It’s been two months now that I’ve owned my BlackBerry KEYone, and since I wrote my initial review of this smartphone. I thought I would write about my initial hurdles, how things are going now, and even share a bit of what I currently have installed/disabled on my KEYone.

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. McDonald’s, Shopper’s Drug Mart, Tim Horton’s, Sobey’s… It didn’t matter where.

android-pay

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 a week ago, 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, and everything works. 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 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.

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It’s been found that the screen has very little glue, or none at all to hold it to the phone itself!

BlackBerry Mobile has acknowledged this issue fairly quickly, and promised newer devices 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.

I have not run into this issue (yet). The phone has seen a couple light drops, but it’s been in a case since the get go, and I’ve always treated my smartphones quite gingerly. Touch wood, I’ll be alright. Who knows, my KEYone may be tough as the devices “CrackBerry Kevin” tested out in his own video;

Using the keyboard as a touchpad is cool but…

The KEYone’s keyboard reacts to touch, like a trackpad. You can scroll the screen content, swipe left to delete, swipe up to select shortcuts, etc.

One actual flaw my KEYone has seems to be a very limited error, as I haven’t found anyone else to share this issue. Randomly, after my screen has been on for a few seconds, the $, Enter, K, L, and Delete key stop responding to touch. It’s hit and miss, but very annoying.

BlackBerry Mobile did call me back and guide 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.

I was alright with this decision anyway, simply because in Settings, I shut off touch gestures on my keyboard. Aside from this bug, I realized that the way I use my keyboard didn’t quite work well with touch gestures.

When I type on this keyboard, I don’t lift my fingers off the keys. I tend to glide my fingers between the keys. This in turn sometimes would activate the swipe-to-delete, or the double-tap which turns on cursor select. I never bothered swiping-up to select a suggested word either – I’d just press on the word.

So now, as far as I’m concerned, my KEYone is working perfectly as it should. That issue with the keys not responding to touch would only be a problem if and when I sell the phone to someone else, but I aim for that to be a year or two from now. Not a worry.

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 device with a Snapdragon 625 processor. That said, after disabling some apps and some tweaking, the performance and overall feel of the device was 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

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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 BBM, 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;

  • Press T opens Telegram
  • Press and hold T opens Twitter
  • Press D dials my wife on her cellphone
  • Press and hold D dials my wife at her workplace
  • Press 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 KEYone

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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, it 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, with about 7 hours of screen-on time!

Good job, BlackBerry and TCL. Yeah you made a couple of quality control goofs on launch, but your device is just great.

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