible differences to its predecessor, the KeyOne. For starters, you can see a dual camera on the rear. Last year's model only has a single lens unit.
There are a couple of staples in recent BlackBerry Mobile design. One of those is the physical Convenience Key, which can be programmed as a shortcut to a number of specific functions or apps.
Another standard theme is a back panel that's nice to grip. The KeyOne has a soft-touch grippy plastic back covered in dimples, while the Motion's has a Kevlar-like weave that doesn't slip easily. It's another of those useful elements that makes it easy to use all day.
The render above also shows the KeyTwo will stick with a 3.5mm headphone jack, but in a potentially slimmer build. The keyboard also seems a little sleeker than on the KeyOne.
BlackBerry Key2 software
- Android Oreo
- Usual selection of BlackBerry apps
Software is another element we can be fairly sure on. Since it's 2018, and Android Oreo has been out now for a few months, it's safe to assume Android 8.0 or Android 8.1 will be present on the next KeyOne.
As much is given away in the aforementioned GeekBench test.
Given that it is a BlackBerry device, and the company is know for its useful software additions, we can be sure to find the Hub, DTEK security app, Productivity Edge, Device Search and BBM among others.
BlackBerry KeyTwo display
- Unusual 4:3 ratio display
Given that this device is going to have a physical keyboard, that restricts the display somewhat. You're obviously not going to find a bezel-free 18:9 ratio display. Instead, we're likely to a screen similar in shape to the 4.5-inch 1080x1620 screen on the original KeyOne.
Being a new device with more internal power, we hope there's a boost in resolution, although at 433 pixels-per-inch, the IPS LCD display in the first model is more than adequate. Perhaps a switch to AMOLED to get a more contrast-full colour saturated screen would good.
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