It’s been a long time since any major phone has had a physical keyboard, but TCL Communications is aiming to buck that trend with its BlackBerry KEY and Priv series. For those wondering, TCL Communications is to BlackBerry as HMD Global is to Nokia The latest smartphone from TCL comes in the form of the BlackBerry KEY2 LE, a less powerful but cheaper version of the most recent KEY2.
The price of the regular KEY2 necessitated its launch, with many pointing out that it’s just too high of a price to ask for a smartphone with only the processing power of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660. When you can purchase other flagships like the OnePlus 6 for less, it is absolutely not a good look. The BlackBerry KEY2 LE (and its regular variant) does excel in one area though. Its best quality is its physical keyboard, aimed primarily at those looking to do a lot of business-related tasks on their smartphone.
Featuring a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 and 4GB of RAM, the LE certainly isn’t underpowered by any means. However, it pales in comparison to its non-LE counterpart, which has a bumped up processor and 6GB of RAM. In terms of power, the LE has a 3000mAh battery, down 500mAh from the regular version. That’s not too bad though, as the Snapdragon 636 has a reduced power draw in comparison to the 660. Some sacrifices are also made on the camera side of things, with the LE sporting 13MP and 5MP rear-facing cameras, versus the 12MP and 12MP that come with the regular KEY2. They both appear to have the same 8MP sensor on the front, though. A USB-C port is also present, along with a 3.5mm headphone jack.
One of the most noticeable downgrades with the BlackBerry KEY2 LE is its build materials. TCL have opted to make it out of plastic instead of glass, resulting in a device that’s 12g lighter, skinnier than the KEY2 and cheaper to manufacture. Plastic doesn’t necessarily mean a reduced build quality either if past (and present) smartphones are any indicator.
All this results in a considerable drop in price, however. The normal KEY2 will set you back $650, which is a hefty price given the specifications. The LE, on the other hand, costs a much more reasonable $399 (€399 in other European countries) for the 32GB version, and $449 (€449 in other European countries) for 64GB. The BlackBerry KEY2 LE will go on sale next month in the UK, but not Ireland. Importing it, however, will be fairly simple.