When we first learned about the BlackBerry Key2 LE, the company said it was developed in response to user input requesting a more economical version of QWERTY phones such as the BlackBerry Key2.
There have been several instances of a less priced, more mainstream version of the flagship phone being introduced, but there have also been instances of ‘light’ versions that should have never existed in the first place. This is one of the better ones: it takes the finest aspects of the Key2 and removes some of the excess fat to provide an inexpensive, though uninspiring, a business phone that is nonetheless functional.
It’s unlikely that anybody would purchase this instead of an iPhone XS. Still, large corporations purchasing phones for their staff may consider it the ideal business BlackBerry. The Key2 LE is much less expensive than the Key2: the 32GB variant costs $399/£349 (about AU$560), while the 64GB model costs $449/£399 (approximately AU$630). By comparison, the lowest-priced Key2 model costs $649/£579 (approximately AU$910).
Display and Design
The BlackBerry Key2 LE is a surprise phone. The ‘Champagne’ handset seems like it would be substantial with its thick gold-banded border, but the first thing you will notice on holding it up is how light it is. That’s because the metallic edge is not truly metal. It’s polycarbonate – but until you look carefully or touch it with a fingernail, it’s not visible.
The rear panel has a textured, soft, and rubberish feel, which means it’s not one of those bothersome phones that slide off your desk without a cover (looking at you, all glass-backed phones ever) (looking at you, all glass-backed phones ever). Oddly, the BlackBerry logo has been embossed in silver, so it does not match the phone’s light gold elements. Other than that, the rear is very simple, with only the dual-camera container (again rimmed in silver rather than gold) and dual-tone LED flash at the top.
The thick sides remind us of an Xperia handset, albeit with rounded edges rather than square. BlackBerry calls this an ‘iconic U-shape,’ which it is not, but it does seem very BlackBerry. As you would think with that physical keyboard, it’s not water-resistant like other Androids. On the left edge, which is thick enough actually to balance the phone on its side, is the SIM tray, which on our model allows for either two SIM cards or a SIM plus a microSD card, although this may vary by area.
The top edge features a complete 3. 5mm headphone jack, while the bottom edge has a centered USB-C connector and two sets of three drilled holes. Only the right-hand one includes a speaker, which means it’s simple to mute all the sound from the phone with the heel of your hand. It does send out clear and loud audio nonetheless. There’s a volume rocker, textured power key on the right side, and – one of our favorite features about the Key2, the ‘convenience key,’ which can be configured to activate up to three shortcuts, including speed dial and applications.
The key may automatically perform various things in different contexts – while linked to Bluetooth, or on a specific wireless network, for instance. Very clever. If you pick one shortcut, hitting the key will automatically accomplish that action. If you pick two or three, it will bring up a tiny menu, so you can choose the one you want. On the front of the Key2 LE, we have the major selling feature, the full QWERTY keyboard with a fingerprint sensor embedded into the space bar and a 4. 5-inch display.
It has bigger bezels than many contemporary phones, which is expected given the price. Still, the choice to incorporate three soft navigation buttons in addition to a complete physical keyboard means there’s even less screen area than it seems when turned off. Still, it’s a great panel, with 434 pixels per inch and realistic color reproduction rather than the over-saturation many manufacturers settle for. Its peak brightness is not exceptionally brilliant, but it does at least feature Gorilla Glass protection, so it should not break easily. Like the Key2, it’s a classy-looking phone, but that’s more unexpected at this price range. The BlackBerry Key2 LE surely seems like it costs more than it does.
The BlackBerry Key2 LE has a 3,000mAh battery, which is quite common these days, although it goes a bit farther owing to the phone’s smaller display. The Key2 LE only lasted a day or two when used for everyday tasks like phone calls, social networking, streaming videos, reading e-mails, and online shopping. Even if the phone needed a recharge after a few days of intense usage, the price point justifies it. For evenings out or critical activities, we’d carry a power pack. Even though this is a budget phone, the USB-C charging connector is still included.
Even though it’s becoming a typical feature on more inexpensive phones, BlackBerry still has an old-style micro USB connector. Using the Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 standard, the supplied charger charges up rapidly (BlackBerry claims 50 percent in 36 minutes, which was roughly true in our testing) and also provides you with the option of a quick “boost” charge.
Key2 LE retains an animation from earlier BlackBerry phones, which indicates how much power the phone has at a glance (the line shuts off automatically when it’s dark) with a colored line along the edge of the screen. This is a great feature that we hope is included in all future Android devices. BlackBerry Key2 LE’s battery life was acceptable when we did our normal power test, which entails setting the brightness to maximum and streaming a 90-minute HD film on full screen with accounts synchronizing in the background.
Although we weren’t expecting much from the Key2 LE’s cameras, we were pleasantly delighted by their quality, given the device’s pricing and BlackBerry’s concentration on business capabilities. Since the BlackBerry camera software doesn’t offer anything, it seems pointless to use the Android camera app on the Key2 LE, but it makes things a lot easier. There are just a few filters, auto/manual, HDR, portrait mode, panoramic, scanner, and slow-mo modes to be found here, so don’t expect anything fancy.
The BlackBerry Key2 LE logo — wait, make that the BlackBerry Key2 LE logo – may be added automatically to all of your images for some strange reason. Somebody out there has unintentionally activated that feature, resulting in their Facebook photos including the inscription “sent from my BlackBerry.”
Both the front and back cameras produce photographs of varying quality depending on the amount of light they are exposed to. Like the one we took of it below, a shot of a black cat in a cupboard in bright light will have sharp details. The front and back cameras have issues with less-than-ideal lighting, HDR photographs being too weird, interior photos having a distorted white balance, and low-light shots being mediocre at best. However, the dual-tone LED flash helps to mitigate this.