The official presentation and “launch” of the highly anticipated BlackBerry device, the KEYone (formerly known under the codename Mercury), at Mobile World Congress 2017 undoubtedly left some BlackBerry fans yearning for more, while others, frustrated for the same reasons that have continued to plague BlackBerry for years. Unfortunately, the Canadian company is notorious for poor demonstrations, botched launches and mundane presentations nearly to the point where it has become their M.O.; The KEYone launch was no different.
However, despite the terrible amateurish presentation, the KEYone remains a solid device people should stay excited for. Across popular Tech sites, first impressions and reviews for the KEYone are favorable, in fact, they’re statistically more positive than any of the previous mobile devices BlackBerry has produced in the past 6 years. This is probably due to its intelligent design and iconic build, but more so because it’s famously built for Android.
But is the KEYone worth the price of admission? Perhaps. But you’ll have to ignore BlackBerry’s presentation to understand why. Exploring the identity of the KEYone is essential to knowing where its true value lies.
T H E A N N O U N C E M E N T
The event was delayed for about a half hour and it’s live streaming on YouTube went dead, on and off, for nearly half of the presentation with no explanation. When the event eventually began, it opened up with a cliché video that showcased timeworn footage of random “productive” people active in their appropriate environments. Cut in-between the shots were trite phrases that, if anything, provoked the feeling of impatience among the audience; there was simply nothing original about any of it... the KEYone wasn’t even featured.
The host, CrackBerry Kevin, came out of “retirement” to uniquely host the launching of the KEYone. Yes, his sudden re-emergence had many puzzled and/or questioning his unexpected return to CrackBerry.com, but in light of the 10-year anniversary of the famous website and his former reputation for being BlackBerry’s number one fan, it could be justified.
Kevin never officially presented anything before and it showed. But he wasn’t alone; the other guest speakers who took the stage stammered through more cliché dialogue and shared an energy that may be classified as lackluster or dilettante, though, it did help that attractive media of the KEYone played continuously in the background throughout.
It brings to question why BlackBerry didn’t hire a proper host, someone who speaks harmoniously, remains well versed in presentations and who carries an exciting energy. Nonetheless, BlackBerry’s decision for the KEYone’s launch held a cringe worthy undertone throughout the entire presentation because of this.
If the KEYone represents the last of BlackBerry’s in-house mobile designs and the ushering in of TCL’s new BlackBerry Mobile, why wouldn’t both companies invest in producing an extraordinary event and campaign to fit this monumental occasion of a legendary brand’s passing of the torch? Instead, we get a snooze fest that showcases nothing but old mobile features that have been on BlackBerry devices for years but were pitched as new and innovative, leaving audiences a bit insulted.
I won’t bore you with additional details of the event because you can simple watch it in its entirety separately, but I wanted to highlight how BlackBerry still doesn’t grasp the importance of product launches and how imperative it is to create a buzz and anticipation around a product at every opportunity available. Seriously, how many years do we have to endure these poor outings by BlackBerry before the company realizes their potential to carry out a successful through-line for pre-orders, distributions and sales?
It’s either they’re aware of how irrelevant their products have become in the market and have “given up” trying, ignorance, or flat out arrogance. Whichever it is, it comes across evidently with every interaction with the public and media. The good news is the KEYone shines through BlackBerry’s shortcomings.
T H E # K E Y O n e
The KEYone is handsome device that boasts intelligent design and carefully thought out specs. I wouldn’t be surprised if it won a Red Dot design award and joins the other BlackBerry devices that have proudly won the award. It’s clear the KEYone was designed for productivity, built around security and done so with unmistakable style.
All your standard features are expected here, a beautiful touch capacity keyboard, keyboard shortcuts etc., with the addition of BlackBerry’s first fingerprint scanner, embedded in the space bar key on the QWERTY. Another welcoming enhancement is the largest battery (non-removable) ever created for a BlackBerry device. You stack this with the KEYone’s Snapdragon 625 chip and you’re looking at a device that can outlast any smartphone in the market with full usage by a long shot (even more so if the battery “save mode” is engaged). Also to note is “Quick Charge” which allows the KEYone to charge to 50% battery life in 36 minutes.
The KEYone has expandable storage via SD card (up to 2TB), boasts the best camera sensor ever included for a BlackBerry device (same as the Google Pixel) and comes pre-loaded with Androids latest OS version, Nougat, along with BlackBerry’s embedded security software (BlackBerry devices are the most secure Android devices in the world).
It’s clear the KEYone device will return its users to the good ole “CrackBerry” days of the past and rightly so, it’s simply a dream to hold and use. The KEYone is the most exciting BlackBerry device consumers have laid eyes on for years. If you’ve been holding out for a new BlackBerry QWERTY device for 2017, look past the Priv and get this.
P R I C I N G & A V A I L A B I L I T Y
The KEYone will not come without frustrations, however. The US retail price of $549 is widely deemed too high and with justified reasons. The KEYone isn’t a top tiered flagship device in the traditional sense, so why does it command such a price? The answer is simple; BlackBerry over-prices their products (the KEYone by at least $100). You would think they learned their lesson from the terribly priced Priv, which sold so poorly, CEO John Chen himself publicly admitted their error and miscalculation. But here we are again with another over-priced device.
I expect most people to wait out on the KEYone until a sale inevitably kicks in before they commit to purchasing it, and I don’t blame them. BlackBerry’s strategy with the KEYone should be to get as many KEYone devices in people’s hands as possible through an attractive price, but it isn’t. I suspect the $549 price tag comes from the company’s claim that their unique offering is unlike anything in the market, and they’re right (technically), but there will be no adoption at this price. The current price puts it too close to competitor’s high-end devices; consumers will most likely decide to go with the “other” phone, especially given that companies like LG, Samsung and Apple are wildly more popular and produce powerful cutting edge devices.
Another warranted frustration is the vagaries surrounding the KEYone’s availability and carrier partners. No specific dates or carriers were announced, adding to the negative legacy BlackBerry has shamefully earned. BlackBerry has been an industry worst with product launches and availabilities for years. Here we are in February and BlackBerry announces, “sometime in April” availability with no carrier partners for the KEYone. This is asinine and unacceptable. You would figure the new TCL licensing agreement, with BlackBerry Mobile, were going to change and evolve the way its products were going to be marketed and distributed from here on out, but no. Yet again, BlackBerry fails to meet any kind of respectable execution. You can expect a staggered/confusing release of the KEYone in various markets with select carriers similarly as before.
C O N C L U S I O N
While high-end devices in 2017 are being released with 4K screen resolutions, the fastest processors available, VR capabilities and others, the KEYone remains the stand-alone traditional communications device with a well-defined purpose: It proudly positions itself as the quintessential smartphone for hyper-connected users.
The KEYone is a communications powerhouse designed with superior efficiency and “time-tested” iconic build. The device has enterprise written all over it and BlackBerry stated it would be marketed as such. Having said that, anyone looking for the latest and greatest for media consumption in his or her smartphone should look elsewhere. People buying the KEYone are buying it specifically for what it’s designed for, in this, the KEYone excels unlike any other phone, it deserves to sell well, even if BlackBerry fails to know how.