I don't know phones, but I know what I like
With the history lesson over with, we can finally talk about the device I chose to replace my beloved yet accursed Windows Phone. I'm not suggesting that my choice is the choice for Windows Phone refugees. I don't have enough experience to properly compare and contrast my new phone with the alternatives. Further, I'm all too aware that my preferences in this arena don't align with those of most other people. You could be kind and say that I have a massively skewed perspective. If you were less kind, you could say that the depth of my ignorance is practically a superpower.
You know what they say about ignorance, though. It really has been bliss until now. You would think that with such low standards, I would be impressed by almost literally any handset in the modern midrange-on-up collection, right? Ha! I'm more jaded about the mobile scene than I've ever been. I find all these new phones completely and utterly boring. The prospect of selecting a specific slab of overpriced smart glass from amid the nearly identical options felt like pure tedium to me. This is not to mention the sky-high prices of the so-called "flagship" devices. Oof, I don't think so.
That's why I bought a BlackBerry KEY2 LE. The goof factor was high, and it ticked everything on my meager list of so-called "right boxes." After scoping out my many options, I felt that the KEY2 LE was the most interesting choice, and no other superlatives mattered to me. (As a bonus, Bruno thought it was stupid.)
The KEY2 LE's most obvious feature is a physical keyboard, which is something I haven't had (and haven't missed) for nearly a decade. That leaves the phone with a somewhat odd 4.5" 1620x1080 screen. However, its 3:2 aspect ratio is good enough for Microsoft Surfaces, so it's good enough for me.
As to the rest of the specs: The KEY2 LE has an octa-core Snapdragon 636 SoC, 4 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of storage. The storage is expandable, though, and the phone supports dual SIM cards in the same internal bracket. It comes running Android Oreo 8.1, but an update to Pie is purportedly coming soon. It packs in three cameras—a 13-MP-plus-5-MP duo on the back, and an 8MP front-facing camera. The KEY2 LE supports fast charging over its USB Type-C port and, get this, it has a 3.5mm headphone jack. I'll never use that port, but I will lord it over more courageous phones. All in all, not too shabby for $450 (or less, depending on sales).
Launchers to the rescue
There's one more piece of the puzzle to talk about before I can tell you if and how my gamble on an oddball smartphone paid off. Arguably, this leaves me firmly in the "denial" stage of this whole ordeal, but I'm willing to accept that. I got wind of these things called "launchers" on Android. I already knew about the ones that OEMs use to ruin what I'm told is a perfectly functional stock interface. What I didn't know was that there were third-party options out there that were made to look like Windows Phone. I did some research and picked Launcher 10.
The first thing I did after getting through the initial setup process on the KEY2 LE was to hit up the Play Store and download Launcher 10. I immediately paid for both in-app purchases—ad removal and access to the Live Tile functionally—for a grand total of $8.50. I unapologetically did not give stock Android a chance. All told, I probably spent less than five minutes poking around at what normal Android (technically, the BlackBerry Launcher) looks like before forcing it look like Windows 10 Mobile. I just wanted to keep the dream alive, even if it was just a facsimile.
Over the course of the next few hours, I moved into my new phone and got it into a basic usable state. It was a lot less painful than I was expecting, and I credit Launcher 10 for making me feel at home much more quickly. The stage was set.