On May 31st, I picked up my BlackBerry KEYone from Rogers Wireless. Three months later, I’ve already experienced a few hiccups and adjustments, but at this time, I still love my smartphone and hold no regrets on choosing it as my daily driver.

Android Pay; What a headache

On the very same day that the BlackBerry KEYone became available in Canada, so did Android Pay. Well, I shouldn’t have been too surprised when I tried to use my phone at the debit machine, only to be denied.

I had no issues setting up my debit and credit card on Android Pay. That wasn’t a problem. However, the mix of the new KEYone and Android Pay just wasn’t being recognized at the debit machines at McDonald’s, Shopper’s Drug Mart, Tim Horton’s, or Sobey’s.

I posted to the CrackBerry forums to see if anyone else had an issue like I did, and it took time for others to report in with similar issues. Eventually, I reached my own bank’s department who handled Android and Apple Pay. They were aware of the problem, and progress went from there.

Fast forward to about mid-July, and my bank called me to say they worked with BlackBerry, and all should be well now. Sure enough, after an OTA update to my phone from BlackBerry, and some further tweaks by BlackBerry on their end, everything worked. Many coffees and a few grocery trips have been purchased with my KEYone. I’m quite a happy nerd in this regard!

Will my screen fall off?

A large concern that has crept up among KEYone users is regarding the screen. One by one, I watched users report on Twitter, Reddit, and CrackBerry that their screen fell out after a small drop, while taking off their phone case, or even just from removing it from their pocket. In some cases, the ribbon between the phone and screen ripped, rendering the device useless on the spot!

A YouTube reviewer by the username, JerryRigEverything, tested the KEYone out for himself, and he showed the screen came off easily, and that there was little to no glue between the screen and the body of the device. Yikes!

 

BlackBerry Mobile has acknowledged this issue fairly quickly and promised newer devices, manufactured from mid-July and onward, will have more glue behind the screen to prevent this from happening again. Current owners who run into this problem will have their device repaired or replaced via warranty.

Excellent customer support is vital

TCL Communication has a long-standing track record of delivering high-quality devices to our customers around the world, and the BlackBerry KEYone is no different.

To ensure the highest quality in the BlackBerry KEYone, we used strong, durable premium materials and conducted rigorous stress tests on the device throughout the product development cycle to meet the real life use standards our customers demand. While the BlackBerry KEYone is being met with great enthusiasm, we are aware of the concerns around potential display separation on the device.

Out of the thousands of BlackBerry KEYone smartphones that have been shipped and sold globally, only a very small handful of customers have reported this kind of issue.

Our teams are actively examining additional adhesive measures that might further strengthen and eliminate any possibility of display separation occurring. If a customer does experience this however, they’re encouraged to contact us for a device warranty replacement.

My KEYone’s screen did end up lifting off the body of the phone. The bottom-right corner above the “P” key was raised up, and progressively getting worse. I wasted no time in contacting BlackBerry Mobile via submitting a ticket and contacting them through Twitter.

Problem solved

After creating a ticket with them via their website, I received an email back asking for my name, address, and phone number. I was then told BlackBerry Mobile would be phoning me, requesting my credit card info. This was because they would send me a new KEYone, and it’s up to me to return my own KEYone within 10 days, or else I would be charged.

Long story short, within a 5-day window from making the claim, I was called by BlackBerry Mobile, provided my credit card number, was provided a tracking number via email, and received a replacement KEYone in the mail. Along with the replacement, was prepaid packaging to return my original KEYone.

Replacement KEYone on the left. My old KEYone on the right.
BlackBerry was quite transparent here by attaching this form, showing me I received a refurbished device.

The KEYone I now have is a refurbished device. I even received a form from Alcatel Canada stating it as such. This doesn’t bother me, so long as the screen has been reinforced and I don’t run into the same issue.

The capacitive ability of the keyboard

The KEYone’s keyboard reacts to touch, like a trackpad. You can scroll the screen content, swipe left to delete, swipe up to select predicted words, or double-tap to move the cursor around and select text.

One flaw my original KEYone had seemed to be a very limited error, as I had not seen anyone else to share this issue. Randomly, after my screen was on for a few seconds, the $, Enter, K, L, and Delete key stopped responding to touch. It was hit and miss, but very annoying.

BlackBerry Mobile did call me back after submitting a ticket and guided me through running my own tests on the phone. We could not determine if it’s a hardware or software issue. He offered me to send it in under warranty, but I opted to hang onto my phone until I knew their return stock would have more glue behind their screens. The tech understood.

Since I ended up swapping my KEYone for another due to the screen lift issue, I now have a KEYone with a fully functional keyboard. All keys respond to touch and things are working as intended. It’s so nice to swipe-left to delete again!

How I made things better for me

If I said the KEYone was perfect out of the box, I’d be lying. After OS and app updates, I still found the overall feel a shade sluggish, even for a device with a Snapdragon 625 processor. That said, after disabling some apps and some tweaking, the performance and overall feel of the device were right in line with my Nexus 6P, if not better.

Step 1. Disable HUB.

After a short test period, I disabled BlackBerry HUB. I’d once given this app a go on my Nexus 6P, so I knew what to expect of this on Android. In my opinion, as an Android user, it is very redundant from Android’s notification system. Sure it keeps track of notification history and it is a nice email client, but I just don’t need it. Gmail and Nine handle my emails, and I don’t care to keep a history of notifications. So, I disabled HUB.

Just like that, I found my phone’s performance a bit better, and I saw within settings it wasn’t sucking up my resources. Nice.

Step 2. Disable/uninstall all unused apps

BlackBerry has quite a few apps preinstalled, and while they are quite nice and probably quite handy for the business user (and targeted user, to be fair), they just aren’t for me. The only apps I didn’t disable are BlackBerry KeyBoard, DTEK, Notable, Radio, and Updates.

I don’t recall which apps were pre-installed, but just a couple of odd ones were on there from Rogers Wireless I believe. I kept the MyRogers app, but the others are gone now.

Step 3. Disable keyboard gestures

As mentioned above, I disabled the keyboard gestures. A blasphemous move to many BlackBerry PRIV and KEYone users,  but as I explained, it just isn’t for me.

Step 4. Those sweet keyboard shortcuts!

This certainly is not a secret trick or anything. In fact, this is a promoted feature you should be using if you own a KEYone. Each and every key can be used to open an app or activate a shortcut, such as direct calling someone from your phone book. I won’t list out all of my shortcuts, but to give examples;

  • T opens Telegram
  • Press and hold T opens Twitter
  • D dials my wife on her cellphone
  • Press and hold D dials my wife at her workplace
  • N to open my Notification Shade (this is done via an app called Pull Down Status Bar)

Opening my apps is SO FAST compared to when I used Nova Launcher or Action Launcher Pro on my prior Android devices. My homescreen also benefits, and it now only has three icons; Phone, App Drawer, and Camera. The Phone and Camera are only there in case my wife needs to use my phone, otherwise, those wouldn’t be there either!

Step 5. Setup the Convenience Key!

Also not a hidden gem or anything, but if you haven’t setup that extra button on the right-hand side of your device, you should. I setup mine as the shortcut called “Ring Volume”. Each time you press it, it toggles between Silent, Normal, and Vibrate. This works much like the slider key found on OnePlus smartphones. Works great!

Step 6. Disable Productivity tab

The Productivity tab is a nice thought, but it’s very restricted to what can be displayed in there. None of the content was anything I would use, so I shut it off within the settings.

Overall thoughts on the Blackberry KEYone

So with all of this said and done, I can honestly say I love this device and have no regrets in purchasing it. Typing has been a dream, I never find myself looking for icons to open apps, the camera is excellent, and even the fingerprint scanner which is found in the space bar, is quick and easy to use. Oh, and let us not forget the phenomenal battery life! I am easily reaching two days on a single charge!

Good job, BlackBerry and TCL/Alcatel. Yeah you made a couple of quality control goofs on launch, but I believe your device is fantastic!



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