BlackBerry Key2 vs. Apple iPhone X: Which fruit-themed flagship is best?

blackberry key2 lock screen
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The physical keyboard had all but disappeared from the smartphone scene when the BlackBerry KeyOne came along last year. Now, BlackBerry is back with a sequel that improves on its predecessor in almost every way. The Key2 has a more stylish design, a better camera, more raw power, and an even bigger battery. But can it possibly topple one of the best smartphones on the market in Apple’s iPhone X? Let’s take a closer look.

Specs

BlackBerry Key2 Apple iPhone X
Size

151.4 x 71.8 x 8.5 mm (5.96 x 2.82 x 0.33 inches)

143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm (5.65 x 2.79 x 0.30 inches)
Weight 168 grams (5.92 ounces) 174 grams (6.14 ounces)
Screen size 4.5-inch IPS LCD 5.8-inch Super Retina AMOLED display
Screen resolution 1,620 x 1,080 pixels (434 pixels per inch) 2,436 x 1,125 pixels (458 ppi)
Operating system Android 8.1 Oreo iOS 11
Storage space 64GB (U.S.), 128GB (International) 64GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot Yes No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay Apple Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 A11 Bionic
RAM 6GB 3GB
Camera Dual 12MP, 8MP front Dual 12MP rear, 7MP FaceTime HD front
Video Up to 4K at 30 frames per second (fps) 2,160p at 60 fps, 1,080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C Lightning
Fingerprint sensor Yes No
Water resistance No IP67
Battery 3,500mAh 2,716mAh
App marketplace Google Play Store Apple App Store
Network support AT&T and T-Mobile AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint
Colors Black, silver Space Gray, Silver
Price $650  $1,000
Buy from BlackBerry AT&TVerizonT-Mobile, Apple
Review score Hands-on review 4.5 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

Apple iPhone X Review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The BlackBerry Key2 is a mixed bag. BlackBerry has eschewed the top Qualcomm processor that’s currently powering most Android flagships, the Snapdragon 845, and opted instead for the Snapdragon 660. There’s no such scrimping in the RAM department because the Key2 has a whopping 6GB, which is paired with 64GB of internal storage and a MicroSD card slot for expansion. The Key2 should be a smooth performer, if not quite as fast as the top phones, but it will certainly be a dream for multitaskers.

Apple’s iPhone X is undoubtedly much faster with its proprietary A11 Bionic processor inside. It’s backed by just 3GB of RAM, but iOS handles memory management differently, so don’t read too much into the fact it has half the RAM of the Key2. The iPhone X comes with 64GB or 256GB of storage and there’s no room for a MicroSD card.

You get a huge 3,500mAh battery in the BlackBerry Key2, which supports Quick Charge 3.0 via the USB-C port. Its predecessor had a smaller battery but offered great battery life, so we expect similarly impressive stamina from the Key2. It may even stretch a couple of days between charges. The iPhone X has a 2,716mAh battery that’s going to need charging every night. Unfortunately, there’s no fast charging out of the box — you’ll have to buy a USB-C to Lightning cable and a USB-C PD power brick, but the iPhone X does have support for Qi wireless charging.

There’s no denying that the iPhone X is the more powerful phone and we think Qi wireless charging is very handy, but Apple really should be including the fast-charging kit in the box considering the high price of the phone. The iPhone X takes this round, but if battery life is a priority for you, then the BlackBerry Key2 may be the one for you.

Winner: Apple iPhone X

Design and durability

blackberry key2 keyboard close
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The contrast in design is striking, to say the least. The BlackBerry Key2 harks back to an earlier age, but BlackBerry has refined the chunky style of the KeyOne considerably, turning out a lighter phone with a bigger, more usable keyboard. That keyboard takes up a large portion of the front of the phone and means you get a smaller touchscreen. The frame is aluminum and the back is textured for enhanced grip.

Apple’s iPhone X has that distinctive edge-to-edge display with the notch at the top and a stylish glass back. It looks much classier and much more modern than the Key2, though we suspect it would come off a lot worse in a fall. The iPhone X does have one advantage in the durability stakes, however. Because of the keyboard, the BlackBerry Key2 can’t be submerged, whereas the iPhone X has an IP67 rating that means it can survive a dunk in the bath.

Winner: Apple iPhone X

Display

iPhone X home screen

This category is a real mismatch. The iPhone X boasts a 5.8-inch AMOLED screen with a resolution of 2,436 x 1,125 pixels. It’s one of the best displays around and one that you’ll never tire of gazing at. The BlackBerry Key2 has a 4.5-inch IPS LCD with a resolution of 1,620 x 1,080 pixels. It’s almost as sharp as the iPhone X display, but it doesn’t come close to matching the contrast. The iPhone X’s screen is bigger and better.

Winner: Apple iPhone X

Camera

blackberry key2 camera pp
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Dual-lens cameras are commonplace now and both of these phones have them. The BlackBerry Key2 has a dual 12-megapixel camera, pairing an f/1.8 aperture with an f/2.6 aperture. The iPhone X also pairs 12-megapixel lenses, but with f/1.8 and f/2.4 apertures. Lower numbers mean a bigger aperture, which should translate to better low-light photography. Of course, there’s a lot more to a camera than the numbers.

The front-facing cameras are pretty similar, but in the video department, the iPhone X pulls ahead with the ability to shoot 4K at up to 60 frames per second and slow motion 1080p at 240fps.

The KeyOne had a surprisingly decent camera, so we expect the Key2 to be similarly solid. We’ve found that the iPhone X camera can go toe-to-toe with the best of them. While we’ve yet to really put the Key2 through its paces, we’ll be surprised if it can match the iPhone X.

Winner: Apple iPhone X

Software and updates

iPhone X

The BlackBerry Key2 is running Android Oreo 8.1 and BlackBerry has made various additions to enhance Android for business users and to improve security and protect your privacy. The Key2 will be getting the Android P update and a further two years of software support. You can also expect BlackBerry to roll out security updates quickly.

The iPhone X runs iOS 11, but will be updated to iOS 12 very soon. It will likely continue to receive updates for many years to come. With no coordination necessary when Apple rolls out updates, the iPhone X will also get new versions swiftly. If you care about software updates, buy an iPhone.

Winner: Apple iPhone X

Special features

blackberry key2 keyboard
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

You will not find a better physical keyboard on a modern smartphone than the one on the BlackBerry Key2 and that’s very much its unique selling point. The keyboard is 20 percent larger than the KeyOne keyboard and it’s more tactile. You can also customize it to your liking with the ability to assign two tasks to every key, based on short and long presses.

The headline special feature in the iPhone X is FaceID, the new front-facing camera system that can securely recognize your face and unlock the phone automatically. It replaces TouchID, but the change was as much about achieving the all-screen front that Apple wanted as it was about offering something new.

Winner: BlackBerry Key2

Price

Starting from $1,000, the Apple iPhone X is very expensive, even for a top-end flagship. You can spread the cost with a contract through all the major carriers, and it will work on any network.

The BlackBerry Key2 is a lot cheaper at $650 and it should also work on T-Mobile and AT&T.

Overall winner: Apple iPhone X

Because they’re so different, we can’t see too many people weighing these two phones against each other as their next purchase. But if you are, then we recommend the iPhone X. Apart from the keyboard and the battery life, the iPhone X bests the BlackBerry Key2 in every way. It’s one of the fastest phones around, with a stunning display and an excellent camera. The big stumbling block is price. At a full $350 cheaper, the BlackBerry Key2 is much more affordable.

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