Is it time to return home?
I am a BlackBerry user. This used to mean that I was trendy and chic, ahead of my time — someone who worked on the internet and took online publishing seriously. My first smartphone was a BlackBerry Tour. I bought it in 2009 with a global data plan which meant that I could go to any country in the world and access the internet and publish this blog. I impressed everyone with my digital nomad prowess.
Now, in 2018, when I say that I am a BlackBerry user I generally get a response that ranges from confusion — uh, why? — to ridicule — dude, what’s wrong with you? Just get an iPhone like everyone else. BlackBerry is now about as cool as a hipster in cut off jean shorts — an ironic throwback to another time, the mesh trucker’s cap of smartphones.
But I love these things. Why? They are made to work on — the operating system is set up for writing and compiling documents, for rapidly communicating with multiple groups of people, for running projects — not for playing around on Facebook.
And, yes, I love the physical keyboard.
This about sums it up:
I suspect that the focus on the Key2 has been on ‘satisfying our existing audience’ rather than trying to fight with the mainstream smartphones such as the Galaxy S9 and iPhone X. Those are great all-round smartphones, whereas the Key2 is clearly a specialist device. The majority of the world’s buyers do not want a physical keyboard, so why spend too long trying to accommodate them. Instead go all-in for those who want the keyboard and put your focus on making that experience glorious for those who want it.
The Key2 is not a handset designed for everyone. Nor is it designed to try to tempt the unfaithful to the BlackBerry cause. It is designed for those already in the circle – all the flourishes and touches improve the core experience – but that polish also gives the Key2 something previous handsets have been lacking… something to attract those curious about the place of BlackBerry in 2018’s smartphone world. Because love and attention to detail shine through… even if they are focused on boring things like security, messaging, and diary management.
I can’t type on a touchscreen. There is something wrong with me. I type on phones like I write on a laptop: I look at the words going onto the screen, not the keypad and the word suggestions that pop up. I need to type each letter. I need to feel the keys. Flick typing means losing the rythem.
But last year I lost a degree of my resolve in BlackBerry. It was clear the BB10, the phone’s operating system, was going to be depreciated. Apps stopped offering support for it, and in order to keep using my BlackBerry phones I would need a second ios or Android phone as well.
So I got pissed off and bought an iPhone like everyone else. I decided that I would force myself to learn to type on a touchscreen and make due with whatever productivity deficiencies the phone presented.
Then my work fell off a cliff. The iPhone was many times worse than I could ever imagine it being — it’s a device for playing games, streaming shows, and putting cat masks over your face when video chatting — and I never got the hang of touchscreen typing. Tasks that I would normally do on my BlackBerry in the in-between monents of the day — like when waiting for a coffee or standing in line at a store or riding on public transport — I suddenly had to do while sitting down at the laptop. Uninterrupted blocks of time that I would normally put towards writing articles and books was now nickled and dimed away on emails and social media. I couldn’t keep up with communicating with my contacts, my social media presence wanned, and my overall production dropped.
Nearly a year went by before I realized just how much I depended on those BlackBerry Passports, etc .. and that something needed to change. I needed to go back.
Fortunately, a new line of BlackBerry phones with physical keyboards was recently released — the Keyone — and now the Key2 is set to come out next week.
These phones say BlackBerry on them but they run Android and they are also manufactured by the Chinese company TCL, not BlackBerry themselves. I guess this means that I can use apps on them but whether or not they are true BlackBerry devices is questionable.
However, the Key2 is a crazy powerful phone, with 6 gigs of ram — more than most laptops I’ve worked with over the years — and 64 gigs of internal storage. It is also supposed to have a keyboard that feels and responds like the BlackBerrys of old and has all those little quirks that BlackBerry users have developed deep connections to: the hub, the blinking lights, and all that.
It’s $650. Is it worth it?