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BlackBerry Key2 review

All business in the front and back, less of a multimedia party anywhere in between

BlackBerry's comeback – by way of TCL Communications – offers something that hasn’t been available before last year. It’s the only way to type on a physical smartphone keyboard without having to carry around a beat-up old pre-Android BlackBerry. We’ve seen people do this in 2018 – as recently as this week.

The Key2 continues BlackBerry's fascinating comeback story with a sequel that gives us 20% larger keys, a sturdier aluminum design, a faster chipset, and the shortcut-focused Speed Key. 

It’s not enough of an upgrade to tempt most KeyOne users into a costly one-year upgrade, as it’s at least 16% more expensive this time around. And it won’t lure most younger users from their on-screen keyboard muscle memory. The wonky screen aspect ratio and flawed portrait mode doesn’t help BlackBerry's case with millennials.

But anyone who has ever said ‘I miss my old BlackBerry’ should give the BlackBerry Key2 a shot. It’s not where smartphones are going, but an example of how standing out from the oversaturated all-screen smartphone crowd can gain a following – even if it’s only a cult hit.

Who’s it for?

Key2 is best in the hands of anyone that sees physical smartphone keyboards as a solution to their autocorrect typing woes. But while we said that last year, it’s not enough of an upgrade for people who already bought into the Key2 (unless you’re a business tycoon with untold cash). It’s mostly for people who want to cling onto the old-school physical keyboard, or want something completely different from the iPhone and other Android phones currently out there.

Should I buy it?

Yes, if you’ve missed out on the KeyOne and yearn to feel a tactile smartphone keyboard under your thumbs again, this is your best (and only) new solution in 2018. Know that it is more expensive than the KeyOne at launch last year, and the KeyOne is now easier to pick up on sale. But it's enough of a step up, mostly thanks to the 20% larger keys, to spend the extra money if you have it.

Competition

iPhone 8

Apple's iPhone 8 is the closest new iPhone to the Key2 in price and while Blackberry has been known for its enterprise security, iOS 11 (soon to be iOS 12) has plenty of text and video messaging features with end-to-end encryption built-in. It also offers ease-of-use for people coming off of their 'Crackberry' addiction. What may have them retreating back to something like the Key2, however, is autocorrect, which can be frustrating (or, at times, hilarious). Physical keyboards, when you get used to them, are often more accurate, though slower, when it comes to typing.

Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung is the best Android alternative for a BlackBerry user on the fence when it comes to sticking with BB hardware or jumping ship to another Android handset. What we like about the Galaxy S9 is that its all-screen design seems like the future of smartphones, with a curved, always-on display. It feels great to hold in one hand (or two if you opt for the Galaxy S9 Plus). Just be prepared to pay more for the Galaxy S9 and swap out the Samsung keyboard for Google's Gboard.