Technology

BlackBerry KEY2 LE: Cheaper QWERTY Phone With Trimmed Down Specs

BlackBerry KEY2 LE
Image Source: BlackBerry (screenshot)

About three months ago, TCL Communications launched the BlackBerry KEY2. Now at IFA 2018, the company has launched a new cheaper variant of the same handset, dubbed the BlackBerry KEY2 LE. The new handset is referred to as the “more accessible” version of the original.

$200 cheaper: what’s been replaced?

The BlackBerry KEY2 LE comes in bolder color options and is thinner with a less-boxy design. The key features of the handset are: a QWERTY keyboard, a full-HD+ panel and a fingerprint sensor mounted on the space bar. The handset costs $200 less than the KEY2, thanks to the slower processor, less RAM and lower battery capacity.

“With this new addition to their product lineup, the KEY2 LE keeps the iconic BlackBerry styling while offering an accessible entry point for our fans around the world to enjoy a modern BlackBerry smartphone,” said Alex Thurber, BlackBerry’s senior vice president and general manager of Mobility Solutions.

The BlackBerry KEY2 LE has a polycarbonate body, but reviewers say it seems comfortable to hold due to its thinner profile and curved sides. The physical keys are marginally smaller than those on the KEY2, but the keyboard does not look cramped. Another trade-off for the low price is that the keyboard is not touch-sensitive, meaning you won’t be able to scroll through app lists.

Despite being $200 cheaper, the handset sports a dual-lens camera system on the rear. However, the components used are not of the same quality as those in the original. So far, the company has not shared the exact differences. Unlike the KEY2’s Snapdragon 660 processor, the LE model is powered by the Snapdragon 636, which is comparatively less powerful.

Further, the new handset is fitted with a 3,000mAh battery, compared to the 3,500mAh for the original model. The company claims that the KEY2 LE will give “22 hours of mixed-use battery” use. With the KEY2 LE, users also get the option to set a charging reminder which will trigger once the battery life falls below the user-specified level.

Specs of the BlackBerry KEY2 LE

Apart from the above-mentioned features, the BlackBerry KEY2 LE is the same as the original version, including the full HD display, physical buttons on the side and the Speed key, which allows you to access the keyboard shortcuts from any app.

Further, the handset runs on Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box and features a 4.5-inch full-HD+ (1080×1620 pixels) IPS LCD panel. It has a horizontally stacked dual-lens camera setup on the rear, which carries a 13-megapixel primary sensor and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor. The front camera is 8 megapixels with an LCD selfie flash and full-HD recording capabilities.

The handset’s connectivity options are GLONASS, USB Type-C with OTG, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0 LE, 4G LTE, GPS/ A-GPS and NFC. The sensors fitted in the smartphone are a magnetometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, fingerprint sensor, accelerometer and gyroscope. The handset supports 18W Quick Charge 3.0. It weighs 156 grams, and its dimensions are 150.25 x 71.8 x 8.35mm.

The BlackBerry KEY2 LE with 4GB of RAM (compared to 6GB for the KEY2) and 32GB of storage costs $399 in the U.S. Its global pricing has also been shared: €399, £349, and C$519. The 4GB RAM/ 64GB storage variant carries price tags of US$449, €429, £399, and C$579. Starting next month, the handset will be available in Canada, France, Germany, the UAE, the U.K., and the U.S.

The BlackBerry KEY2 LE will be available in Atomic, Champagne, and Slate color schemes.

Why would anyone buy the KEY2 LE?

Even though the KEY2 LE is $200 cheaper than the original model, it still is not the most cost-effective device around. One can easily get a device with the same specs (but full touch) for less than the KEY2 LE’s price, so why should buyers choose the KEY2 LE?

The answer is pretty simple; it’s for the convenience keys and the suite of office tools and utilities.  Moreover, the handset supports app cloning, allowing dual accounts with an app. The function currently supports apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Instagram.

TCL’s decision to launch a cheaper version of its premium handset comes at a time when it is struggling to boost its smartphone sales. For the first quarter, TCL posted a 41% year-over-year drop in mobile phone shipments. The number includes sales of Alcatel mobile phones, which are also sold by TCL. With the cheaper version of its premium handset, TCL will be hoping to expand its market reach.