The physical keyboard may seem like an anachronism for many a smartphone consumer, hearkening back to a time before Apple and the iPhone took over as the market leader in the mobile phone space. But the BlackBerry KEY2 has stood out as a device that sticks to the company's tradition of releasing phones with physical keyboards, with initial reviews mixed on whether the KEY2's keyboard is one of its best or one of its worst features.
In his BlackBerry KEY2 review, Gizmodo's Sam Rutherford commented that the device comes with a "fantastic" keyboard, which he said was notable because of how he has gotten "much more accustomed" to the touch keyboards found on almost every other smartphone currently out in the market. Rutherford also focused on the customization element provided by the Speed key, which adds to the KEY2's 52 shortcuts by allowing users to create their own shortcuts for texting specific contacts, turning Bluetooth on and off, and performing various other tasks on the device.
Talking about the BlackBerry KEY2 keyboard's actual build, Rutherford said that the device's keys are "even clicker and sturdier" than on previous devices, and come with a built-in backlight that lets users compose text messages or emails even without sufficient lighting. The space bar was also mentioned as having more than one use, as it also doubles as a fingerprint reader. All in all, Rutherford described the KEY2's keyboard as the "heart of the device," and not just a "set of old-fashioned buttons."
As a former BlackBerry user who used the KEY2 for 10 days for review purposes, Business Insider's Avery Hartmans wrote that she "enjoyed the look and the feel" of the new device, praising its "rugged and vaguely pleasant" textured back and its day-and-a-half worth of battery life in between charges.
On the other hand, Hartmans was critical when describing the keyboard, citing the KEY2's lack of a physical home button, which could confuse some users who might instinctively hit the space button, instead of the actual digital home button above the keyboard. Furthermore, Hartmans opined that the space bar is "not ideal" as a fingerprint scanner, as it took her multiple tries to unlock the test device. The keyboard's biggest drawbacks, however, were its slow performance and lack of flexibility, as Hartmans further noted.Neowin writer Rich Woods, like the other two reviewers, took a detailed look at the BlackBerry KEY2's keyboard in his review, acknowledging that the physical keyboard has its pros and cons and that consumers will "really have to want" that feature when considering whether to buy the KEY2 or not. Like Gizmodo's Rutherford, Woods liked the ability to program shortcuts and mentioned the Convenience Key (for showing up to three shortcuts at a time) and swipe functions among his other favorites among the keyboard features.
For the most part, all three reviewers were in agreement that the KEY2 is not a smartphone for everybody, with Woods pointing out that it was designed as a productivity phone, and not the ideal device for those who enjoy playing games on their mobile devices.
As noted on the Gizmodo BlackBerry KEY2 review, the device is priced at $650 and comes with basic specifications that include a 4.5-inch, 1,620 x 1,080 resolution display, a dual 12-megapixel rear camera setup, an 8-megapixel front camera, and a Snapdragon 660 processor with 6GB RAM.