BERLIN BlackBerry knows what fans want. Following the launch of BlackBerry KeyOne last year and BlackBerry Key2 in June, the new Key2 LE, together with its two predecessors, will keep on the basics of what really appeals to the BlackBerry users keyboard.
Announced here at IFA's Technical Trade Show, BlackBerry Key2 LE varies slightly in design and hardware, but boasts of device features that BlackBerry is known for: privacy and security.
Interestingly, BlackBerry did not need to try something dramatically different with LE. The rumored keyboard BlackBerry device and the even more unlikely Palm device were nowhere in sight. Several months after launch, Key2 can be found in most of BlackBerry's core markets, and should be available in all of them by the end of September.
Design and Features
Key2 LE is intended to build on the success of Key2 and expand BlackBerry's appeal by serving as an entry point for new customers and markets. It means both design and price, LE is the less expensive, less premium version of Key2.
The easier weight and plastic construction make it seem less durable, but Key2 LE still has a route of Gorilla Glass on the front. The back is grippy and felt quite comfortable in my hand. Dimensions are basically the same as Key2, which means that it may be a bit wide if you try to use it with one hand. The 4.5-inch 1
Most other physical features are the same. You get the same buttons in the same location, including the programmable softkey on the page, which is mapped to Google Assistant with a single tap or Google lens with a double tap. Unlike Samsung with Bixby, the features are not hard-coded, so you can convert it to the app you want.
The keyboard is about 15 percent bigger than KeyOne, and has the same easy-to-press angled keys as Key2. I found the writing experience to be comfortable. Each key is individually programmable via new Speed Key functionality, enabling quick access from anywhere on the device.
Where Key2 has an almost industrial look, with sides of machined aluminum and a heavy feel, the Key2 LE is more easy and has a little more flair. It comes in several colors with a bright red ribbon (BlackBerry calls it atomic), champagne and more standard silver that runs along the sides and in the nails between the keys. The back is still padded with a soft touch color and stylish, but the new color choices are a nice retreat from the conservative, professional design on Key2-especially for users who do not use it for business.
The failure here is the removal of capacitive movements that allowed you to sweep the keyboard for different functions. BlackBerry says that it removed them because most customers who might be interested in LE are more keen to use the keyboard instead of another page feature.
Camera, Software and Specifications
Key2 LE can not compromise too much when it comes to most physical features, but it has been scaled back in specifications. It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor and comes with 4GB of RAM instead of the 660-bit and 6GB of RAM you get on Key2.
The two storage options are 32GB and 64GB models. You will find a 3000mAh battery under the hood (charged by USB-C) with some additional "intelligent" software features that can provide contextual reminders to charge it. For example, the phone will keep track of your calendar so it can remind you to charge when you have any incidents. Key2 LE will also refrain from reminders when the device knows you will use it.
It's also QuickComm Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging with the included adapter. BlackBerry says that customers can get 22 hours of battery life out of Key2 LE during normal use, but we add it to our more intensive streaming test back in PC Labs to see how it does.
We were usually not too impressed by the camera on Key2, and it does not look like LE will change much in that regard. However, it is worth noting that BlackBerry added Portrait and Slo-Mo mode in LE.
It is a 13MP and 5MP rear sensor that took ok with regards to clarity and color rendering when tested in the bright room under our hands. The launch of the camera program seemed a bit slow and took a few seconds to take pictures. Key2 LE does not seem to work well in lower light settings, but we reserve the verdict for more thorough testing.
The software should be about or less identical to Key2. That means you get a device running Android 8.1 Oreo with an update to Android Pie promised.
Additionally, BlackBerry has some of its own custom apps and software, including the DTEK Security Dashboard app and Locker, which helps you manage device security and status. Locker is especially interesting because you can lock different apps, hide them from accessing an additional fingerprint lock or PIN code provided. If you have selfies on the risque side, you can put pictures in Locker and prevent them from being synced with the cloud.
BlackBerry's Midrange Smartphone Play
BlackBerry may call the Key2 LE entry level, but it's closer to what we'd like to consider in the unlocked market.
32GB Key2 LE will start at $ 399, while the 64GB version should reach $ 449. It puts it in the same range of medium-sized Moto G6 and only shy of higher unlocked phones like OnePlus 6. Key2 LE comes in at a more favorable price point for US consumers who tend to buy phones from carriers and only buy cheaper unlocked devices
The real sale for Key2 LE can not come from average consumers, but from businesses. LE is aimed at adjusting the budgets of finance and law firms who may want to equip their entire management level with a variety of BlackBerry devices. For example, senior management can get the more expensive Key2 while junior managers get LE.
Regardless, we look forward to putting BlackBerry Key2 LE into more comprehensive testing and will update as we discover more details about LTE tape and carrier availability. Stay up to date for more.