first_imgBlackBerry and physical QWERTY keyboards were literally inseparable once upon a time. Every time you talked about a physical QWERTY keyboard-based phone — there were lots and lots of them, once upon a time — the discussion would invariably drift towards a BlackBerry. Ironically, both BlackBerry and physical QWERTY keyboard-based phones are literally non-existent today. And yet, BlackBerry is back, and it’s back with a physical QWERTY keyboard-based phone.The phone in question is called simply the KEYone and with it, BlackBerry — the company responsible for making the physical QWERTY keyboard make sense — is aspiring to make the physical QWERTY keyboard make sense, one more time, even as it aspires to make sense — as a hardware company that can still do phones, albeit a little differently — among fans, enthusiasts and critics.It’s a complete blast from the past situation, if you ask me. But then again, if BlackBerry thinks, going back in the past is what was required to redeem itself, well, might as well sit down and see how that goes. No one did physical QWERTY keyboard-based phones like BlackBerry did after all. But then again, that was a long, long time ago, wasn’t it?The KEYone looks (and feels) nothing like the iconic Curve or the Bold. It looks somewhat like the Passport maybe, but then again, it’s a lot more elongated and a lot more cramped both at the same time. It takes some visual cues from the forgettable chaos, called the Priv, but, other than the physical QWERTY keyboard that sits at the bottom of the screen, there’s no telling that this is a BlackBerry-made phone. A part of it is obviously because it isn’t a BlackBerry-made phone per se.advertisement BlackBerry is back, and it’s back with a physical QWERTY keyboard-based phone It has been sometime that BlackBerry stopped manufacturing its own phones. Instead, going forward, it will focus solely on software, something that it is already very good at. That does not mean the end of BlackBerry-branded phones however. BlackBerry, although it will not make its own phones, will outsource the job to third-party manufacturers. Optiemus Infracom, if you haven’t heard already, is the home-grown telecom enterprise, responsible for manufacturing BlackBerry Android handsets in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. This is similar to the exclusive, long-term licensing agreement that BlackBerry signed previously with TCL Communication for global and PT BlackBerry Merah Putih for the Indonesian markets.All in all, BlackBerry now relies on three licensees to make and sell its phones globally. The software that’s inside these phones is, however, in complete control of the Canadian major.The KEYone, launched in India on Tuesday, is the same BlackBerry physical QWERTY-based Android phone with code-name Mercury that was launched globally in February earlier this year by TCL Communication. Optiemus has worked closely with TCL to bring the KEYone to India. Although, this is the same KEYone that TCL launched globally — it comes with more or less the same hardware specs — the KEYone launched by Optiemus in India features a slightly tweaked design, in that it is an all-black phone. BlackBerry is calling it the KEYone Limited Edition Black. This doesn’t mean that only limited quantities of the KEYone will be available for grabs in India though, a BlackBerry spokesperson confirmed to me. The KEYone that is available globally, for your reference, is black with grey/silver highlights on the edges and the keyboard.The USP of the KEYone is its full-scale physical QWERTY. Unlike the Priv (BlackBerry’s last QWERTY phone) however, the KEYone features the physical keyboard in continuation with the touch screen. The design is old-school BlackBerry, which suggests that the phone might have been on the company’s mind long before it hung its boots. It has been under development for a very long time, the spokesperson further added.The QWERTY, just like it was in the Priv, supports touch-gestures like scrolling and Flick Typing for predictive texting, as also over 50 app shortcuts. The space bar, meanwhile, gets a new fingerprint scanner up-top that is claimed to unlock the phone in just 0.5 seconds. The phone also comes with touch-based navigation keys directly above the keyboard. On the back, the KEYone sports a rugged material on top of metal. The BlackBerry logo graces the middle while a huge camera module with a dual-LED flash next to it, sits at the top. The module, however, sits flush into the body.On the right, the phone comes with a convenience key that allows you to quickly access an assigned app or shortcut from anywhere on the device, provided that it is powered up. The volume rocker also lies on the right. On the left lies the power button. The phone also comes with a USB Type-C port for charging and data-syncing and speaker cut-outs on either side.advertisementErstwhile, the BlackBerry KEYone comes with a bright and vibrant 4.5-inch 1080p screen with an unusual 3:2 aspect ratio (that would be convenient for web-scrolling and emails and not so much for multimedia consumption) and curved 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 4 on top. It is powered by a 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor clubbed with Adreno 506 GPU and 4GB of RAM. The phone comes with 64GB of internal storage which is further expandable by up to 2TB via a micro-SD card slot. The phone is backed by a 3,505mAh battery with support for Quick Charge 3.0 (50 per cent charge in roughly 36 minutes).The KEYone comes with a 12-megapixel camera — with a Sony IMX378 sensor — on the rear with f/2.0 “Large Pixel” similar to the one on-board the Google Pixel. The rear camera can record 4K videos. On the front, the KEYone comes with an 8-megapixel camera with f/2.2 aperture.The dual-SIM KEYone — in fact it is the first BlackBerry phone in India to support dual-SIMs — runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat out-of-the-box and a stock version of it with BlackBerry’s usual suite of security and productivity applications. Just like the Priv, the DTEK50 and the DTEK60, the KEYone is also being pitched as the most secure Android smartphone in the world. BlackBerry claims that the KEYone will receive security patches the same day that Google pushes them out.The phone has “device security built in from the start,” according to the company which, in all its fairness, sounds very reassuring. But chances are, many wouldn’t know (and understand) terms like hardware root of trust or secure bootloader, unless of course you’re a geek or a security professional. Also, the fact that the phone is literally encrypted to the T is hard to tell with a naked eye. But hey, at least you know, they are all there.The phone comes with an app called DTEK by BlackBerry that shows your device security status in real time. It doesn’t exactly seem like the gold standard though, as most of the time, setting up a mere screen lock entails in a ‘fair’ rating for the smartphone. But, that doesn’t mean, the DTEK app is any less useful. The most useful aspect of the app, without a doubt, has to be in the way it allows you to manually control app permissions. It gives you even the most miniscule information about an app and also lets you to directly allow or restrict certain permissions or to uninstall the app altogether, from within the app itself.BlackBerry may not be looking to play the nostalgia card, but, there’s no denying the fact that the KEYone is a very nostalgic phone advertisementJust like the Priv, the DTEK50 and the DTEK60, the KEYone seems to have its software in place. It comes with decent hardware as well, and the physical QWERTY is a useful addition, the usefulness of which would depend on the end-user. Then, there’s the nostalgia. “I think that the whole nostalgia thing is very interesting. I only put a small amount of importance to that. I think people remember BlackBerry and they like the memory. I think that a lot of people like the physical keyboard. But I think as new people also get to understand the value of the physical keyboard: how fast you can be on it, and how accurate, I think you will start seeing this move way past just old BlackBerry users,” the spokesperson said.   BlackBerry may not be looking to play the nostalgia card, but, there’s no denying the fact that the KEYone is a very nostalgic phone. Because it was under development during the time when BlackBerry was still alive and kicking in the hardware space, chances are that it might just be the last of its kind. Chances are there may not be another old-school BlackBerry with a physical QWERTY ever. Even if there is, it’s highly unlikely that it would recreate the same magic and the same nostalgia. The KEYone barely does that after all. The KEYone is still first and foremost an enterprise-only phone and the keyboard just adds a third dimension to the whole thing. But that’s about it. Moreover, even the enterprise seems to have moved on over the course of time to newer pastures. As for the KEYone — that is priced at Rs 39,990 — well, it’s still largely a collector’s edition device that you would want to buy if you have not crossed paths with the yesteryear classics like the Bold and the Curve. Watch this space for our full review of the BlackBerry KEYone in the days to come.Also Read: BlackBerry KEYone with physical QWERTY & Pixel-like camera launched in India for Rs 39,990last_img read more