BlackBerry KEY2 hands-on: utility at its finest

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The BlackBerry Key2 will officially be unveiled at a media event in NY on Thursday morning although at this point, we're not really sure what else is left to announce aside from a proposed launch date and perhaps carrier partners.

The new device is an upgrade to the BlackBerry KeyOne, which launched in the spring of past year. In traditional BlackBerry fashion, there's also a 35-key backlit physical keyboard with integrated fingerprint sensor as well as a dual rear-facing camera (12MP + 12MP), an 8-megapixel selfie cam and a 3,500mAh battery.

For changes over last year's KeyOne, BlackBerry highlights an improved physical keyboard with Speed Key, which allows you to utilize shortcuts and gestures to open apps regardless of what screen you're on.

"Although there are many different smartphones for consumers to choose from today, most tend to offer very similar experiences without much distinction from one to the next", Alain Lejeune, senior vice president of TCL Communication and president of Blackberry Mobile, said in a statement. On the BlackBerry Key2, the Speed Key takes this to the next level by letting you access any shortcut from anywhere on the device, without having to go to the home screen first. TCL is using them for portrait mode photography along with a lossless zoom - here it's called the "Optical Superzoom" - but the claim is also better auto white balance and faster autofocus, along with improvements in image stabilization. When it comes to wireless connectivity, the KEY2 includes support for LTE Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 17, 20, 28, 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41, 66.

What do you think of the BlackBerry KEY2? Google lens has also been added to the gallery app. The promise is up to two days of battery life; the KEY2 charges via USB-C. A dual-SIM model will be sold in select regions, like the Middle East, APAC, India, and Indonesia.

Pricing for the device, which is available later this month, starts at $649. It will be available for pre-order in the US, UK, UAE, Canada, Germany, China and France this month while global availability will be in July.