BlackBerry KeyOne vs. Galaxy S8: Keyboard or curves?

blackberry keyone vs galaxy s8 mwc
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
If you’re looking for a new smartphone right now, it’s hard to look past Samsung’s latest releases. The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are eye-catching, curved beauties that boast an impressive set of features. However, the more affordable BlackBerry KeyOne is also hitting the market, and if you harbor fond memories of the physical keyboards that marked BlackBerry’s peak, it may just reel you in.

These two Android smartphones actually have quite a few similarities on paper. For a little more help deciding, read on as we delve into the specs and pit BlackBerry’s KeyOne against Samsung’s Galaxy S8.

Specs

BlackBerry KeyOne

BlackBerry KeyOne

Samsung Galaxy S8

google pixel vs samsung galaxy s8 thumb

Size 149.1 × 72.4 × 9.4 mm (5.87 × 2.85 × 0.37 inches) 148.9 × 68.1 × 8.0mm (5.9 × 2.7 × 0.3-inches)
Weight  180g (6.35oz) 155g (5.5oz)
Screen 4.5-inch IPS LCD 5.8-inch AMOLED
Resolution (pixels) 1,080 × 1,620 (433 pixels per inch) 2,960 × 1,440 (570ppi)
OS Android 7.1.1 Nougat Android 7.0 Nougat
Storage 32GB 64GB
MicroSD card slot Yes Yes
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Samsung Exynos 9 Series 8895 (International)
RAM 3GB 4GB
Connectivity GSM / CDMA / HSPA / LTE GSM / CDMA / HSPA / LTE
Camera 12MP rear, 8MP front 12MP rear with OIS, 8MP front
Video 2,160p at 30fps 2,160p at 30fps
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.2 Yes, version 5.0
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes
Other sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, heart rate, iris scanner
Water resistant No IP68
Battery 3,505mAh 3,000mAh
Quick Charging Yes Yes
Wireless Charging No Yes, Qi and PMA
Ports USB-C, headphone jack USB-C, headphone jack
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Color offerings Black Black, silver, orchid grey, blue (international), gold (international)
Availability Amazon AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Samsung
Price Starts at $550 Starts at $720
DT review First Take 4 out of 5 stars

In terms of performance and raw power, this is a walkover for the Galaxy S8. Samsung’s smartphone sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor in the U.S. or Samsung’s octa-core Exynos 8895 in some international markets. Both are a great deal faster than the decidedly mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 that you’ll find in the BlackBerry KeyOne. You’ll also find 4GB of RAM in the S8, compared to the KeyOne’s 3GB of RAM. If you don’t care about cutting edge performance and the latest games, then the KeyOne should still have enough under the hood to satisfy, but it’s a distant second here. The bottom line is that the S8 should be faster at loading apps and games, and snappier when swiping around.

Winner: Galaxy S8

Design, display, and durability

Galaxy S8
Galaxy S8 Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Galaxy S8 could be the most attractive smartphone we’ve ever used. Curved glass edges melt into a rounded metal frame seamlessly. By ditching the physical Home button, Samsung has maximized the screen, packing an impressively large display into a svelte body. The build quality is impeccable. The BlackBerry KeyOne by contrast feels very chunky, but it does also have a very slightly curved screen that folds into an aluminum body. The obvious difference is the full QWERTY keyboard that sits below the screen.

Moving onto the screen itself, Samsung is the clear leader in the smartphone market with its Super AMOLED technology, and the S8 offers 5.8 inches of bright, vibrant, clarity. The BlackBerry KeyOne has an unusual, slightly squat, 4.5-inch display, because the front of the handset must accommodate that keyboard. It is respectably sharp, but it can’t compete with the best.

If durability is important to you, then things are less clear-cut. The S8 boasts an IP68 rating, which means it can take a dunk without dying. But when it comes to potential drop damage, that edge display is awfully fragile and expensive to fix, whereas the KeyOne has a solid frame to protect it and is designed to be able to withstand a tumble or two.

Winner: Galaxy S8

Battery life and charging

With a whopping 3,505mAh battery, the BlackBerry KeyOne has enough power to keep on ticking for a long time. Coupled with a smaller, lower resolution screen, we expect that battery to last perhaps well more than a days between charges, but we’ll have to test it out to make sure. The Galaxy S8 has a decent 3,000mAh battery which delivers average day-long performance.

Both phones have USB Type-C ports for fast charging, but only the Galaxy S8 supports wireless charging on both the Qi and PMA standards. Obviously, if wireless charging is important to you, the lack of support in the KeyOne could be a deal-breaker, but it scrapes a narrow win here for the longer battery life.

Winner: BlackBerry KeyOne

Camera

blackberry keyone vs galaxy s8 5
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

On paper, the BlackBerry KeyOne and Galaxy S8 are neck-and-neck in the camera department with both sporting a 12-megapixel main camera, and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera. There’s also phase detection autofocus, HDR, and 4K video recording, but that’s where the similarities end. In reality, the S8 is far superior with larger sensors for better low-light performance, extras like optical image stabilization, and snappier performance.

Winner: Galaxy S8

Software

While the S8 ships with Android 7.0 Nougat and Samsung’s TouchWiz UI on top, the BlackBerry KeyOne boasts the latest Android 7.1.1 Nougat and it’s almost stock. Samsung offers some interesting and useful extras including, smart gestures and shortcuts, iris scanning as an unlock method, special Edge screen panels, and the Bixby assistant, though we’re not too impressed with the latter in its current form.  You can even get the DeX dock to use the S8 as a desktop replacement.

BlackBerry folds its suite of apps into the mix and some tweaks to make better use of the keyboard, which also supports gestures. One important factor in the KeyOne’s favor is the commitment to regular updates from BlackBerry, which will include Google’s monthly security updates for Android.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

The Galaxy S8 has romped several categories in this comparison and that starts to make more sense when you compare the pricing. The BlackBerry KeyOne is significantly cheaper, with an unlocked handset costing $200 less. If you can’t buy outright, you can get an S8 from AT&T for just $25 per month with no money down, but it means signing up to a long, two and half year contract. We’re not sure on contract pricing for the KeyOne just yet, but it will certainly be cheaper than the S8.

Samsung Galaxy S8 BlackBerry KeyOne
AT&T $750 or $25 per month for 30 months $550
Sprint $750 or $31.25 per month for 24 months $550
T-Mobile $750 or $30 per month for 24 months with a $30 down payment $550
Verizon $720 or $30 per month for 24 months $550

Unfortunately, the KeyOne has been delayed slightly. It was originally touted for an April release, but this has been pushed back until May 31.

Winner: BlackBerry KeyOne

Overall winner: Galaxy S8

Whatever way you slice it, the Galaxy S8 is a better smartphone. Lightning fast performance, a gorgeous screen and design, and a host of extra features and functionality make it a clear winner here. Having said all of that, the BlackBerry KeyOne is the best BlackBerry in a long time and it offers great battery life, solid security, and, of course, that physical keyboard. If you’re a fan of the BlackBerry brand you’ll probably love the KeyOne, but if you want the best phone then it’s the S8 all day long.

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