When the BlackBerry Key2 LE, the firm told us it was created in response to customer feedback asking for a more affordable version of QWERTY phones like the BlackBerry Key2.
A less expensive, more mainstream version of a flagship phone is a concept that's been tried and proven many times, but we've also seen some 'lite' versions that should never have existed. This is one of the good ones: it takes the best features of the Key2 and trims some of the fat to create an affordable, if unexciting, work phone.
No one's going to buy this instead of an iPhone XS, but big companies buying in phones for their employees might well see it as the perfect business BlackBerry.
The Key2 LE offers a significant cost saving over the Key2: the 32GB Key2 LE model is $399/£349 (roughly AU$560) and the 64GB version comes in at $449/£399 (around AU$630), while the lowest model of the standard Key2 is $649/£579 (approximately AU$910).
While the more expensive phone has been available since June 2018, its newer sibling launched in the UK, US, Canada, the Middle East, Germany and France in October.
Design and display
- 150.25 x 71.8 x 8.35mm, 156g
- 3.5mm headphone jack and USB-C
- 4.5-inch 1080 x 1620 IPS display
The BlackBerry Key2 LE is a surprising phone. The 'Champagne' handset looks like it will be weighty with its thick gold-banded edge, but the first thing you’ll notice on picking it up is how light it is.
That's because the metallic edge isn't actually metal, it's polycarbonate – but unless you look closely, or tap it with a fingernail, it's not obvious.
The back panel has a textured, soft and rubberish feel, which means it’s not one of those irritating phones that slips off your desk without a case (looking at you, all glass-backed phones ever).
Oddly, the BlackBerry logo has been embossed in silver, so it doesn’t match all the pale gold accents on the phone. Other than that, the back is pretty understated, with just the dual-camera enclosure (again ringed in silver rather than gold) and dual-tone LED flash at the top.
The chunky sides remind us of an Xperia device, but with rounded corners rather than square.
BlackBerry calls this an 'iconic U-shape', which it isn't, but it does look very BlackBerry. As you might expect with that physical keyboard, it's not water-resistant like some Androids.
On the left edge – which is thick enough to actually balance the phone on its side – is the SIM tray, which on our model allows for either two SIM cards or a SIM and a microSD card, but this will vary by territory.
The top edge has a full 3.5mm headphone jack, while the bottom edge has a centered USB-C port and two sets of three drilled holes.
Only the right-hand one contains a speaker, which means it’s easy to muffle all the sound from the phone with the heel of your hand. It does put out clear and strong audio though.
On the right edge there's a volume rocker, textured power key and – one of our favorite things about the Key2 – the 'convenience key', which can be programmed to launch up to three shortcuts, including speed dial and apps.
The key can automatically do different things in different situations – when connected to Bluetooth, or on a particular wireless network, for instance. Very smart.
If you only choose one shortcut, pressing the key will automatically do that thing. If you choose two or three, it will pop up a little menu, so you can select the one you want.
On the front of the Key2 LE, we've got the main selling point – the full QWERTY keyboard with fingerprint sensor built into the space bar, and a 4.5-inch display.
It has thicker bezels than many current phones, which is understandable given the price, but the decision to include three soft navigation keys in addition to a full physical keyboard means there's even less screen space than it looks when switched off.
Still, it's a quality panel, with 434 pixels per inch and realistic color reproduction rather than the over-saturation many manufacturers opt for.
Its top brightness isn't especially dazzling, but it does at least have Gorilla Glass protection, so it shouldn't smash easily.
Like the Key2, it's a classy-looking phone, but that's more surprising at this price point. The BlackBerry Key2 LE definitely looks like it costs more than it does.