We have to give BlackBerry as a brand, full marks for persistence, perseverance and commitment to the cause. The company is still holding on to the hope that you would want a physical QWERTY keyboard on your Android phone. There was the Key One last year, followed by the Key2 this year. And it has barely been a few months, and we now have the Key2 LE. The very reason for the existence of the Key2 LE so soon after the Key2 is perhaps an admittance that its price tag was perhaps a tad too high from the get go—it is still retailing on Amazon for around Rs42,900. For a very limited demographic that would be interested in this melding of the touchscreen and keyboard to go with the Android operating system, that was perhaps a tad too steep. And alienating. Which is why the Key2 LE, priced at Rs29,990 and pushed along as a more affordable alternative. But is it really the same?
In terms of the design, you will be forgiven for thinking that the Key2 LE is the same as the Key2. There are subtle differences. First is the colour, and the finish, which is lighter. The metal frame has been replaced by a plastic frame. This still blends in elegance and utility, something that business users would want from their phone as they travel the world while thumbing at the keypad typing out emails that would define the fortunes of corporations. The Key2 LE is a tad less taller than the Key2, and at 8.4mm is also 0.1mm thinner. The shift from metal to plastic means the Key2 LE is 12 grams lighter than the Key2. The design feels taller because the screen and the keyboard below it share the space on the front, yet the BlackBerry Key 2 feels well-balanced and there is no hint that it wants to topple earthwards when you are typing with the same hand that is holding the phone.
Speaking of typing, the physical QWERTY keyboard is well laid out. This is the sort of precision that it is expected from a BlackBerry branded smartphone. Each key press elicits a consistent response, and the individual key size is adequate. If you are switching from a touchscreen phone back to this physical keyboard, you’ll find that the typing speed is a little slow initially. The very act of pressing a mechanical key, after years of tapping away on a glass pane, takes a lot of getting used to. But if you already happen to use a BlackBerry phone and are used to the keyboard, this is familiar territory.
The 4.5-inch display (1,620 x 1,080 resolution) has been carried forward as is, and that isn’t a problem at all. This screen is bright, and the text is crisp to read. Colours look a tad more vibrant than the Key2, but at no point do they look unnecessarily rich. Even at low brightness levels, visibility on this screen is good, and reflections are minimal. The 3:2 aspect ratio feels quite odd, but that square-ish look is a trade-off to fit the keyboard within the same footprint as well.
We had observed that the Key 2 perhaps fell behind a lot of other Android phones in its price range, as far as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor was concerned. The Key 2 LE will have to suffer through the same train of doubts, as it runs the Snapdragon 636 processor. In terms of the architecture, both processors are largely the same, but the 636 has a lower clock speed and slightly less powerful graphics. No slouch in terms of performance, but this won’t be a powerhouse either. That said, the typical BlackBerry Key2 LE user will probably not buy this to play PUBG on it, but it will perhaps be more about emails and web browsing and document editing and some bit of social media—without really generalising.
On the software side of things, this runs Android as you would imagine, but with a twist of generous security to boot. There is the DTEK security app which ensures the integrity of the system files isn’t altered by an app or action, and that no changes are made to the system which may compromise the privacy and security of the data in your phone. There is a detailed power management app as well. That said, the BlackBerry Hub (the one place for all new notifications from a variety of email and IM apps) and the BlackBerry Messenger look less and less appealing as time goes by. There are better experiences elsewhere, and we honestly couldn’t get hooked to either.
The battery in the Key2 LE is 3000mAh, which is 500mAh lesser than the Key2. However, the Snapdragon 636 is more power efficient than the Snapdragon 660, which means this gets through a typical day at work with 25-30% charge still remaining by the time you get home in the evening.
With a 13-megapixel primary sensor and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor for capturing data, the on-paper specs as far as the Key2 LE’s optics are concerned look pretty much at par with a lot of other Android phones. However, this isn’t exactly a photography enthusiast’s phone. The photos you get from this are strictly acceptable for the most part.
It is quite perplexing that the Key 2 LE is almost everything the Key 2 was, but at the same time, also isn’t. Yes, we are also left scratching out furrowed brow. The answer to any similarity questions lies in the price tags—around Rs42,990 versus around Rs29,990.