When BlackBerry shut down crucial services for its legacy operating system earlier this year, I had a sudden nostalgic urge to pull out the Android-based BlackBerry Key2 and see how it would perform in 2022. After all, it there’s not much like these days, and maybe for anyone coming from a now dead BlackBerry Curve or Q10, maybe considering upgrading to another?

What I’ve discovered is that while the phone may not have been affected by the shutdown of Blackberry services, it’s hampered by something much more insidious: a complete lack of updates Android.

Desirable material

The first hour or so with it reminded me of what an absolute pleasure the BlackBerry Key2 is, as a phone. It’s almost nothing like any other mainstream phone you can buy today due to the physical keyboard below the screen, which is still a marvel to use. However, it really takes a lot of getting used to. I spent some time practicing typing at a reasonable speed when the Key2 came out, but my finger muscles forgot all about it, so I typed words stiffly at a snail’s pace to begin with.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Once I spent some time practicing I got a bit faster and also remembered the gentle swipe gestures to instantly swipe words from the suggested list across the screen as well than other shortcuts to make life easier. I was also happy with the PopSocket which I left on the back of the phone to make it feel more natural when typing. Using the Key2 is a tactile, pleasant and very personal experience.

The size, shape and design of the keyboard have been thought through – it’s angled downwards and the keys have the right travel and click – and the overall build quality of the device is excellent too. The metal chassis is light but sturdy, and the grippy rear panel looks like a real old-school “business phone” with its metal BlackBerry logo and simple camera module. It’s recognizable and different, and still utterly desirable.

All is not surprising, of course. The screen is completely inadequate for watching movies or playing games, and while the camera takes decent photos, it completely lacks the special features and extra modes found on all current smartphones, whatever whatever their price. All of which means I must have enjoyed my time revisiting the BlackBerry Key2, right? Unfortunately no,

shocking software

The BlackBerry Key2 was released in mid-2018 and it shipped with Google’s Android 8.1 Oreo software installed. Today, three and a half years after paying $650 (the Apple iPhone 8 was $699, for comparison), the phone is still running Android 8.1 Oreo. You read correctly. The BlackBerry Key2 has not received any major Android software updates since its release.

Back of the BlackBerry Key2.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Using it is like traveling to the past, but not in a fun Back to the Future way. Android looks blocky and lackluster compared to Android 12’s Material You design, swipe gestures for navigation are unheard of, dark mode doesn’t exist, and your digital wellbeing doesn’t matter. Google Discover doesn’t take up space to the left of the home screen, and you have to actively search for Google Assistant. It’s all old.

Most of the apps and services I use regularly work though, from Netflix to Twitter and Outlook to Autotrader, so it’s not like the Key2 is unusable. However, I had no intention of installing and logging in to many of them or installing apps like mobile banking because Key2 hasn’t received any security updates since May 2020.

To recap, the $650 Key2 is only three and a half years old, but still runs software originally released four and a half years ago and hasn’t looked like an automatic security update for two. year. . The handling of this otherwise perfectly usable phone, with its desirable and well-built hardware, borders on criminal. If you would have spent that extra $50 in 2018 and bought an Apple iPhone 8, it still gets software updates today, while Android 11 was the last update for the similarly-aged Google Pixel 2.

Unacceptable negligence

Is there an excuse in defiance of TCL for people who bought a Key2? Some would argue that TCL Communication’s loss of the license to manufacture BlackBerry phones may have impacted work on the software. TCL’s BlackBerry license expired in early 2020, with the BlackBerry Key2 LE being its latest phone, arriving six months after the Key2. He’s had 18 months to sort out an update for the Key2, and that’s a long time. It’s not like he’s busy building brand new phones.

BlackBerry Key2 seen from the front.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

It takes time, effort, and money for companies to update software on smartphones, and in 2018 regular updates weren’t as common as they are today. However, the irony of it all is that Android 8.1 Oreo introduced Google’s Project Treble, a system designed to help phone makers update Android more easily. The BlackBerry Key2 is the poster child for why we talk about software updates and why it’s against your own best interests to buy a phone that has limited support from the manufacturer.

The Key2 isn’t an old smartphone, but the Android software that’s installed ages it terribly and leaves it potentially open to attack due to unpatched security flaws. It is unacceptable that a phone, let alone a phone that was expensive when it was released, should be immediately abandoned like this. What is the solution ? Unfortunately, there is no solution to this problem for the BlackBerry Key2. It’s stuck on Android 8.1 Oreo and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s a complete waste of a good phone.

Nostalgia only goes so far. I only lasted one evening using the BlackBerry Key2 as my primary Android phone after nostalgia convinced me to try again. I’m lucky to have another Android phone, but I feel for those who bought the Key2 and still use it today. The Key2 is the perfect example of why we should pay close attention to manufacturers’ software update promises before buying a new smartphone – and be very careful about accepting anything other than several years of guaranteed support. .

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