BLACKBERRY KEY2 vs KEYone & PRIV Comparison

Rather than a traditional review of the KEY2 (which is coming later from BlackBerryBrad) we have spent a month with the new BlackBerry Mobile flagship device, road testing the phone in many settings. As many of our readers who love their keyboard devices are upgrading from another BlackBerry Android keyboard device like the BlackBerry PRIV or the newer BlackBerry KEYone, we wanted to run a comparison article between the 3 devices listing the pros and cons as well as comparing the specs.

Now, unlike many reviews from mainstream media and tech publications that you may have seen, we at BerryReporter have actually road-tested this device from front to back over the last few weeks to give you some in-depth reviews from various angles.

  • HARDWARE:

Let’s start with taking a look at the hardware for all three devices. Now if your upgrading from a BlackBerry PRIV there are a number of key differences in specs and visually. After playing the spec game with the PRIV there is a reason why BlackBerry Mobile chose the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 chip to power the BlackBerry KEY2 rather than a more powerful chip. While some in the tech media have ignorantly criticised the decision to use the Qualcomm 660 chip, BlackBerry Mobile have specifically used a chip that will optimise the battery life on the phone. The rationale behind this decision was so that you can squeeze up to two days of battery life out of the BlackBerry KEY2. This is slightly better than I personally got on the BlackBerry KEYone previously and dramatically better than PRIV which I sadly only managed to get 12 hours a day of battery life out of on average.

BlackBerry Mobile beefed up the specs in other areas of the BlackBerry KEY2 with 6GB of RAM and 64GB (or 128GB on the dual SIM version) of internal storage. The BlackBerry KEY2 doesn’t have any signs of lag nor overheating that was prevalent on the BlackBerry PRIV or BlackBerry KEYone and frustrated many users.

Not only is it a great looking phone, the build quality of the BlackBerry KEY2 is also great with a strong aluminium shell and a grippy back cover which is an improvement over the PRIV and KEYone. Coming in 2 different colors and 3 variations with the silver version being my favourite with a reminiscent of the BB10 Passport Silver Edition.

Screen size is another complaint about the KEY2 ive read elsewhere, but don’t believe the hype. If you use the phone effectively by using the tactile keyboard to scroll then you won’t be taking up valuable screen real estate. Coming from the 5.4” screen of the PRIV it might take a little getting used again but it shouldn’t be a real deal breaker. My concern with the screen is that it could be brighter. If you are coming from the BlackBerry PRIV lack of brightness might be a little disappointing.  It is also strange that they used  Gorilla Glass 3 rather than Gorilla Glass 4 which was used on the BlackBerry KEYone or PRIV. But don’t worry if you’re coming from the KEYone there are no screen pop out issues here.

Speaker wise the BlackBerry KEY2 is still rocking a mono speaker and it could be a little louder but nothing that will stop you from listening to your favourite tunes. The BlackBerry Convivence Key is also back and can be used to pre-program up to 12 of your favourite apps with the use of 4 different modes.  If you are coming from the BlackBerry PRIV this should be a welcomed feature as you only had the ability to swipe up to gain quick access to three apps.

USB OTG is also available with the USB Type C Quick charging 3.0 which allows the 3500 MaH battery to be charged in less 40 minutes. The battery is ever so slightly smaller than the KEYone but the software optimisations mean that battery life shouldn’t be compromised. Compared to the BlackBerry PRIV not only is battery much bigger but battery life has almost quadrupled.

  • SECURITY:

It goes without saying that with any BlackBerry device, security is at the core and for those coming from the BlackBerry PRIV you will now have access to some pretty cool security features. The first thing you will notice is a fingerprint scanner built into the Keyboard. While on the subject of security there is an all new Locker mode which has improved on the KEYone’s iteration by allowing you to add apps as well as pics, videos and files to locker. KEY2 also comes preinstalled with Firefox Focus browser in the Locker mode for private browsing.

  • KEYBOARD:

The keyboard on the BlackBerry KEY2 is hands down the best keyboard ever on a BlackBerry to date and don’t say this lightly as I’ve used 15 different BlackBerry devices over a 14-year period. The keys are 20% bigger than the KEYone and the far bigger than the slide out keyboard featured on the PRIV. Coupled with the excellent BlackBerry Keyboard software and BlackBerry Launcher that allows for up to 52 programmable shortcuts and the tactile keyboard that allows for flick typing and the device to be used a trackpad for scrolling websites, apps and messages.

The KEY2 also features a brand-new key called the BlackBerry Speed Key. The Speed Key enhances multitasking on the device without you ever leaving an app to improve your productivity levels. This is a first as the Speed Key wasn’t previously available on either the KEYone or PRIV devices.

  • SOFTWARE:

Software wise jumping from a BlackBerry PRIV, which rocked Android 6 Marshmallow, to a KEY2, which is rocking Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, there are number of differences you will notice. These include battery and security enhancements, improved notifications, UI changes, picture in picture mode and more.

Now all the usual BlackBerry productivity and security apps such as Hub; DTEK, Privacy Shade etc are available out of the box. However, for the purpose of this review we are going to look some of the changes surrounding BlackBerry’s new and updated preloaded apps and there take on Android Oreo.

BlackBerry Boost Mode would be one of the first things you notice if you are coming from the BlackBerry PRIV. the KEY2 not only uses USB type C but Quick Charge 3.0 by Qualcomm. This is now enhanced by Boost Mode which rapid charges the KEY2 to 50% in 36 mins. Talking of battery, there is also the BlackBerry Power Centre app that helps you optimize the power usage of your KEY2 so that you can make sure that your phone has power when you need it the most. The app learns how often you charge your phone and there are also updates reminding you of when to charge especially if you have an important appointment coming up. KEYone users already have access to the above but this feature will be new for PRIV owners.

To enhance your productivity the BlackBerry has also included a great Sound Recording app for recording notes that saves to your SD card or device memory. There is also a built File app for those coming from PRIV so no need to download one. Also, for those who use USB OTG will also be happy to know that this feature from KEYone and PRIV is still available on the KEY2.

Security wise the new updated Locker mode which now allows for apps as well as files, pics and videos to be added to the locker is not new for PRIV owners but updated from KEYone version. Locker mode also has Firefox Focus browser preinstalled for private browsing and Password Keeper is also enhanced in Oreo 8.1 using the built-in autofill mode.

Google have pre-loaded some of their own new apps including the excellent Google Assistant app. While this is available on the BlackBerry PRIV, the super useful Google Lens app is also built in exclusively for the BlackBerry KEY2 in Google Assistant and the device’s camera and the fun Google Wallpaper app is also pre-loaded. Finally, there is also FM radio built into the KEY2 which is an all new feature coming from the PRIV that works with the device’s headphone jack and a pair of earbuds as an antenna.

  • CAMERA:

Moving on from software but still connected is the updated camera and camera software coming from the PRIV. If your coming from the BlackBerry KEYone the built-in scanner for documents, whiteboards and business cards is still in the BlackBerry KEY2 camera software. There are also additional goodies like Portrait mode, superzoom and the excellent Google Lens feature which comes built in to the KEY2 camera.

The BlackBerry PRIV used an 18 MP back camera, certified by Schneider-Kreuznach with dual flash and OIS but only a 2MB front camera. The BlackBerry KEYone came with 12MB with the Sony IMX378 sensor that was also used by the Pixel but no OIS. The KEY2 comes equipped with the first ever BlackBerry dual rear 12MB camera and in some ways the camera has improved from the PRIV and BlackBerry KEYone. But the lack of OIS again on the device is a bit of let down coming from the BlackBerry PRIV and hopefully will be addressed in new BlackBerry Mobile devices to take the camera experience to the next level. Brad will touch on the KEY2 camera in his review in more detail so look out for that.

  • VERDICT:

Without a doubt the BlackBerry KEY2 wins hands down in this battle of the current BlackBerry flagship and its two predecessors. This is simply the BEST BlackBerry device made to date with several productivity, security, battery and software enhancements as well as design improvements, this phone has been a joy to use. BlackBerry Mobile have produced the best ever keyboard for a mobile device building on the tactile keyboard featured on the KEYone and the PRIV but with enlarged keys and the all new Speed Key this device is a multitasking powerhouse!

In conclusion the BlackBerry KEY2 is simply the device that the KEYone should have been last year with BlackBerry Mobile have taken on the feedback and producing a worthy successor in the “KEY” range. If your reading this and your coming from the PRIV, what are you waiting for? You won’t be disappointed with the KEY2’s dramatic jump in not just the device’s specs but improved battery life, no lag or overheating issues, better call quality, toughened security and the software jump from Android Marshmallow 6 to Oreo’s 8.1 software (and next year Pie 9.1) you need to run to your nearest retail store or computer and order one ASAP! The only thing you should be contemplating after reading this review is do I get the black model or the silver model at 64GB? Or shall I pay a small premium and make the jump to 128GB Dual SIM version. If your a BlackBerry fan and love your physical keyboard trust me you won’t be disappointed.

 

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HakBerry

BerryReporter's International Correspondent based in London, UK and has been a BlackBerry user since 2004 across 16 different devices. My first BlackBerry was a blue 7290 and I'm currently using both a BlackBerry KEY2 and Motion for work and personal use. I love running and going to the gym plus I'm also a huge music, movie, tech and sports fan. My favourite sports include Boxing; MMA and Athletics to Basketball (Miami Heat) and Football (Liverpool FC). You can add me on BBM via my custom PIN: USMmedia

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