The BlackBerry KeyOne will be available in South Africa next week exclusively on Vodacom. It’s the first BlackBerry smartphone release under the new licensing agreement with TCL Communication signed in December 2016.

At the launch event in Rosebank today, BlackBerry said the KeyOne offers a better experience at writing emails and messages, and increases productivity. The company also said it is intended to address those who are “independent, decisive, and leaders who want change”. I’m not sure who that narrows down to, because most smartphones don’t have keyboards today. So it might be an adjustment for anyone looking to switch to BlackBerry, or for those who loved their handsets from back in the days of BIS. 

It sure isn’t like any other smartphone on the market today, as the company says:

What you are looking at is a 4.5″ smartphone with Gorilla Glass 4. The fingerprint sensor is located on the spacebar; haven’t seen that on any other device before. Although I do wonder how much of wear and tear it will go through and may need to be replaced sooner than any other key.

The KeyOne has a 3505mAh battery, which is meant to last all day. It takes 36 minutes of charging to get to 50%; fast charge is always a handy feature. The phone itself is solid; durable. Looks like it could handle a few knocks (not recommended though). In case you haven’t been following the news for the last couple of years, BlackBerry now runs Android, so the KeyOne will ship with Nougat 7.1 and will receive updates for 2 years.

The camera hasn’t been BlackBerry’s strongest point, but they KeyOne features a Sony sensor that is 12MP on the rear camera; and 8MP on the selfie-cam. The company is calling it the “world’s most secure Android smartphone”. 

There is one other thing that the KeyOne can do, which I love as a feature – all the keys are customisable shortcuts. You can make the letter “i” launch Instagram, or “c” to compose an email, etc. I only got to play with it briefly so can’t add much else for now.

The handset is available at Vodacom, Chatz Cellular, Cellucity and Vodacom4U next week for R9649 on prepaid. Yikes.