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By 4 August 2017 | Categories: news

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As far as TCL is concerned, it's business as usual when it comes to BlackBerry. The company acquired the license to manufacture BlackBerry phones under the new BlackBerry Mobile brand, and its latest offering is the KEYone. It was first showcased at Mobile World Congress earlier this year, and has now made its way to South Africa, arriving as a Vodacom-exclusive for a recommended R9 649 in the process.

We were on hand at the company's local launch for the new touch and type device, getting some time to experience it up close.

What is immediately noticeable about the KEYone, is that it's not like any other BlackBerry device we've encountered to date. There's a mix of things going on here, and we're not simply talking about the combination of touch and type interfaces. The frame for example, feels like parts of different BlackBerry phones, with inspiration from the PRIV (sans slider), Leap and Passport featuring. As such, we're still on the fence it comes to the KEYone's design.

Next, the phone feels weighty at 180 g. It does a good deal of heft to it and provides a reassuring experience while typing or swiping on the capacitive keyboard. While we're yet to spend an entire day with the phone, the time we did use it brought back memories of typing on the BlackBerry Classic - an underrated device in our books.

On the rear the dimpled faux-leather back cover is a unique touch. And much like the rest of the phone, will likely be something you love or hate. We're particularly interested to see how well it wears after six or months of use. One other odd choice is button placement, with the power one featuring solo on the left hand side of the KEYone's frame. While left-handers will enjoy it, for the rest of us it may be difficult to reach.

The capacitive keyboard is where the KEYone will either thrive or fail in our opinion. It has a similar experience to that of the Passport, willing users to make the most of it. It has a few more tricks up its sleeve than the standard capacitive keyboard, being used for navigation and quick launching of apps. As such, if you're a user that hankers for the nostalgic feeling of a QWERTY smartphone keyboard, the KEYone is right up your alley.

The problem for BlackBerry Mobile, however, is whether or not those who enjoy full touch smartphones are willing to make the move to a touch and type setup. Furthermore, worth noting is the amount of consumers that have tried previous touch and type offerings from BlackBerry and decided to go full touch instead. Either way, it should prove interesting to see how BlackBerry Mobile fares in this latest chapter of its evolution.

Scroll down further to see a few more pics of the KEYone.

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