In short: The BlackBerry KEY2 LE is finally available for purchasing, after being announced about a month and a half ago at IFA in Berlin. The BlackBerry KEY2 LE is technically a KEY2 Lite, even though TCL and BlackBerry Mobile aren't referring to it as such. It's a cheaper BlackBerry smartphone, and the cheapest that it has sold a BlackBerry for since it switched to Android. The BlackBerry KEY2 LE is priced at $449.99, which is a full $200 cheaper than the regular KEY2. So what are you missing out on with the KEY2 LE versus the KEY2? Well the biggest thing is the keyboard shortcuts and using the keyboard as a trackpad. On the KEY2 LE, the keyboard essentially only functions as a keyboard, and nothing else. So if you liked using the keyboard as a trackpad for scrolling through apps and webpages, well that is not available here. The other major difference is in the build quality. Instead of having an aluminum frame, the KEY2 LE sports a plastic one, but this allows BlackBerry to put out some pretty interesting colors on the KEY2 LE, like the red. There is still a fingerprint sensor here, which might surprise some people. It is still located in the spacebar, as it is on the KEY2, which is a nice place to put it, as it's easier to unlock your phone without picking it up.
The other differences here are in the specs. It does sport the same 4.5-inch 1080x2160 resolution display, but where it skimps out is on the processor. The KEY2 LE sports a Snapdragon 636 instead of the Snapdragon 660 that is in the KEY2. That isn't a huge difference, if we're being honest. The 600-series processors are all pretty similar in performance, and BlackBerry Mobile is using the Snapdragon 600 platform because it is really good with battery life, without sacrificing performance. Something that BlackBerries were known for, before it moved to Android. The KEY2 LE also comes with 4GB of RAM versus the 6GB on the KEY2. The last difference here is in the battery capacity. There's a 3000mAh capacity battery here, which is significantly smaller than the 3500mAh capacity in the KEY2. But this should still last you all day, seeing as the Snapdragon 636 isn't as fast as the Snapdragon 660 and will use less power.
Background: Last year, BlackBerry really made its comeback to Android, by launching the KEYone. This was the first true physical keyboard-touting BlackBerry smartphone running on Android. Sure there was the BlackBerry PRIV before that, but it was a slider smartphone, so not quite the same thing. It was also one of the first smartphones that was also made by TCL, under the BlackBerry Mobile brand. There were a handful of DTEK smartphones made in 2016, from TCL, but that was just taking already-made smartphones and slapping BlackBerry software and logos on it. The KEYone sported an actual BlackBerry keyboard, since it was able to utilize BlackBerry's patents to really make the keyboard work like the old school BlackBerries.
The BlackBerry KEYone was pretty popular, but many were waiting on the KEY2, and it improved in all of the necessary areas. Which was mostly the camera and some performance issues. The KEY2 also raised the price, while doubling RAM and storage to 6GB and 64GB respectively. But even at $649, many believed that the KEY2 was too expensive, merging into that "high-end" space, even though many believed that because it had a Snapdragon 660 inside, that it was not a flagship device. BlackBerry Mobile also heard the calls for making a cheaper KEY2 smartphone, and brought out the KEY2 LE. For many, the KEY2 LE does cut a few corners, but not too many corners. It keeps everything that really makes this a BlackBerry, as well as keeping the specs as high as possible, with the Snapdragon 636 and 4GB of RAM here. And at $449, this is a really good option for those that want a physical keyboard on their smartphone in 2018.
Impact: The BlackBerry KEY2 LE is a great smartphone to pick up for a number of reasons. Firstly, because it is a well-made smartphone that won't lag (and does get updates pretty quickly), without costing a grand. In fact, it's a less than half of that. BlackBerry is pretty good with updates these days, though BlackBerry does focus more on security updates than on actual software updates. So you're more likely to get the latest security patch than to get the next version of Android in a relatively short amount of time. But then again, that is also what made BlackBerry famous, for how secure their devices were. And BlackBerry Mobile is still touting these smartphones as great for businesses and its enterprise consumers, as it is able to control these devices through a centralized system and keep them all protected with the DTEK app on the device. This is important, with all of the unsecured smartphones out there, and how many exploits also exist right now. For those companies that give out smartphones to their employees to use for work, it's really scary to have those devices unsecured, as they could be lost, and that would be a very big deal for many.
Amazon has the BlackBerry KEY2 LE available right now. Unfortunately, it looks like it is severely backordered right now. It is currently showing that it will ship within one to three months. That time frame will likely decrease drastically over the next couple of days, seeing as the phone just became available today - after being available for pre-order for a few weeks. The good thing here is that you can still order the KEY2 LE and Amazon will ship it as soon as possible. It also appears that only the "Slate" color is currently available. The other colors are coming to the US, and were listed on Amazon before, but those appear to be out of stock for now. So if you were looking to get the red one, or gold, you may want to wait a bit before you order yours.