Software is where BlackBerry shines. Not necessarily in the traditional, end-user way, but few companies can come close to the depth and scope of the BB enterprise communications and productivity suite of services. One could argue that this is the company's true value and its one of the main reasons the legendary brand even managed to survive its financial hardships. Just like its predecessor, the Key2 embodies all that perfectly.
It still comes pre-loaded with a full suite of BlackBerry apps. Among them, notable solutions, like the BlackBerry Hub, BBM, Password Keeper, Power Centre, Locker and many more. These are all tied together into one closely-knit ecosystem and backed-up by BTEK - BlackBerry's proprietary technique for establishing a hardware root of trust adding security keys to the processor.
As you can imagine here, the main focus is on security. All this helps BlackBerry's devices, as well as the Key2, meet Google's elevated standards and requirements to enter in the Android Enterprise Recommended. But even if you're not a system administrator, who needs organization-scale deployment and zero-touch enrollment features to keep the place running, there are still benefits to be had from the BB software approach.
For one, the participation in said Google Program entails very quick security updates. BlackBerry has promised to push a security patch every month. Plus, at least one major OS update in the Key2's life-cycle.
As for some new software features, coming to the BB suit, in particular, there are a few additions to the DTEK security app. It now features an "at a glance" security meter and hidden away behind it - an extensive log and statistics about permission usage on a per-app basis. There is also a new Proactive Heath feature, which is a scan that you can run to identify potential vulnerabilities and get security optimization advice.
The secure Locker app now has a broader reach. Besides photos, videos, document, email accounts and contacts, it can now house entire apps. It's not a ground-breaking new feature, by any means, but still a logical addition to the BB suite.
The Firefox Focus browser now comes pre-loaded straight into Locker as well. So, every time you open up a potentially sensitive link from an email, for example, you can choose to do so in Focus and only proceed after providing a fingerprint.
Last, but not least, the BlackBerry Power Center is smarter than ever. Now it can analyze your charging and usage patterns and suggest an appropriate time to plug the Key2 in. It can even predict days when you might not make it to your regular charging window and remind you to top-off proactively.
It's hard to place the BlackBerry Key2 in any meaningful industry-wide context. It is part of what will likely always remain an extremely specialized niche and one that can't be judged against the usual criteria.
That being said, the Key2 is expected to retail at around EUR 650 - a figure we can't comment. Especially not by open-market pricing and without actually looking into enterprise hardware orders, leases, support contracts and other bundles, way beyond our scope of interest. Plus, if you find yourself really falling in love with the uniqueness of the Key2, there isn't much point in discussing the financial aspect of things. The lack of choice throughout the industry - now that's a discussion we would happily play out. But again, another time and another place.
What we can say with confidence about the Key2 is that it accomplishes what it sets out to do beautifully. It's everything the original KeyOne is, only better and improved in a very sensible and focused way. We had a lot of fun with it and can't wait to sink our teeth deeper into BlackBerry's own little slice of the smartphone world in the full review.