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August 31, 2017

BlackBerry KEYone Black Edition first look: More of the same

by John_A

When the BlackBerry KEYone was officially unveiled at Mobile World Congress this year, we were excited for its marriage of modern Android software with an old school keyboard. It appears lots of other people were eager for the phone, too. TCL, the company which bought the BlackBerry brand, says the KEYone “exceeded our expectations,” and that it is “very happy now to expand” the line. The black edition of the phone, which already launched in India, is now coming to the rest of the world, starting with the UK, Germany, France, Canada, Japan and the Middle East. It’s called the Black Edition and will cost €649 (£549 or approximately $700) when it arrives in mid-September. Yep, that’s more expensive than the original KEYone ($549).

You’re paying extra mostly for that fresh coat of paint, which looked surprisingly classy when we saw it at a demo here at IFA in Berlin. The buttons, frame and ring around the camera lens on the Black Edition are — you guessed it — black instead of the silver on the original. The new look is understated yet still attractive, like a little black dress to the original’s eye-catching silver outfit. The money also buys you a slight spec bump — you’ll get 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage on the Black Edition, up from 3GB and 32GB respectively on the original.

Despite the slightly more powerful internals, BlackBerry says there will be no noticeable difference in the KEYone’s estimated 26-plus-hours battery life. In fact, everything else about the two phones will be the same, down to the keyboard shortcuts and Android 7.1.2 software.

To be clear, TCL wasn’t really planning on making the Black Edition a successor or replacement for the original. The new color option was meant to be just that — another option. It’s for the people whom the company said have clamored for a black version. “We wouldn’t have done a black edition worldwide if the demand from consumers wasn’t that strong,” said TCL’s global head of sales Francois Mahieu.

We don’t know how much the Black Edition KEYone will cost in the US, or even if it will arrive stateside. In the meantime, those in the US who want an alternate version of the KEYone can get the recently announced Space Black color option, which is exclusive to AT&T. That variant will sport the exact RAM and storage as the existing KEYone — all that’s different is the shade. Since we don’t know how much the Black Edition KEYone will cost for America, it’s hard to say if the minimal spec bump is worth the investment. But if it costs as much as it does elsewhere, you should probably save your money for a newer, better phone.

Edgar Alvarez contributed to this report.

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