BlackBerry continues to morph into its true second phase in 2017. The KeyOne was a minor success in tech circles, with people enjoying the classic aesthetic, physical keyboard and up to date Android experience.
The BlackBerry Motion continues that revival as part of BlackBerry Mobile’s licensing deal with TCL. The former markets, the latter manufactures. On this evidence, it is doing a pretty great job.
The Motion is a solid, austere slab of smartphone at an affordable price point. I’ve had the phone for a short time and these are my initial impression. I’ll update this review to a full evaluation in the coming days.
BlackBerry Motion price and availability
I expect it to be available on contract after its release, but for now you’ll have to stump up the cash up front.
BlackBerry Motion design and build
BlackBerry is remembered for its mid-2000s heyday when the handsets were strictly business looking and felt close to indestructible. The Motion is going to pick up scratches, dents and maybe a smashed screen like any other phone might, but it does feel solid.
The bottom bezel is a tad chunky and houses capacitive navigation buttons that you can’t swap over as they are backlit specific symbols. A physical button integrates a fingerprint sensor and an unsubtle bit of BlackBerry branding. The top bezel is slimmer with camera and LED notification light if that’s your vibe.
BlackBerry’s convenience key is now on the right edge next to the power button, while you’ll also find a headphone jack (hooray), downward facing speaker and camera with flash. The back also has a Kevlar-esque texture that is less pronounced than on the KeyOne, but is still a great addition for grip and also doesn’t show fingerprints like so many other phones do.
It charges via USB-C and has an attractive textured detail to the metallic silver bumper. I also like how the phone curves over at the top rather than being flat, something I’ve not seen on any other phones recently.
BlackBerry Motion features and specifications
In my initial use of the phone it’s coped pretty well with all tasks considering it has a mid-range Snapdragon 625 processor. 4GB RAM certainly helps that, while it has 32GB of expandable storage up to 256GB for all your local media.
The 5.5in display is an IPS LCD and looks fine in most lights but isn’t the brightest panel out there. The camera is a 12Mp sensor with f/2.0 aperture and a dual LED flash. It’s also great to see 4K video recording at 30fps on a phone that costs under £400.
One of the headline specs here is the phone’s 4,000mAh battery. I’ve not had enough time yet to see if that can deliver the 32 hours of use that BlackBerry Mobile’s marketing promises, but it’s promising. For a phone that is placing itself as a productivity powerhouse, it can’t die halfway through a workday away from the plug.
The phone is also IP67 water resistant, the first ever BlackBerry to be so. It’s another attractive benefit to picking the Motion over the KeyOne alongside the price and the increase in battery life.
At first glance, it looks like BlackBerry is simply charging £100 extra for the physical keyboard of the KeyOne, meaning unless you’re absolutely set on that slice of typing nostalgia, the new Motion will save you money and not compromise on any other specs.
Also for a phone at this price, the haptics are really good. I’ve used higher-end phones with vibration feedback that shakes too hard or makes an audible, annoying sound (Pixel 2) but the Motion gets it right.
BlackBerry Motion software
As with its previous Android devices, BlackBerry’s skin over Google’s stock UI is quite utilitarian unlike the playful versions found on Samsung devices, but you may well prefer this. Personally, I enjoy the widget features where you swipe up on an app to quick-view your widget of choice.
There’s also the DTEK suite of security prompts and decent frequency of security updates. My review device arrived with a 6 November 2017 security patch, which was mere days before it landed on my desk. You’ll only find this speed of update on a Pixel device.
There’s also BlackBerry’s useful Hub app that collects all your notifications in one place, but I found it to be a bit of a memory hog on other BB Android devices.
There are other neat integrated features. I initially thought the physical home button was a step backwards in design, but a tap of the button (rather than a physical press) acts as a back button. Slightly odd as there is a back button directly to its left, but I found myself using it all the same.