BlackBerry KEY2 is proof that the physical keyboard should have died a long time ago

Posted:  July 11, 2018   By:    64 comments   


You wouldn’t believe the debate we had in the office when we saw BlackBerry bring back the physical keyboard on an Android smartphone. On one side it was “why would you ever need a physical keyboard?” while the other was “omg you can’t beat a physical keyboard”.

It went on for hours but I think we settled on the fact that there were pros and cons for each. I was a little on the fence because I’m usually someone who prefers tactility over the absence of one. Then, I got to spend a good chunk of time typing on the BlackBerry KEY2 during the launch event and what I discovered was: The physical keyboard should have stayed dead.

In a world where manufacturers are actively trying to get rid of bezels and make screens as big as possible, not only did BlackBerry go against convention, they took convention and threw it into the rubbish bin. Not only does the KEY2 have fat bezels and a small screen, but the phone also features a physical keyboard — like a device out of time.

I suppose you could call it refreshing, and it is to an extent. Much like its predecessor, the KEYone, the phone you end up with is one that’s wildly different from pretty much anything else out right now. If you put it in a desk next to some of the other smartphones on sale today, there is no mistaking which device is your BlackBerry KEY2.

But while I love refreshing, I just can’t get behind that physical keyboard. I didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time with BlackBerry’s physical keyboards — not their Android phones nor the original BBs — so I couldn’t really form a solid opinion about them. During my brief experiences, I found the PRIV’s keyboard to be too mushy and dissatisfying. The KEYone’s was better but it still didn’t sell me on the idea.

Then the KEY2 launched in Malaysia and it was the longest I got to spend with BlackBerry’s idea of what the keyboard should be like. This new one has 20% taller individual keys and a new matte finish compared to the company’s conventional shiny keys. It was supposed to give the phone a better typing experience but honestly, I didn’t like it at all.

The new matte texture made the swipe up on the keyboard to insert word function that BlackBerry introduced with the PRIV much less responsive. I found myself being forced to swipe multiple times before the keyboard registered my motion. Maybe it was the particular unit I had with me, but it was a pain and definitely not something I experienced with the PRIV or KEYone.

Tactility on the new keyboard feels a little different thanks to the new texture too. Keys feel a little mushier than what I remembered the KEYone’s felt like and that was disappointing too.

But, for me personally, the worst part was the fact that it had a physical keyboard — and all the limitations that come with it — in the first place.

I felt immensely uncomfortable almost immediately. As a began typing on it, it was almost like my fingers had never typed anything on a phone before. They flubbed around awkwardly on the physical keyboard, trying their best to get the right keys, to adjust to the force required to actually press the key. It was so weird.

I didn’t realise just how much I was used to using a virtual on-screen keyboard when typing on a smartphone until I used the KEY2. I didn’t realise how little force I applied to each tap on the phone’s display until I had to physically press a key on the KEY2. It was frustrating and foreign because I had to exert so much more effort than I ever had to with an on-screen keyboard.

Then you need to consider the drawbacks of having this physical keyboard on a phone too, like the fact that you can only fit a tiny 4.5-inch Full HD IPS display on a phone that’s pretty much the same size as a regular device with a 5.99″ screen. And I don’t even want to think about playing mobile games or doing anything in landscape on this device.

What’s more, you’re also paying a substantial premium for the KEY2. Priced at RM2,599, this is the most expensive smartphone with a Snapdragon 660 processor.

Sure, the rest of the phone isn’t bad. It’s display is crisp with nice viewing angles, the overall performance with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage is smooth and the new 12MP dual camera system takes decent images. But you can also get all of that and more for less. Devices like the honor 10 and Nokia 7+ are almost RM1,000 less and can give you the same kind of experience.

Maybe you could make the case that you’re also paying for BlackBerry’s software enhancements and security features. But, if that’s the case, how were they able to sell the DTEK60 so affordably then?

I will give credit to BlackBerry for at least launching the new KEY2 at a lower price than they did with the KEYone, but that was a pretty low bar to clear anyway. For now, I don’t really see how this exorbitant price is justified, especially since my first impressions have left me feeling like the physical keyboard is more hindrance than benefit. Maybe there are other intangibles that I haven’t seen yet from my first hands on with the device. I guess that will have to wait until I get the chance to give this device a full review.

What do you guys think of the BlackBerry KEY2? Let me know in the comments below.

For more details on the phone, check out our announcement post.

EDIT: A previous version of this article stated that the KEY2 didn’t have glide typing because the unit we tested either had it disabled, or it wasn’t working. The article has since been updated and the error is regretted.


Android, BlackBerry, Mobile Devices, Mobile OS, Opinion
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64 Comments for BlackBerry KEY2 is proof that the physical keyboard should have died a long time ago

Kaustav

BlackBerry is dope. Physical Keypads are classic, i thinks you are a millennial born in 2000s who have no knowledge on keypad smartphones

    Citizen

    I was born in 80’s, and touch-based keyboard FTW. People move on along with technology.

      Zain

      To be honest, glass keyboards do not signify any greater technology. They are dime a dozen on every mobile phone. Glass screen keyboards are a commodity now. Just a free app! Nothing else….

    lol

    You can't expect a quality post from hype kids like rory…

    swan

    yall hypocrite talk co*k la, as if yall willing to pay rm2.6k just for a classic physical keypads phone with lousy spec

    prove to everyone, make bb sales go rage

      swan is stupid

      people merely disapproved author's claim against keyboard existence. nobody said the price is justified. learn to read and comprehend, kiddo.

        geniuswannabe

        if the price isnt 'justified' for you, then whats the point for you to be supportive toward it? talk like the existence of physical keyboard is still there but sendiri cant give real support, cause the only thing u can afford is talk, LEL

          swan is still stupid

          again, support for physical keyboard and the price of a specific device is totally unrelated. you have rationale problem. sad to say, this is too much for you to handle.

          swan

          totally unrelated LMAO it depends, proud to say, it is too expensive for u to handle

          such a pity

          pitiful. notice how people said "overpriced" instead of "too expensive"? that's because 2600 is just too trivial to be labelled as such. it's just so wrong on so many levels. well i don't blame you kiddo, one day you'll grow up to understand (hopefully, for God's sake)

Vicky

The phone looks great. However, with the hot competition l think blackberry should lower the price as the specs are not so premium. There should be also a premium version to cater for those elites. Using keyboard you can type with less mistakes and also increase productivity. Wish l can get the 128 GB version.

Zain

Dear Rory, I appreciate you taking time out to write in detail. Nothing bad but in all honestly we/you all should give a thumbs up to BB to do something different. Why not! You look around and you will find all sorts of products. It's just that Apple did something really unique and then the app meteor showers in IOS and then Android. In my view, what Android is today, BB should have done something like Android. Google saw the need, and BB didn't. BB kept their eyes closed and was rigid to adapt. You know the story. All said and done – fast forward to 2018; they are doing something right now. They have just started and I find them very very slow but nobody have the right to bash the physical keyboard. If you do not like it, do not buy it. Different people have different choices. That does not mean the keyboard should have stayed dead. There is a market for everything…. I am typing from a laptop with keyboard. It was not about the keyboard, their mistake was adapting the apps bombardment…. BBM was king like whatsapp is today; just imagine if they would have opened BBM to IOS and Android in 2010… Just imagine…. but alas….

Ace

If you play games on phones, you are not their target market.

Dash

It just showed that this device is NOT for you, and you failed to imagine the use cases for such device. It's an overstatement to say that "keyboard should have DIED" just because it's not of your liking.

    TLT

    That’s why HTC, Samsung, Motorola and HTC are still making smartphones with keyboard and remain best sellers.

Kumar

For BB fanboy here. Blackberry killed their latest product with its price.

whl

This phone is not for the strawberry generations.

BS

Swift key typing is so nice to use and fast + accurate. Physical keyboard is the ancient history Dy.

supercow

For those generations that never use a REAL keyboard can only bash the keyboard should have died long ago.
If you are a savvy QWERTY keyboard user, you can do typing without looking at it. You can do typing why hiding your phone at your back. Try to do that using swiping on your flat phone screen.

    swan

    ya buy a physical keyboard phone just to able yourself to do typing without looking at it

    pls buy one to help bb sales go rage, prove to everyone bb physical keyboard still has its own value, dont just comment n get hyped

      supercow

      How the hell you know I am not owning one? and also why I have to prove to you by buying one?

      Dude, get a life and stop bitching online for getting nowhere.

        swan

        how the hell i know you being so supportive here talking like u gonna own one but just faking shit? of course u need to prove, or not just wait for the bb sales to prove if theres still value in physical keyboard in a fking phone LEL

          lol

          Now you know why Apple is so rich… they easily milk from stupid brainless sheep like you.

      lol

      U stupid sheep missed the point, as usual.. He means the existence of physical keyboard is for easy typing. Why so butthurt when apple is not even mentioned in the article. go away, dumbass

syam7863

U might not be comfortable using the physical keyboard as u never actually used that before, but that doesn’t mean that physical keyboard should be extinct. If i dont like taking selfies, it doesn’t mean that front facing cameras should be obsolete.
But i do agree that the price is ridiculously high though. But it is unfair for u as a tech writer to write something like that just because u don’t like it.

Tan

i spend too much time correcting my typing on a virtual keyboard. I can’t wait to get back to a physical one

    phatcat

    this much is true, for us swipe typist virtual keyboard still prove to be not as accurate. Dual active language support still limited to SwiftKey and Gboard maybe a few others.

Black

Reasonable price should be RM1888

Useless Blog

There is a reason keyboard still remain. Imagine working on a pad that has no physical keyboard.

The main point is BB has no advance software. All this SWIFT input is software driven. Without it, you still type character by character.

However I agree that the price is not competitive.

I hope Soya Cincau can come out with better article. Use heart and brain, but not published by little kids.

One thing I salute is Soya Cincau won’t delete bad comments on their article. Not like Malaysia Wireless blog.

Jessica

Your review is biased. If you search for ‘blackberry keytwo review’ on google or youtube, you will find positive reviews. And the reviews are from tech experts. Some of them even ditched their iphone or samsung and use this blackberry for their daily driver. Don’t bash a product just because of a brand. You are just being prejudiced.

    swan

    tech experts talk shit about iphone and samsung merely just to flatter stupiak lowlife user like u to get views, remember one of the unboxtherapy youtubers gathering video? how many are they using the phone they praised, phone (iphones & samsung) that said to be ditched turn out to be the one mostly used among them.

    wake up pls kataks, kesian like shit yall LEL want to prove your point? make bb sales in the top 10 list, action pls guys, dont just talk talk talk

      lol

      "tech experts talk shit about iphone and samsung merely just to flatter stupiak lowlife user like u"

      No swan, they talk shit because iphone is truly a shit phone.

    V

    I agree with you..

Ali

Well.. physical keyboard allows u to reply msg without looking at the screen. Less accidents on the road and mall i guess

J.Lo

Lol..Those leave comments said that there are needed for a physical keyboard who are actually will spend money for this phone ?

    swan

    nah they just used to be 'righteous' to everything good at making essay to get likes, but in fact bb sales mcm shit, same goes to xiaomi huawiei high end phone, cant even see those on the top 10 sales list LEL

    patterndroid

    nah they just used to be 'righteous' to everything good at making essay to likes, but in fact bb sales mcm shit, same goes to xiaomi huawiei high end phone, cant even see those on the top 10 sales list.

    patternbanyak

    nah they just used to be 'righteous' to everything good at making essay to get likes, but in fact bb sales mcm sh**, same goes to xiaomi huawiei high end phone, cant even see those on the top 10 sales list.

    V

    I bought the keyONE at the same price when it first launched..

Jason

Pre-ordered mine. Sick of all these autocorrect mistakes

swan's fan

all talk about physical keyboard. small screen with normal 12MP camera and 64GB, SD660, rm2599…..y spent so much to have physical keyboard but come with mid spec.

Athena

Having a virtual keypad that does only typing with smudges all over the screen is still a NO for me. BB physical keyboard can actually do more than typing only. The trackpad on it allows you to scroll up and down and even open app without touching the screen. Also has a finger print scanner that doesn’t leave your finger print on the screen. Doesn’t look to me a plain old keyboard but a high tech keyboard.
Proper study and hands-on diagnostic before reviewing should be a professional techwriters way. Its not about like or not.

Amal

Reviewer baru nak up ni. Tak pernah tahu kepentingan adanya physical keyboard utk reply email yg banyak, taip report dll dlm masa yg terhad.

KCC

This post proof that you are not qualify for the review. You didn't even mentioned the epic battery life. This is a business oriented device, an optimal communication tool for business minded people, not millennial like you.

BB user

The title of this article is appalling. The article itself sounds a bit whiny to me. I, like many other Blackberry users, find it VERY efficient and practical to have a physical keyboard especially when it comes to sending emails. You should not say that one type of phone should “die out” just because you don’t like it. Just accept the fact that there is still a market for phones with a physical keyboard. Also, BB hub is awesome. I lovee the KeyOne and also the Classic. I am already using the KeyOne so I won’t be getting a KeyTwo but I would choose it in a heartbeat if I were to search for a new phone.

I hope that phones with a physical keyboard will continue to exist because I cannot fathom using a full touch screen phone which feels a bit regressive to me. I’ve been using physical keyboard phones since I can remember and failed at “advancing” to a full touch screen phone. But I can appreciate those who prefer full touch screen phones and will not say that they should not exist. Why can’t we have both? To each their own. Yes you can voice out your opinion but this is not how you should do a phone review.

Pao86

Lousy review. There is actually a swipe function on the physical keyboard that you can type by swiping. But yet you made bad remarks just because you did not know that the function can be turned on in settings.

    Rory Lee

    Upon double-checking, you're right, the KEY2 does support glide-typing. However, the KEY2 I tested either had that feature disabled or it wasn't working. Nevertheless, the article has been updated and the error is regretted. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

    Also, keep in mind that this is not a full review. This is a hands-on and first impressions.

      Pao86

      I see, good work on the quick correction. Perhaps the key2 software is not fine tuned yet for the launch or review unit that you tested on. I can confirm that the swipe typing in working as intended on my key1, so there shouldnt be any reason that it is not supported on the key2.

      Anyhow, I agree that the keyboard may not be for everybody in this age, but it serves really well for a segment of users still like myself who couldnt live with a on screen keyboard. Besides, the battery life and productivity features are also its strongest plus points against other competitors in the same price range.

U-sir

Put "in my personal, maybe shitty opinion" in the title. the article is just a rant on a product that you didn't like. and "You" does not equates to THE WHOLE SMARTPHONE MARKET. Come on la SC, write more good articles and not rants like this just because someone don't like physical keyboards.

    LOL

    Correct. In the WHOLE smartphone market blackberry is still number one. The impression that Apple Samsung and Huawei dominate the industry is a myth perpetuated by the media. Only minority don’t like keyboard.

DualSim

Physical keyboard should be on 10+ inches device only. Can utilize all ten fingers. In smaller device it’d make make an uncomfortable experience typing using two thumbs only. On screen keyboard is the way to go for small devices like smartphone for convenience.

Ayahlong

The only this is bad about this phone is its launch price… Sorry BB… However, i don't mind the keyboard at all. Still remember back in the day where i love typing on BB phone. Nowadays not really. Doesn't feel the soul or something. Haha… Its refreshing to see something new in smartphone nowadays.

Stanum

I won’t intend to buy this Blackberry Key2, but honestly I admire it as a business-oriented smartphone that suits professionals and corporate people.

While I agree at this price point, BB should put in a better processor instead of mid range, don’t forget it is different compare to other phones in the market, which means no direct competitors to let Blackberry keeps the price low or remains competitive.

Dear Rory,

As a reviewer, you should look at pros and cons of each device, for short term usage (while you are reviewing it), and project how it gonna held in long term (approximately at least 6-12 months in current industry standard).

As a reviewer with just few days or maybe at most 1-2 weeks testing, definitely you are not giving the device more time for yourself to adapt to it. First impression review is seriously for amateur reviewer!

If this is indeed a first time impression (which you failed to mention), by making such statement in the title you just give impression to the viewers how narrow minded you are as a reviewer.

Now, is there any DISLIKE button in soyacincau?

nick

typing long text with physical keyboard and ability to move the cursor using "touch joystick" is superior to any touchscreen typing. overly millennial hands-on review

myIMHO

I won't intend to buy this Blackberry Key2, but honestly I admire it as a business-oriented smartphone that suits professionals and corporate people.

While I agree at this price point, BB should put in a better processor instead of mid range, don't forget it is different compare to other phones in the market, which means no direct competitors to let Blackberry keeps the price low or remains competitive.

Roccofins

Rory ..you said you do not spend time much with physical keyboard clearly shows you are a millennium born…I have used all models from the 90’s Nokia banana Motorola startac up to current iPhone to Samsung s series and note series and even OPPO and Huawei…android
Ios and bb10 platforms.. from experience without bias blackberry keyboard is the best typing experience ..very accurate and not error probe like Samsung ..oppo and others…. blackberry is mean to be use for business community not for rookies and gamer.. it is all about productivity and big plus point it does not consume heavy battery. So it does not need a 820 or later processor.. if you a gamer and social usage blackberry is not you cup to tea…

V

I am owning a bb keyONE, and I have to say that the physical keyboard is nice to type on without looking at the keyboard and it’s a capacitive keyboard.. besides that, it serves as shortcut to any apps that you want.. so this phone is for people who like it simple and straightforward..

KeyboardWarrior

“500 dollars? Fully subsidised with a plan? That is the most expensive phone in the world and it does not appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard.” – Microsoft CEO on iPhone.

Where is Microsoft and blackberry today?

mola

look at all the BB fans' butt.. get soe cream to apply at the burnt area.

    phatcat

    your post is missing an 'm'. you know why? it is typed with non physical keyboard. now kneel before the key2 and acknowledge all its glory. kneel peasants!

Kai Meng

Very low quality review. Hopefully the chief editor will do something about this.

Duck

You Blackberry fan boys should check out unbox therapy video. He hates the Key2 and the keyboard is slow. LMAO

thestone

swan is rory?

Busco

You can say whatever, but for me physical keyboard is the way to go. I truly and sincerely find physical keyboards to be the best and I absolutely hate touch keyboards.