It's not the BlackBerry KEY2 that has finally caught my eye, although it's absolutely worth a serious look for those interested in a higher-end device. No, it's the newly-announced, budget-friendly KEY2 LE that pushes the right buttons for me (no pun intended).
The price is right
At $449 for the 64GB version, it comes in at $200 less than the KEY2. As someone who maintains a personal budget and tries to stay within that budget as much as possible, that $200 difference is a huge one for me. If I can get most or all of the features I'm looking for at $200 less than the KEY2, that's a couple of Benjamins I can put towards other priorities.
It's the lightest post-BB10 BlackBerry yet
Some may balk at the fact that the KEY2 LE is an all-plastic (polycarbonate) device. But, while metal may look great, it also adds a lot of weight. One of the drawbacks for me about the KEYone, weighing in at 6.35 oz (180 g), was that my hands would get fatigued after typing on it for a while. The KEY2 is an improvement in this area, weighing 5.93 oz (168 g). But the KEY2 LE is even lighter at 5.5 oz (156 g). With BB10 QWERTY devices, I always preferred the Q10 (4.9 oz / 139 g) typing experience over the Classic (6.24 oz / 177 g) and Passport (6.91 oz / 196 g) mostly because I found the weight of the Classic and Passport to discourage prolonged, comfortable typing sessions.
This phone stands out in a crowd
I don't like to use cases on my phones. I think they get in the way of the look and feel of the device as it was originally intended. I do think the KEY2 is a great improvement over the KEYone as far as looks. But the Atomic version of the KEY2 LE - especially with those red keyboard frets - really sets itself apart, here. I have to give props to the decision-makers at BlackBerry Mobile for having the guts to bring some style and variety to their device lineup. As soon as I saw the Atomic, I knew I had to have one.
A welcome curve in the current BlackBerry lineup
As one who has been reluctant to let go of my aging, but trusty BlackBerry Q10, I feel like the KEY2 LE offers a great, cost-effective upgrade path. It fills a void that the old Curve series filled in the days of the high-end Bold lineup. It radiates iconic BlackBerry style and, of the three phones with physical keyboards currently offered by BlackBerry Mobile; it offers the greatest number of features I'm looking for at a price I can handle.
Kudos to TCL and the BlackBerry Mobile team for listening to the fans and for having the initiative and willingness to challenge the smartphone status quo, move the needle a bit more, and appeal to longtime BlackBerry fans like me. I can't wait to pre-order my KEY2 LE!