BlackBerry KEY2 first look: Improved physical QWERTY for those who can't give them up

Business users adored their hardware QWERTY BlackBerry keyboards, but most of the world has moved to on-screen keyboards over the last decade. The KEY2 provides the best physical keyboard, but that comes with some compromises.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

Last year BlackBerry released the KEYone, see our full review, and I enjoyed the experience with the keyboard, long battery life, and attractive silver/black finish that looks great in the office.

I've now spent more than a week with the new BlackBerry KEY2 and it improves upon the KEYone in every area, including the keyboard that was already solid last year. Sandra will be posting a full review next week, but for now here are a few of my initial thoughts.

Jessica Dolcourt at CNET also posted her first thoughts on the KEY2.

Likes and dislikes

I spent years using PDAs and phones with physical keyboards and overall I really like the KEY2 with only a couple of things that bother me.

  • New keyboard with Speed Key: The new QWERTY has a matte finish, slightly larger keys, and a new Speed Key. So far, I find the move from a glossy finish to a matte finish to be a nice improvement. The Speed Key lets you launch custom shortcuts using nearly all the keys from within any application and not just from the home screen. It definitely takes time to get used to a physical QWERTY again though.
  • Long battery life: Some recent devices, the Samsung Galaxy S9, the HTC U12 Plus, and LG G7 ThinQ, have disappointed me in regards to battery life and I've rarely been able to go a full day with those devices. I've had no problems going more than a full, busy day with the KEY2 and for business you need a phone that lasts.
  • BlackBerry Hub: BlackBerry Hub has always been one of my favorite centralized communications systems and we find it continues on the KEY2. I haven't noticed any significant changes in the Hub from last year, but will continue to explore this area as I use the KEY2.
  • Dual cameras: Most flagships have dual cameras today so it's great to see a mid-range device also include this for 2x optical zoom and depth effects. This is one area where I have a lot more to test, but initial photos show it does better than the KEYone and is more than satisfactory for sharing pics on social networks.
  • Right side buttons: It's nice to have all physical buttons on one side and the right is preferred for me since I hold my phone in my left hand. The Convenience Key is very nice to have for quickly launching a preferred application or performing a common function. The power button also has a tactile surface for easy activation.
  • Smaller display: One sacrifice that is made in having a physical keyboard is display size. While I haven't seen any real impact on productivity, multimedia experiences are compromised by the smaller 4.5 inch display and spreadsheets are not as easy to work with.


  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 octa-core
  • Display: 4.5 inch 1620x1080 pixels resolution IPS LCD (433 ppi)
  • Operating system: Android 8.1 Oreo with May security update
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 64GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Water and dust resistance: Water repellent nano-coating
  • Cameras: Dual rear 12 megapixel, 1.28µm pixel, f/1.8 aperture and 1.0µm pixel, f/2.6 cameras. Front 8 megapixel camera
  • Battery: 3500 mAh with QuickCharge 3.0 support
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, FM radio, GPS, Galileo, GLONAS
  • Sensors: Fingerprint, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light, proximity, magnetometer
  • Dimensions: 151.4 x 71.8 x 8.5 mm and 168 grams

The BlackBerry KEY2 will be available in the US in both silver and black (I have the silver one for testing) with support for GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile. Amazon and Best Buy will launch pre-orders on 29 June with availability scheduled for 16 July.

Editorial standards