TCL rolled into IFA last week with a cheaper version of its KEY2, the KEY2 LE.
With smaller specs and fewer dollars on the table, it definitely has some potential when it comes attracting new customers who like their phones with a side of keyboard.
A for me, I still can’t stand the things.
But before getting into my incredibly personal opinion, here are the specs.
- 4.5-inch IPS-LCD (1080 x 1620), 3:2 aspect ratio and Gorilla Glass
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 CPU, Octa-core
- Anndroid 8.1 Oreo OS
- Adreno 509 GPU
- 4GB RAM
- 32/64GB storage with microSD slot for up to 256GB
- Dual 13MP/5MP rear, 8MP front cameras
- 3,000 mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0
- USB-C connection, headphone jack, fingerprint scanner, QWERTY keyboard
- 150.25 x 71.8 x 8.35mm, 156g
These numbers aren’t nearly as impressive as the KEY2, but they do reflect the $700 price point. And to be fair, there are some nice inclusions.
The cameras come with a new portrait mode, LCD flash, a selfie panorama mode and Face Beauty, which is designed to make your selfies pop.
Google Lens, Google Assistant and Google Play are also integrated and the phone does feel lighter than its older sibling by comparison, most likely because of the smaller battery.
But despite all of this, I just can’t get past its hero feature.
But before you start writing me a strongly worded tweet — I get it. Some people love having a physical keyboard on their mobiles, and I respect that.
It may have been over a decade since the BlackBerry was last popular, but you do you boo.
My being a baiting jerk aside, the BlackBerry was absolutely a game changer back in the day and paved the way for smart phones as we know them today.
But to be honest, I was never convinced about the keyboard. And even though we’re living in a time of a mini BlackBerry Renaissance, I’m still not.
For me, it comes down to user experience. I couldn’t make the thing feel comfortable to type with. The keys are simply too small.
And believe me, I tried. During the admittedly short amount of time I spent with it at IFA, it was a constant struggle to hit the keys I wanted, select only one at a time and avoid typos in general.
On-screen keyboards can be tough enough to avoid these on, especially if you’re in a hurry. For me, swapping that for a tiny physical keyboard makes functionality damn near impossible.
The whole ordeal gave me strong Simpsons flashbacks.
But for those of you who are fans, you’ll be pleased to note that some improvements have been made to the KEY2 LE keyboard.
One of the most predominant complaints about the KEY2 was that the rounded edge keys looked great, but but could lack some response near the edges and made the keyboard feel cramped.
So the curves have been replaced with a more hard and structured edges and some extra space between the keys.
It will be interesting to see if this makes a difference long-term once the phones go on sale.
But these improvements aren’t enough to convince me that this kind of device would be anything but a hindrance to my life. They keyboard simply doesn’t gel with my lifestyle and workflow, and I don’t think it ever will.
But I’m not everybody. If you’re all about that smartphone keyboard life and are looking for a cheaper KEY2 alternative, it may be worth considering.
The BlackBerry Key2 LE will be available globally in early September with an RRP of $699 for the 64GB version. Sadly we don’t have word on the 32GB as yet.
It will be offered in three colours — Slate, Champagne and Atomic.