back to article BlackBerry KEY2: Remember buttons? Boy, does this phone sure have them

Imagine a consumer gadget where the designers didn't think buttons were an abomination to be removed with extreme prejudice, but something that attempted to make things convenient for users. Something to make a chore easier. Can you picture a kettle with an all-touch display, or living in a house where every light switch is a …

  1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Finally . . .

    . . . an Andrew Orlowski article I can get behind!

    Seriously, though, this looks like a great business-grade phone. I miss the hell out of my old BlackBerry for responding to work emails and other messages. I would think that TCL could make a mint by marketing these in bulk to large corporations.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Finally . . .

      "Finally . . . . . . an Andrew Orlowski article I can get behind!"

      Random chance?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Finally . . .

      Personally I think he's undersold Hub, though I agree that the BB10 version is still superior. Bolting it into all your social media, email, etc makes messaging blissfully trivial.

      I tried an iPhone for a while and the lack of a decent message aggregator was it's biggest downfall. So many places to go check for messages!

      I'm sticking with my BlackBerry Motion for now.

  2. ArrZarr

    Phone cameras

    This might just be me being an utter misanthrope but what is the big deal about smartphone cameras?

    Why are they such a big part of the deal that it's okay to have enormous camera bumps, yet bigger batteries aren't enough of a deal to fill out that space and remove the bump while making the phone last for days?

    And why does the review for a blackberry feed the need to have most of a page worth of pictures when nobody in their right mind gives a toss beyond being able to photograph receipts?

    Personally, given a choice between camera and battery space, I'd go for battery space every time, and don't get me started on the selfie cam. Rip it out and make the phone cheaper.


    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Phone cameras

      Same here, I'd be happy with a phone that was, eg 15mm thick (my current one is about 10mm) and that used all that 5mm to cram in more battery (and possibly a better camera lens).

      I know I'd be happy with a 15mm phone because I used to own phones that were much thicker than that (an original 3310 was 20mm thick for example).

    2. JoeCool

      Re: Phone cameras

      Phone cameras have completely displaced compact "snapshot" cameras. So basically 100% of people that are carrying around a camera for casual photography are actually carry around a phone and using it's camera.

      1. ArrZarr

        Re: Phone cameras

        Question: If the camera never gets used, why am I paying for it?

        Answer: Because every phone has two cameras and there's bugger all I can do about it.

        1. Jon 37 Silver badge

          Re: Phone cameras

          > Question: If the camera never gets used, why am I paying for it?

          You're assuming that one without a camera would actually be cheaper. That's probably not true.

          Suppose a phone manufacturer made a phone available in two models, with and without the camera. The camera-free one needs the cameras removing, a new back cover with no hole for the camera, a new software image with the camera support/apps disabled and the other apps (e.g. messaging) modified to not support sending pictures from the camera, it needs fully testing again, including (for legal reasons) all the legally required testing and carrier testing. It also means the manufacturer has the cost of setting up a modified production line, keeping stock, distributing both models, increased support costs, increased cost of shipping a software update, etc. That's a lot of effort and expense.

          The actual cost of the camera hardware is quite small. Even if you offered people the option of "would you like to pay £10 less and not get a camera", most people would go for the one with the camera. So the sales of the camera-free one will be very small, and all those fixed costs have to be divided by a very small number of sales. That means that the camera-free one will actually be more expensive, which means almost no-one will want it, which drives up the price further. It's not worthwhile for anyone to make it.

          1. disk iops

            Re: Phone cameras

            no cameras allowed in some areas and some companies. Forget mass consumers - the great unwashed are morons chasing "shiny" without rhyme or reason and zero consideration of what risks they are thoughtlessly exposing themselves to.

            You don't need a different case. The camera hole is a punch out. You don't need a different software stack. You don't even need a different production line. You just tell the pick-n-place machine not to add a camera to the next 100 devices. The camera device simply doesn't show in udev and any software that tries to use a camera simply outputs a "no camera device detected" and moves on. Or is it asking too much of imbecile programmers to do any actual error handling in their code?

            1. JDX Gold badge

              Re: Phone cameras

              Setting up the construction line to produce without fitting the camera costs money. Setting it up to produce different case variants costs money. Getting the "imbecile programmers" to write code that checks if the camera is there costs money. Making sure your £2/hr workers put the right cases on the right phones and in the right boxes costs money. Maintaining two versions of the phone and marketing them costs money. etc.

              If you don't want a camera, put a piece of duct tape inside your case covering it.

          2. Jeffrey Nonken

            Re: Phone cameras

            TL;DR "economies of scale".

            Mr Orlowski likes his photos. If you don't like that, don't read his gadget reviews. Or else learn to scroll.

            Photography isn't my priority, but I like Andrew's reviews, so I sometimes read and sometimes scroll past depending on my mood.

            1. ArrZarr
              Thumb Down

              Re: Phone cameras

              It's got a hardware keyboard. The article could be written by amanfrommars and I'd still read it.

              I'm just sick of sacrifices to universally useful things like larger batteries while the camera gets all this loving attention and is allowed to spoil the flat back of every mid to high range phone for the past 5 years and the front of legitimately good concepts like the iPhone X's full screen display.

          3. JulieM

            Re: Phone cameras

            Why would you need different firmware images for the camera and non-camera versions of the same phone? Just don't offer the "take picture" option if the camera driver is not loaded. (This probably happens anyway, if no camera driver is loaded ..... Maybe someone who knows more about the low-level architecture of Android can step in here).

            Alternatively, leave the camera hardware in but just omit the camera drivers on the non-camera model.

    3. Def Silver badge

      Re: Phone cameras

      This might just be me being an utter misanthrope but what is the big deal about smartphone cameras?

      Given that an estimated 1.2 trillion digital photos were taken in 2017, I would opine they're a very big deal.

      I can't see any manufacturer putting out a smart phone without a camera. They'd sell maybe five units worldwide - if they're lucky.

      1. asdf

        Re: Phone cameras

        >They'd sell maybe five units worldwide - if they're lucky.

        Yeah the luddite Boomer market isn't particularly big or with fat margins for sure. Get disgusted with the selfie culture as much as the next middle age person but do take pictures of my kids from time to time and have zero desire to carry both a work and personal phone.

        1. asdf

          Re: Phone cameras

          Then again to be fair the use case for this phone is not myself as no way do I buy an ugly ass phone with buttons on it. Mid 2000s might have been a good vintage for wines (not sure was it?) but not phones. Had a Treo back in the day and don't miss it a bit. BB was better sure but low bar.

  3. RFC822

    No wireless charging?

    That's a deal breaker for me.

    I can live with the buttons, but to have to keep plugging and unplugging a cable every time I want to charge the handset is a step too far backwards for me.

    1. ArrZarr

      Re: No wireless charging?

      I'm only asking this because our opinions are so wildly different here.

      What is the reason behind your stance on wireless charging being mandatory for a phone?

      For me, it's a prime example of a nice to have. If you travel or you're at the office, then you'll need to bring a cable of some sort anyway as it'll either be needed for the phone or for the wireless charger (which you wouldn't pack if you were travelling light). If you're charging at home, then you'll have cables available anyway.

      1. RFC822

        Re: No wireless charging?

        Simple - I have wireless chargers everywhere (on my desk, in my cars, next to the TV seat, on the bedside table, etc)

        When I'm not actually using my handset, it's almost always sitting on a wireless charger. I can pick it up to do something (let's be honest, it's really a "handheld computer" which occasionally is used to make phone calls) and then put it back down, safe in the knowledge that I never need to think about charging my handset - it's always fully charged (or very close to it).

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: No wireless charging?

          Fair enough, but I don't really get it. So long as your phone has around a 2 day battery life, that's enough to cover heavy use. And you have to sleep, so it can get charged up then, by the bed. The problem, at least in my opinion, is phones that can't reasonably manage 2 days of use. i.e. they've made them too thin to manage a decent battery.

          Of course once you've invested in all those wireless chargers, you may as well use them. Although this phone seems reasonably unique, so if you want a keyboard phone, you probably won't get one with wireless charging too. I've never yet seen a wireless charging mat outside a shop, so suspect it's a pretty low priority when it comes to design decisions.

    2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: No wireless charging?

      Easier charging is working around the problem of a phone that can't survive a normal day of use. The techie in me hates your desire for clumsy, indirect solutions.

  4. 89724102172714582892514I7751670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    Dear Reviewer

    Please consider eating the contents of your fruit bowl before they turn leathery. Or fossilise into iron birds.

    Thank you.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      But he has to keep the same fruit in there, in order to provide comparable shots from different phone reviews.

      On which subject, Andrew... What happened to the obligatory post box shot?

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        I ran out of time. It's coming

  5. rtfazeberdee

    EU braking google monopoly

    I hope that the EU break google's hold on enforcing their apps onto the phone, i;d rather have blackberrys eco-system on android without any of googles nonsense

  6. disk iops

    RF and Battery is all that matters

    There are phones and there are entertainment gadgets that pretend to be a phone. BB has already lost the mass phone market it's more than high time to go back to first principles.

    * best damn RF performance

    * No GD camera option, or a single 8Mpix for receipts and documentation

    * REMOVABLE battery

    * keyboard

    * 3.5 audio jack

    * power button on different side than volume/convenience

    * both USB3 and USB2 power connectors

    * fuk wireless charging - talk about pointless

    * Z10 or iSE or Bold 96xx form factor max

    * heavy-handed application security - configurable rights management against all apps but especially Android apps (most of which are utter shit in security) to eviscerate their access to local and network resources, contacts, and other datastores.

    1. bengoey49

      Re: RF and Battery is all that matters

      I have similar thought and I wish there is a manufacturer brave enough to produce a mobile phones that have:

      Good RF performance

      Large capacity removable battery , forget the thinness of the phone, 4000 mAmh would be great

      The size of BB Z10 , Sony Xperia X, XZ1 Compact

      Good call quality and speakers

      Screen brightness that is good enough for when it is bright outside.

      No glass back , give me aluminium or good quality plastic like the old Nokia

      USB C port for charging and data transfer

      Good GPS performance for navigation.

      Regular update of the software

  7. GnuTzu


    I have a clock with three buttons, and I have to pull out the user manual every time I want to change an option. Just saying.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Buttons

      That may be down to bad design. You either need enough buttons to do the job or a configurable interface (touchscreen usually) with optional buttons with straightforward functionality (I do not want a touchscreen volume control, thanks). Those devices trying to go the middle route and have two buttons for something where ten would be more useful, with patterns of press first button, then immediately press and hold second one, then tap first three times, are giving buttons a bad name that is not deserved.

      1. Def Silver badge

        Re: Buttons

        That may be down to bad design.

        Or persistent amnesia.

        I would recommend seeing a doctor, but they'll only forget.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan

      Re: Buttons

      I have a clock with three buttons, and I have to pull out the user manual every time I want to change an option

      Are you sure that tou are suited to a career in IT? You sound more like an end-user to me..

      <Runs away quickly>

  8. -tim

    Still missing two buttons?

    They should fill up the empty two keys with a red and green button that can be reprogrammed.

    I want the OS to be able to lie to apps. If it insists on geo location or a mac address, have a box where I can fill in a lie. I also want to be able to do wifi scans and network pings which are two things my q10 doesn't do properly.

  9. jonathan keith Silver badge

    Mafeking relieved

    Thank goodness for that; the news does take some time to reach those of us out here in the sticks. We may miss out on the giddy pace of city life but we can still recognise those marketers selling the fiction of a non-removable battery in a phone being 'progress', rather than a strategy of cost-cutting and forced obsolescence, for the weaselly crooks they are.

  10. Milton

    Here he goes again ...

    An absolutely perfect example of a device which would be hugely improved with the use of the flip/clamshell form factor. (I still have an old XDA in the Obsolete Phones Box—Section 17, Box 5, Stratum 49 in the attic.)

    I remain baffled that no major manufacturer will abandon the lemming-like horde following Crapple's never-to-be-sufficiently-damned candy-bar all-screen guaranteed-breakage design, instead to give us a smartphone with the main hi-res display inside and a simple (maybe e-ink) notification display on the outside, using one of the inner surfaces either as screen extension, soft keyboard, or even, in this case, as an actual physical keyboard.

    Hell, you could even go modular and build phones with replaceable halves. Your choice whether to travel today with a big screen comprised of two halves, or a physical keyboard, or a larger battery ... there are all sorts of possibilities here, some practical, some maybe less so, but what I really don't see happening in this industry is true, bold, imaginative innovation.

    Innovation. The word is used a lot by the marketurds ... but it ain't happening.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Here he goes again ...

      I can see a small reason for a flip style, but not for a clamshell one. Things like the gemini that offer a tiny laptop, sure, but not a phone doing phone-style things. The benefits I see with the flip style is that you can have some protection of anything delicate, you have more distance between the microphone and speaker so it actually fits your head, and flipping open to answer and closed to hang up is rather nice. However, the phone would have to be relatively large to accommodate that structure with the kind of screen sizes people want nowadays. I'd be fine with a 4-inch screen, but the buying habits of most others, as reflected in the phones being produced at flagship level, clearly disagree. As little as I want a 5.5-inch phone, I want it even less if it is much thicker, which it would have to be. This leads me to the other problem I have with the flip style for a smartphone--there is a lot of surface area for rather little volume, meaning that things like batteries would likely remain in one piece, powering the other. This makes the modular idea rather limited and means the extra thickness won't host extra battery, which is the reason I'm willing to accept that. In addition, current flip designs wouldn't make it easy to have a single flat surface when flipping open, which makes it difficult to orient the screen at a comfortable angle without having to deal with the other half. That other half would be difficult to orient for typing such that the screen is also conveniently positioned. I'm all for flip phones, but I'd like them to remain the small non-smart variety. The flat screen type, in my mind, best fits the way people use smartphones.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    If this phone really has a grill on top I'm sold - crispy bacon while making phone calls sounds like a good USP.

    I'll show myself out of the door marked "Spelling Nazi exit."

  12. anthonyhegedus

    Camera or more battery

    If my phone had a longer battery life but no camera, I'd *still* need to carry a charger on me for when it eventually does run out, but I would have no option for taking pictures, apart from carrying a separate device.

    Just because something isn't used doesn't mean it shouldn't be there. If you don't want a camera, don't buy a phone.

    1. eionmac

      Re: Camera or more battery

      I bought a DORO with no camera, big buttons, good speaker, replaceable battery. Never looked back. Gave my camera phone (a Nokia 5000) away.

  13. cutterman

    I want one.

    I loved my Nokia E90 that actually allowed me to answer an email quickly without hunting and pecking and retyping or suggesting bizarre words. And why any but the most manic narcissist would want to take pictures of themselves eludes me.

    I want one (and I'm gonna get one, so there!)


    1. MogKupo

      Er, it's for skype calls and the like, where the other person needs to see you, not to use as an electronic mirror -.o

      1. disk iops

        Nobody needs or wants to see you. That's what "disable Mic and camera" in BIOS settings are for. Otherwise some sharpie or a quick wrap with an awl takes care of the cursed thing.

        "Interviews are via skype"

        "that's nice, I don't do skype"

        "well, that's our policy"

        "you're talking to me on a perfectly good phone are you not?"


        "so, proceed"

        Fkn twits and their sorry-ass video-conference software that has atrocious audio quality, can't even do party-lines right, doesn't work worth a damn unless the Internet is perfect, and only works if you install their agent. Bite me. dial the god-da** phone. It's worked for 200 years and 10x better than your retarded VC setup.

        1. keith_w Bronze badge

          "Interviews are via skype"

          "that's nice, I don't do skype"

          "well, that's our policy"

          "you're talking to me on a perfectly good phone are you not?"


          "so, proceed"

          note on interview record, interviewee unwilling to comply with corporate policy, recommend declining to hire.

          1. disk iops

            it's not actually policy - it's millennial stupid-fks who can't conceive of doing anything without video. And it's a back-door way to engage in racial and age discrimination. I have no problem telling HR to get bent and not taking jobs offered by imbeciles.

            Funny thing, they all back down and continue the interview process over the phone. There's almost always a face-to-face step in the interview process anyway so VC is just bs. I've only had to report one org to the Equal Employment Commission for illegal acts.

  14. Deltics

    Why would "lefties" mind which side the buttons are on ...

    Is there a phone which has an entirely symmetrical design w.r.t left/right handed-ness AND the ability to re-assign button functions to suit (i.e. completely reverse/mirror the configuration between left/right hand "modes") ?

    I don't think so. Even if there are buttons on BOTH sides, the buttons on one side typically do an entirely separate set of functions than the buttons on the other side.

    So buttons on one side or buttons on both sides, left/right handedness is not a consideration, except in so far as the designers presumably already are taking *both* into account and ensuring that people aren't forced to resort to pinkie gymnastics, regardless of any left/right bias.

  15. Keef

    Cack-handed commentard here.

    'but moves all the buttons to the right-hand side. I'm not sure how lefties will respond'

    We'll respond the same way we always do and make do, I'm pretty much ambidextrous now.

    Ever seen a DSLR designed for lefties? No, me neither

    Nice of you to point out us lefties have some issues though. Mine is anger, not sure how that fits in with my handedness but a quick search reveals the Daily Fail has found a link between the two, so I'll take that no further and never mention it again.


    My biggest bugbear is having to use scissors where the handles are sculpted for right hand use, they are painful to use, Not dentist painful but still...

    Yes, I can use my right hand but the motor skills still aren't quite as good on that side despite years of practice.

    But why the hell do they need to be sculpted at all? I could buy 'left handed' scissors, but again why.

    Just make them comfortable for both versions of humans. It can be done.


    1. keith_w Bronze badge

      Re: Cack-handed commentard here.

      you can get both left-handed and ambidextrous scissors, if you can be bothered to.

  16. Christian Berger

    Hmm, considering that you can now get the Gemini...

    ... or several truly portable laptops from GDP, or soon the Pyra... it's not really a good deal.

    I mean the only thing it has going for it is it's keyboard, and that's severely lacking important keys like the escape key. You are forced to use Blackberry's branded version of Android, which means that once they stop supporting it, you'll be left with a highly complex system cut off from all the upstream bug fixes and since there is no root, you cannot even use iptables to make sure the device only talks to _your_ servers.

  17. Piro Silver badge

    If they would only make a horizontal Android/Sailfish slider with an unlockable bootloader.. maybe using another "brand", then they would be on to a winner.

    I'm not all that interested in the traditional BlackBerry style vertical keyboard/screen arrangement.

  18. 0laf Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Good review. You're certainly talking about my niche at the end of the article. I've an iPhone SE and like the size and hate the size because small screens mean small on-screen keyboards which are hard when you've big hands.

    It's a bit dear for me thought but I suppose it's cheaper than a bigger iPhone.

  19. rg287 Silver badge

    Props to BB sticking up for the hard keyboard crowd.

    I had a BB Torch back in the day. As a bit of industrial design it was glorious. The keyboard was an absolute joy. Just a shame the guts of it felt hopelessly underpowered - laggy, hung on updates and of course the app store was woefully under-populated.

    I eventually replaced it with a 5S, but have viewed the current crop of shiny buttonless tiles (both Apple and Android) with an uninterested scepticism. An SE2 seems the most likely candidate for an easy upgrade (with App Store investments intact) but I must say I'm open to a niche player selling me on something interesting.

  20. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

    Fuck Blackberry, frankly

    Six hundred quid, and it'll probably get the same two years of security patches the Priv did. Committed to security, my arse.

    If they won't commit publicly to several years of security patches it's not worth it, as it can't be rooted.

    Yes, I like keyboards on phones, but I'm not paying three hundred quid every year to have one. Impatiently waiting on the Moto Mod keyboard going into mass production.

    Oh, and Andrew, I know removable batteries are so six years ago (production date of the last removable battery phone I had), but they're still a good idea, and external battery packs remain a colossal pain in the arse.

    I am thoroughly sick of trying to nursemaid battery life, having to remember to plug in phones during the day, balance an external battery pack on the move etc, when the alternative is taking twenty seconds to shut down the phone, five seconds to swap the battery with a full one, and another minute or two to reboot a fully charged phone. Oh noes, it might be 2mm thicker if they did that..

    The Xperia Pro was one of the best phones I've ever had, the only reason I stopped using it was because it became too slow to run the later versions of Android that the modern apps required.

    1. James 51

      Re: Fuck Blackberry, frankly

      As I understand it, it was the lack of support from component manufacturers that caused blackberry/tcl to end support foe the priv.

      1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

        Re: Fuck Blackberry, frankly

        Yes, that's part of the reason, but

        They didn't assess this before they created the Priv, and should have had contracts in place. Therefore they didn't care..

        Various security patches are device independent, and could be supplied.

        There is still, as far as I know, no commitment to extended security patches to other Blackberry Android phones.

        Until they offer such an assurance, I will assume they are full of shit.

        1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

          Amazingly Blackberry has offered assurances

          The KeyTwo is part of Android Enterprise Recommended, and therefore has security updates for three years minimum

          They really need to shout about this a bit more, and highlight it more directly

    2. bengoey49

      Re: Fuck Blackberry, frankly

      LG Stylus 3 ( £170 or less if you can find one in the UK ) if you can accept low end Chip and inferior 5.7 inch screen. It uses the same battery as LG V20 which you can buy for around £15 on Ebay. Still on Android 7 security patch April 2018

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