There’s a new addition to the BlackBerry lineup, and while it still means business, it’s got a playful edge with it’s selection of three colours (and their names): Slate, Champagne and Atomic (aka, red). The BlackBerry Key2 LE is a modern-looking device, assuming you don’t find the physical keyboard deeply anachronistic. And it’s got a solid selection of specs and a some welcome additions to its software.
So, what’s new? For starters, there’s a customisable “Speed Key” for one-button shortcuts, and BlackBerry’s snuggling up even closer to Google, whose Android operating system the company uses, by integrating Google Assistant, Google Lens and — in markets that support it — Google Pay into the Key2 LE.
But more on that Speed Key: it’s designed to let you perform a function, open a contact, or switch to an app without needing to head back to the home screen. But there’s more on the shortcut front, with the option to assign each physical key on the device to a custom shortcut. Assuming you can remember them all, that means the potential for up to 52 of them.
The 4.5in display is full-HD display with the unusual resolution of 1620×1080 and a ratio of 3:2 (the price you pay for that keyboard), and there’s a dual rear camera setup (13MP+5MP) that includes the now almost obligatory Portrait mode for blurry backgrounds, and an 8MP front-facing snapper with an LCD flash, support for “Wide Selfie (selfie panorama)” and — heaven help us — a beauty mode called Face Beauty, in case you want to look like a store mannequin.
Those aren’t the most inspiring specs on paper, but we’ll reserve judgment until we’ve had time with the actual device. we’re pleased to see Google Lens built-in, though. Not that it’s terribly useful now, but much like Google Photos was a little crusty to start with, it’s gone from novelty to necessity pretty rapidly.
Saving Ryan’s private (info)
BlackBerry’s always prided itself on its security features, and that’s still the case with the Key2 LE. A feature called Locker lets you manage what information you allow to head cloud wards, and creates a “personal space” on the device for storing sensitive apps, documents and photos. So your Candy Crush addiction and obsession with photos of the band Aqua can remain secret. It’s also possible to create separate work and personal accounts — a staple of BlackBerry devices — along with the good old BlackBerry Hub, that collates texts, instant messages and email in a single folder.
Mozilla’s privacy focused browser, Firefox Focus, comes preinstalled, to limit trackers’ ability to follow you around the web (and serve you ads for Eurovision) and wipe browsing history every time you close it.
BlackBerry’s also given its DTEK app a lick of paint and added “new scanning features for proactive security checks to easily identify and mitigate potential security risks, such as unwanted data access by a downloaded application”. The company has also committed to offering monthly security upgrades for Android.
The Key2 LE has 4GB of memory and comes in 32GB and 64GB variants, both of which can be expanded via microSD. The battery is a 3000mAh one which supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0… that should translate to about 50% charge in 40 minutes, so even if you’re obsessively watching old TV shows (conveniently, they tend to be shot in 3:2), you can always top up to run out to that meeting you’re now running late for.
The new handset goes on sale next month in a handful of markets, with a US price of $400 for the 32GB version and $450 for the 64GB. No word on when we can expect to see it in South Africa or what it’ll cost yet, though. Do you want one? Let us know in the comments or on social media. Allegedly, there are still BlackBerry users who do want physical keyboards and are happy to sacrifice screen real-estate or conventional aspect ratios in the process… we just aren’t them. But hey, at least there’s USB-C.