BlackBerry is not the great smartphone manufacturer that it used to be back in the days. Unfortunately, the Canadian company has lost a lot of ground in the past few years. At some point, a lot of people were fans of the physical keyboard that was the signature feature of the company, but over time all-screen smartphones gained terrain. However, this doesn’t mean that BlackBerry is totally out of the game. At least not yet. In the past 18 months, we witnessed Blackberry trying to make a comeback to the smartphone market by giving up the BlackBerry OS and opting for the popular Android software instead.
The Priv was the first BB device to feature this operating system. It may not have been a major success story, but it definitely was the beginning of the company’s comeback. Its most recent handset, the BlackBerry KEYone is another attempt to win some fans. Let’s compare it with the BlackBerry passport and see what has changed over the last three years.
The Passport is, in my opinion, one of the ugliest smartphones out there. Even in 2014, when it was released it was an ugly handset. However, it was a BlackBerry, and it was the last one which truly represented the company’s signature design until the KEYone. The almost square body of the smartphone with its pointy corners was definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Even so, it ran on BlackBerry’s own secure operating system and had a lot of great features to offer for that period. Its square 4.5-inch touchscreen display has 1440 x 1440 pixels resolution, which ensures clear and sharp images.
The BlackBerry Passport has a Snapdragon 801 quad-core chipset clocked at 2.26GHz. The handset includes 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. The Passport also features a microSD card slot which allows users to further expand their storage by up to 256GB. 3GB of RAM may not seem to be impressive now, but it was back in 2014 when the Passport was released. Other flagship smartphones then only offered 2GB of RAM. This feature only was enough to turn the BlackBerry Passport into one of the most powerful smartphones when it launched.
The 13MP back camera was also a nice feature of the handset. The camera offered optical image stabilization, autofocus and LED flash. It was able to record 1080p images at 60 frames per second. The front-facing camera is not impressive at all by today’s standards. Even so, in 2014 the 2MP selfie snapper was more than enough to make smartphone users happy. It was able to capture nice images and it was perfect for video calls also.
The 3,450mAh battery of the device is able to ensure up to 23 hours of talk-time. Even by today’s standards that is quite impressive. As we already mentioned, the Passport was the last device to feature the company’s signature physical keyboard and its secure operating system. The Blackberry OS had a lot of nice features, such as BlackBerry assistant, the BB hub, Blackberry maps, and others. It just ensured a totally different user experience than the one provided by Android. It wasn’t necessarily a better one, but it was a different one and that made BlackBerry so cool.
BlackBerry announced the KEYone model in February and we expect it to arrive in May. The upcoming smartphone is the first Android BlackBerry to have a similar design to the BB devices the majority of us loved. Just like the Passport, the Blackberry KEYone sports a 4.5-inch touchscreen display. However, this time, the design is a more appealing one. The smartphone isn’t as large and squarish as the Passport was. instead, BlackBerry delivered a handset that is a mix of the Blackberry Classic and the Priv, in my opinion. The pointy corners on the top of the handset look a lot like the ones we’ve seen in the Priv. The keyboard part, on the other hand, is similar to the one of the BlackBerry Classic and the Q10, with minor differences, of course.Surprisingly, the pixel density on this smartphone is lower than the one offered by the Passport.
The biggest surprise comes when we look at the chipset that powers the BlackBerry KEYone. The Canadian company opted for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 for its handset. This is far from being the top-tier processor nowadays. The Passport had the best processor that was available when it appeared, so we expected the KEYone to offer the same thing. That would have been a Snapdragon 821 at least, if not the more recent 835 model. Also, in terms of memory and storage, nothing has changed since the Passport. The BlackBerry KEYone includes the same 3GB of RAM and 32GB internal storage.
The only great improvement comes with the selfie camera of the smartphone. Instead of the Passport’s 2MP sensor, the front-facing camera of the Blackberry KEYone has an 8MP sensor. The back camera, however, suffered a downgrade from 13MP to 12MP. This is enough to capture good quality images, but I must admit, I expected something more impressive. f course, the camera of the BlackBerry KEYone is now able to shoot 2160p videos at 30 frames per second, but I’m not sure that’s enough for BlackBerry to regain its popularity.
The battery of the KEYone is also slightly better than the one of the Passport. The upcoming smartphone sports a 3,505mAh battery and it features fast charging, which is a nice thing. When it comes to the operating system, it’s hard to say whether ditching the BlackBerry OS for Android is a good thing or not. It’s clear that Google’s software is more popular and it has a ton of apps to offer, but the Canadian company could also upgrade its own software in order to make it more appealing to customers. At least, this is one of the most secure versions of Android, according to BlackBerry. Thankfully, the BlackBerry Hub is still there.
Naturally, the BlackBerry KEYone features a fingerprint sensor and a USB Type-C connector. Even though the Passport didn’t have them, we can’t say these are innovative features. We get them with the majority of smartphones that are available at this point on the market. Another downside to the BlackBerry KEYone is its price tag. Even though the handset can’t brag with high-end specs and features, it seems it will have a high-end price. The recommended retail price of the KEYone is $549.
Even though I loved my BlackBerry back in the days, I have to admit that I am a little disappointed by the new BlackBerry KEYone. I expected the Canadian company to deliver a high-end smartphone, instead, it seems it made a mid-ranger with a high-end price. Even the physical keyboard can’t make up for the rather weak chipset and the same 3GB of memory the BlackBerry flagship from 2014 had.