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Best Digital Nomad Phone: The Blackberry Key2

The role of gear in content collection and distribution.

Blackberry Key2
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I had a problem a couple of years ago: I replaced my Blackberry Passport with an iPhone and my professional life fell of a cliff. I never got the hang of typing on a touchscreen and, compared with BB10, Blackberry’s now depreciated operating system, ios is a joke.

I was used to Blackberries. I always used them, but I took them for granted. When BB10 faded away, I got pissed and left. Bad decision.

But at that time I had yet to realize how much of a role a solid, professional phone played in my work. On my Blackberry Passport I could not only take notes, but write entire blog posts and drafts of articles — and I could do it while sitting in bars and cafes, riding on trains and standing in line. The phone optimized anytime into potential work time, and I was able to plow. But I didn’t fully realize this until I starting using that iPhone and everything came to a stark halt.

Read more: Blackberry Passport: The Ultimate Blogging Device?

iPhones are devices for watching movies and playing games, not for writing and creating content. They are simply not professional devises, and this led to piles of emails that I never responded to and blog posts that I never wrote.

I lost contacts.

I lost opportunities.

I lost highly valued laptop time having to do menial tasks that I once did on my Blackberry.

I needed to return.

Fortunately, Blackberry had starting producing Android-based phones with physicians physical keyboards. The Keyone was delivered in 2017 and the Key2 followed in 2018. While I didn’t necessarily like the idea of a Blackberry running Android, what else was I going to do? Keep using iPhones?

Read more: Should I buy the Blackberry Key2?

With 6 gb of ram and 64 gb of internal storage, the Key2 is more powerful than many laptops. And with a keyboard that was supposed to feel like classic Blackberries and an entire array of keyboard shortcuts, etc… I decided to give it a go.

I paid $650 for it, and, nearly two years later, I have to say that it was worth every cent. This phone allows me to process email and social media fast, and blogging is easy to do with it, which means that my sit down laptop time can be for heavy lifting — articles and books and films.

Blackberry Key2

There are only so many hours in a day where someone can sit inside on a laptop, and these hours need to be used strategically. Being able to delegate tasks to a phone increases my earning potential.

When I evaluate a new piece of gear I ask two questions:

Will it improve the quality of my work?

Will it make me more money?

Gear is an investment, not something you get for fun. I need to get something out of my cameras and phones and laptops. If I don’t then I lose money. Content is my business. I collect it and process it and publish it. Having a phone that can handle these tasks is essential, and the Key2 does this.

Read more: Blackberry Means I Can Blog From A Car

The only thing that sucks about the Key2 is its camera. While nobody buys a Blackberry for its camera, the ones on the Key2 are so bad they’re almost comical. I have no idea where TCL — the company that now manufactures Blackberries — even found cameras that are so bad.

Blackberry Key2

You may have noticed these ultra-grainy images on this blog that look as if they were taken with an old 35mm film camera and then digitalized with a scanner. They were actually taken with the Key2. While I sort of like this aesthetic, the fact that it’s the result of a technology being insanely substandard is irksome. Maybe the engineers at TCL have an odd nostalgia for the digital imagry of the early 2000s? I have no other explanation, as there is no way that they could have looked at the images this thing produces and conclude them to be anything approaching modern.

While nobody buys a Blackberry for the camera, nobody wants to have to carry a second phone just for taking photos. But that’s exactly what I have to do when using the Key2. I write with the Key2 and take photos with the iPhone. I need two phones to do the job of one.

Hopefully, the Key3 will have this fixed.

Other than that, the Key2 is practically perfect in every way. I haven’t had any issues with it. It’s held up through travels in over a dozen countries. All of its keys work. All of its functions function. It’s been through two years of excessive daily use and it seems as if it could last for at least one or two more. At this point, it’s one of my longest running pieces of gear.

What’s more is that it’s become something that I don’t really think about anymore — gear that does its job doesn’t get noticed. This is probably the best thing that I can say about any phone.


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Filed under: Digital Nomad, Technology, Travel Tech

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

6 comments… add one

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  • Rob December 19, 2019, 9:46 pm

    Good timing! I am looking at replacing my phone and would not have thought of a Blackberry.

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard December 19, 2019, 10:08 pm

      Go for it, man. The camera is probably better than what I made it out to be — I can be a bit of a snob about these things sometimes.

      Link Reply
  • Trevor December 20, 2019, 1:00 pm

    Just a thought. May be the initial idea of the BB camera was just to take photographic notes. Like snapping timetables at railway stations, photos for reference. or like me… i deliver parcels… we some times leave them hidden in sheds and garages. I take a pic with my phone for insurance when the customer says “I didnt get my parcel.”
    Who cares if its a 14MP image … a grainy 35mm rescanned image would be ok.

    I have a TZ70 for nice photos… but i aint gonna use it in in the sahara when im on a camel and its windy. Or for my blog posts about logistics.. photos of timetables, a particular hard to find/ non existent marshrutkha, quickly taken. i dt need a nice pic a cell phone pic will do the job..

    And why we r in this subject . I got a TAB A 10.1 samsung tablet. Its cumbersome to hold as a camera. Why do they even put cameras on 10.1 inch tablets. ???? Every one out their has a phone and a camera. Why peeps wanna use a tablet to take photos?? Ok they can put in a fwd facing cam for SKYPE VIDS but they could save weight by scrapping the camera lenses.. fwd and reverse. Save money save weight..

    Oh btw i love typing on a touchscreen . I write posts off line. But then im writing about 1/200th of what u do. Lmao.

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard December 21, 2019, 9:59 am

      Originally maybe, but this thing has two front facing and one rear facing cameras. Three cameras and they all suck! Haha. I have to wonder how much it would cost to just put in a modern smartphone camera? When the Pixel 3a can have one of the top cameras on the market and sell for $299 I have to conclude that Blackberry is just cutting corners. If they were to give us a good camera this phone would be the best ever made … for people who want to work on their phones .. in my opinion.

      Good call on cameras on tablets. Ever see someone taking a photo with a tablet? They look stupid.

      What is cool is now many real cameras have WIFI so you can connect them to a phone and publish. It’s an excellent system that I’ve never really taken advantage of but others should.

      F smartphone cameras. Get a real camera.

      Link Reply
      • Trevor December 21, 2019, 2:15 pm

        Yep peeps taking pics in tablets. Did it once.. never again lmao

      • Wade Shepard December 22, 2019, 1:22 pm

        I did too. A long time ago I thought I could run everything from a Samsung tablet. I thought wrong.


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