The era of QWERTY keyboard-packing smartphones is well in the past, but BlackBerry miraculously keeps chugging along, pumping out Android-powered handsets for the few who can't live with touchscreen keyboards.
Good on them. And they're really figuring out their niche of late: last year's BlackBerry KeyOne impressed with an excellent keyboard, great build quality, and a pretty reasonable price. Now the Key2 is officially on the horizon, and the rumour mill has been filling in the gaps on what to expect from the handset.
Will the BlackBerry Key2 be the handset that puts BlackBerry back in the spotlight? Here's everything we've heard so far.
When will the BlackBerry Key2 be out?
It's official: we'll see the BlackBerry Key2 on 7 June. The company just announced an event in New York for that date, and in case there was any confusion, the teaser image has the official BlackBerry Key2 logo on it.
The KeyOne has been out for more than a year now, launching in February 2017 and releasing last April, so it's about time for a replacement to come along. Expect the release to come sometime in June or July following the 7 June debut.
If you've been anxiously awaiting a new BlackBerry, then you can start counting down the days 'til 7 June.
How much will the BlackBerry Key2 cost?
The original BlackBerry KeyOne was well-priced at 39,990, putting it below the level of top-end flagships while still packing some pretty nice internals.
We haven't heard any solid rumours about the Key2's expected price point, but based on the rumoured specs, we don't anticipate a large price bump. Something in the ₹45-50k range makes sense, although keeping the ₹45 tag would be a smart move.
A slight increase makes sense, given the constant climb of smartphone prices, but there's no reason to expect anything significant.
What will the BlackBerry Key2 look like?
Leaked renders (via CrackBerry) showcase a device that isn't too far off from the original KeyOne design, albeit with some subtle tweaks.
The overall design is largely the same, with what looks like a smushed Android phone on top with a small keyboard affixed at the bottom. It still has a grippy back, too, which should help with holding onto the thing while typing out on-the-go essays.
That said, the Key2 renders and leaked photos show flatter sides all around, whereas the KeyOne had rounded sides. There's also a dual-camera array on the back, as opposed to the single shooter on the KeyOne.
According to CrackBerry, the leaked photos suggest that the Key2's keys are slightly larger and flatter than the KeyOne's, with a matte finish instead of glossy.
Between the renders and photos, we have a pretty good idea of what to expect: a slightly more refined version of the KeyOne. If it keeps the same kind of build quality, then we're onboard.
What about the BlackBerry Key2's screen?
Making space for a keyboard means taking space away from the screen – an uncommon proposal in a market increasingly dominated by large-screen superphones.
Still, it worked out pretty well on the KeyOne. The odd 3:2 aspect ratio impacted media and games, but the 1080p resolution made the 4.5in LCD pretty crisp. Key2 leaks haven't really said much about the display, but from the looks of it, BlackBerry isn't making very big changes to the approach.
Expect something along the lines of the boxy, 4.5in 1080p LCD from the KeyOne. It still won't be great for games and widescreen video, but at least it'll work fine for emails and texting.
How much power will the BlackBerry Key2 pack?
BlackBerry went firmly mid-range for the KeyOne, using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 CPU and 3GB RAM – and honestly, we didn't have any complaints. Everything ran just fine.
Leaks suggest that BlackBerry is sticking with the same kind of approach this time around, using the newer (but still mid-range) Snapdragon 660 as the backbone of the experience. However, leaks claim a whopping 6GB RAM this time around – probably more than you'd need, given how well the KeyOne ran, but we're not complaining.
The Snapdragon 660 should provide plenty of power for a device like this, even if it's not quite top-tier flagship-quality.
What kind of camera will the BlackBerry Key2 have?
The single 12-megapixel (f/2.0) back camera was one was in which the BlackBerry KeyOne disappointed, thanks to mediocre image processing and an unfriendly camera app. It also ran a bit slow and lacked optical image stabilisation.
Will the Key2 improve upon that? We sure hope so. At the very least, it'll double up on back cameras, as leaked photos and renders show a dual-camera array. Unfortunately, we haven't heard any clear details on specs and enhancements, so we're not sure whether they'll be better… or just more.
Also, note that the purported photo taken with the phone (above right) has a BlackBerry Key2 logo on it that matches the official one teased out by BlackBerry.
We have to think that BlackBerry heard the criticism about the KeyOne's so-so main shooter – but that said, we're not expecting anything flagship-quality here. Hopefully we'll get something that's a little faster with a friendlier app attached.
Is there anything else I should know about the BlackBerry Key2?
Yes! Unlike a lot of phones these days, the BlackBerry Key2 looks to be keeping its 3.5mm headphone port – that's according to the leaked renders, at least.
We'll hopefully see a storage boost this time around: the KeyOne had just 32GB, but leaks claim that we'll see 64GB in the Key2. Hopefully microSD support remains intact this time around, too.
And the Wi-Fi certification claims that it'll run Android Oreo out of the box, which shouldn't be too surprising. Android P is right around the corner, but the BlackBerry Key2 will probably release before the full version of the OS.
Leaks and rumours suggest an incremental upgrade to the KeyOne, but given how strong last year's phone was, we expect the BlackBerry Key2 to be another solid, keyboard-aided smartphone. We'll find out for sure on 7 June.