All the differences worth knowing

Considering how little choice there is when looking for a smartphone with physical keypad, the release of the BlackBerry KEY2 should be cheered for at least bringing a little more variety to the table. The only other notable phone with a keypad on the market is its predecessor, the BlackBerry KEYone.

How does the two phones compare? Is it a big enough leap? Does the older device look like a better deal now? Let’s break down the differences, similarities and various features.

Don’t miss: BlackBerry KEY2 hands-on: It’s all about speed

BlackBerry KEY2 vs BlackBerry KEYone: Design

The KEY2 builds on the solid foundation already laid down by the KEYone, adopting the same candybar form factor and QWERTY keypad combination (down to the fingerprint scanner in the spacebar). If you’re hankering for a different look, you’re out of luck.

Still, it brings a few refinements, coming in lighter and slightly thinner. Notice how the KEYone’s quirky top bezel has been tweaked on the new phone, blending into the front rather than standing out.

blackberry key2

Those physical keys are now larger, which should help if you found yourself double-pressing on the KEYone. The new Speed Key in the bottom-right also helps users jump straight into apps of their choosing from any screen or app.

The last major newsworthy move here is the decision to retain the 3.5mm headphone jack. That means you don’t need an adapter, USB Type-C headphones, or Bluetooth to listen to your favorite tracks.

A big upgrade in power?

The KEYone was basically a Moto G5S Plus or Redmi Note 4 with a physical keypad. It packed the same mid-range Snapdragon 625 chipset, 3GB or 4GB of RAM and 32GB or 64GB of storage. Its high price tag was a little disappointing, given the mostly mid-range spec sheet.

Thankfully, the BlackBerry KEY2 delivers a solid power boost with its more capable Snapdragon 660 chipset and 6GB of RAM standard. It’s also got 64GB and 128GB storage options, so you might not need to buy a microSD card right away.

The Snapdragon 660 chipset is the Snapdragon 835’s little sibling in a few ways, offering semi-custom Kryo cores for one. They’re not the 835’s more advanced Kryo 280 cores, but they offer more overall power than the Snapdragon 625’s cores. It also features the Hexagon 680 digital signal processor (DSP), used in conjunction with the CPU and GPU for machine learning tasks.

  BlackBerry KEY2 BlackBerry KEYone
Display 4.5-inch IPS LCD
1,620 x 1,080 resolution
3:2 aspect ratio
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
4.5-inch IPS LCD
1,620 x 1,080 resolution
3:2 aspect ratio
Corning Gorilla Glass 4
Keyboard Touch-enabled 35 key backlit physical QWERTY keyboard
Integrated fingerprint sensor
Touch-enabled 35 key backlit physical QWERTY keyboard
Integrated fingerprint sensor
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 660
2.2 + 1.8GHz, 64-bit
Kryo 260 octa-core
Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
Cortex-A53 octa-core
GPU Adreno 512 Adreno 506
Storage 64GB/128GB
microSD expansion up to 256GB
microSD expansion up to 2TB
Cameras Rear:
Main: 12MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture, 1.28μm pixels,
Second: 12MP sensor with f/2.6 aperture, 1μm pixels,
4K video recording at 30fps

Front: 8MP fixed-focus camera with f/2.0 aperture, 1.12μm pixel size,
1080p video recording at 30fps

12MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture, 1.55µm pixel size
4K video recording at 30fps

8MP fixed-focus camera with f/2.2 aperture, 1.125µm pixel size, 1080p video recording at 30fps

Headphone jack Yes Yes
Battery 3,500mAh
Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
Quick Charge 3.0
Sensors GPS/A-GPS
Ambient light
Ambient light
Hall Effect
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n for 2.4GHz, 802.11 a/n and a/c for 5GHz
Bluetooth 5.0 LE
USB Type-C
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n for 2.4 GHz, 802.11 a/n and a/c for 5GHz
Bluetooth 4.2 LE
USB Type-C
Software Android 8.1 Oreo Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Dimensions 151.4 x 71.8 x 8.5mm 149.3 x 72.5 x 9.4mm
Colors black, silver black, silver, bronze

The upgraded internals should deliver a boost in general responsiveness, camera speed and gaming, compared to the KEYone. That 6GB of RAM means apps shouldn’t need reloading as often — at least on paper.

It might not be the Snapdragon 835 or 710, but the upgraded internals should deliver a tangible performance improvement.

BlackBerry KEY2 vs BlackBerry KEYone: Software

blackberry key2

Credit has to go to TCL for maintaining a rather spartan take on Android, keeping the stock look and only adding genuinely useful features on the KEYone. It’s not all gumdrops and marshmallows though, as owners are still waiting for Oreo.

In any event, the BlackBerry KEY2 sports Android 8.1 and sticks to the largely stock Android look and feel. We do see two notable additions in the form of a Power Center app (delivering detailed information on battery-hogging apps) and a Private Locker function (pretty much the safe functionality seen on Huawei, Xiaomi and Samsung phones).

BlackBerry KEY2 vs BlackBerry KEYone: Battery life?

blackberry key2

Our own Jimmy Westenberg praised the battery life in his KEYone review, saying the phone just wouldn’t quit. That was in large part due to the above-average battery size and the power-efficient Snapdragon 625 chipset.

The BlackBerry KEY2 more or less retains the same battery size as its predecessor, but the big difference is in the processor.

Conventional wisdom says the KEY2’s’s Snapdragon 660 chip will be more power-hungry than the Snapdragon 625. Even though they’re both manufactured on a 14nm process, the new chip has four heavy lifting cores which might require some extra juice. Then again, these cores can get the job done faster than lightweight cores. We’ll have to wait and see whether battery life takes a dip or not.

Dual cameras because 2018

blackberry key2

The BlackBerry KEY2 received an upgrade in the photography arena too, now packing two 12MP main cameras. The secondary camera is a 2x telephoto shooter, packing an f/2.6 aperture and 1.0-micron pixels. Of course, this combination also enables the ever-popular portrait mode.

If you don’t care for telephoto or portrait escapades, the primary camera has received a wider aperture (f/1.8) than last year’s phone (f/2.0). The aperture upgrade comes at the expense of smaller pixels (1.28 microns versus 1.55 in 2017). TCL says it upgraded the camera processing software, so we hope for a net improvement compared to last year’s phone.

Unfortunately, the company hasn’t introduced optical image stabilization hardware on the BlackBerry KEY2. That means you shouldn’t hold your breath for a big improvement if you experienced shaky video and blurry shots with the KEYone.

In any event, selfie fans are left with an 8MP camera (1.12-micron pixels) virtually identical to the KEYone camera. The new phone’s offering has a slightly wider aperture (f/2.0 versus f/2.2), so shots should be at least a little brighter.

BlackBerry KEY2 vs BlackBerry KEYone: Price?

blackberry key2

Here comes the kicker: The BlackBerry KEY2 is significantly more expensive than last year’s phone. At $649 in the U.S., you’re paying $100 more than the older phone. The new phone will no doubt prompt a price drop for the KEYone, so expect that gap to widen.

We’ll be putting the BlackBerry KEY2 through its paces to deliver a comprehensive review soon. Until then, we’ve got plenty of articles about it:

What do you think of the BlackBerry KEY2 vs BlackBerry KEYone? Let us know in the comments.