Naked Security is reporting this week from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona
Two of the most notable devices at Mobile World Congress thus far have been from venerable old names: Nokia on Sunday rebirthed the iconic 3310, and on Saturday, BlackBerry unveiled its new flagship device, the KeyOne, which is expected to become available in April.
The KeyOne is made by Chinese vendor TCL under its licensing agreement with BlackBerry, and at first glance it’s not that bad. An unusually long device with a physical keyboard, it resembles a curious hybrid of iPhone and old-style BlackBerry, Particularly from the side, its aluminium frame and Apple style buttons will be familiar to iPhone users, while the keyboard is classic BlackBerry, if a little cramped.
So, yes, it’s nice enough, if you like that kind of thing, though I’m not sure that I do. As a former BlackBerry fan, I now find physical keyboards somewhat clunky and limiting. I doubt I’m alone in that.
And, as many reviews have already pointed out, it’s essentially a mid-range phone at a fairly premium price ($549, €599, £499). The KeyOne’s aluminum build and soft touch back are clearly a step up from many previous BlackBerry flagships, and the programmable keys are a nice touch. But apart from the 3505mAh battery, what’s inside is somewhat unimpressive, with its 2.0GHz Snapdragon 625 SoC, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment, though, is the lack of a more compelling security story. Given that consumer concerns about security have never been higher, and that BlackBerry retains strong associations still with this area, the fact that this issue was presented as something of a secondary characteristic surely represents a missed opportunity.
KeyOne comes with the BlackBerry DTEK security suite, which is designed to continuously monitor and protect the OS, informing users when privacy could be compromised. It will also receive Android’s monthly security updates. But the company’s emphasis on security was probably indicated by its lowly place in the presentation’s running order, coming as it did towards the end.
So while KeyOne goes some way to dealing with the threats out there, which of course now encompasses mobile, Blackberry’s emphasis on security doesn’t go nearly far enough given the endless stream of new vulnerabilities and malware categories being identified, and the severity and sophistication of attacks. This is a shame.
Incidentally, the event was repeatedly billed by Blackberry as “an 18-plus event”, which led perhaps to a slightly higher level of anticipation among attendees than that generated by the launch itself. Having experienced the event, which consisted largely of a succession of the usual sub-Steve Jobs, dressed-down executive presentations, followed by a very crowded device hands-on experience, I never did find out the reason for the age restriction… perhaps I left too soon?
7 comments on “MWC: BlackBerry misses a chance to tell a compelling security story”
I understand that the new BB isn’t the most powerful, but at the same time processing power on phones is far ahead of what is needed for most people, especially business needs. So if they can get more battery life out of an adequate processor, that’s okay to me. I can see the keyboard being handy for those that like a feel for position on the kb, and not having the screen move around when typing (oops touched the wrong spot). Yeah it’s not the latest and greatest, but being unique for comfort use, might keep them from loosing ground in the industry. Trying to directly compete with Samsung or Apple would only take them down the last notches. Now if they create a brail screen (rising bumps like that new watch) it might find an even bigger niche. If a blind person want’s to text, there is no way they could use a touch screen, buttons are a must.
Most blind people have no issues using a touch keyboard to send text messages. And those that do, tend to make heavy use of the digital assistant or voice dictation.
What leads you to think otherwise?
That brail is in use. Just like sighted people texting, they might like to keep conversations private and not let other people hear it (them speaking/voice dictation).
First: some background: I worked on accessibility on the BlackBerry platform.
Persons with vision impairments use touch screen devices using something called a screen reader. To oversimplify, when they touch the screen, a voice tells them what they are touching. It also reads the contents of the screen (e.g. the text of an email or the contents of the web page). If they put on headphones, no one else can hear. It is tremendously empowering, because that technology is available for free on all smartphone platforms, whereas it used to cost lots and lots of money for solutions in the past. Most visually impaired users, have an iPhone, because Apple has set the bar very, very high.
A physical keyboard has advantages — and adding Braille to the keys would be redundant. First off, only about 10% of blind people can read Braille. With a physical keyboard, the keys are in a fixed position — you don’t need to guess where the “Q” key is, it is always in the same spot.
This allows even sighted people to type without looking at the keyboard. When you use a computer keyboard, do you look at the keys? No, you know where they are. The same is true on a smartphone. I am not proud of it, but I have typed many messages under the table at a meeting or took notes on my phone while making eye contact with someone.
If I can do it — so can a person with a visual impairment. Braille is not required.
I didn’t know braille is used that little. I do like a KB to feel the buttons myself – back when I was a fps gamer (AGQX forever), I nail-polished sand to the W key to keep mistakes down.
If this is not the most secure phone please tell us which one could be?
This phone doesn’t need the fastest processor to run it. The 625 processor will work great on this device and with the big battery it will last forever on a charge. That’s important to power users who stream a lot of music or video, also business people who go through a ton of email and BBM, SMS and phone calls etc. Specs aren’t everything and I think that gets lost in a lot of reviews of phones, tablets etc. I personally think this phone would work in my world and many others.