The BlackBerry Motion has been officially unveiled at GITEX in Dubai, and while the keyboard-toting KeyOne created a buzz at the start of 2017, the latest handset to bear the famous Canadian brand is stuck firmly in the mid-tier.
The Motion is the new full touch device from TCL (which now makes handsets bearing the BlackBerry brand), with its solely touchscreen setup likely to appeal to a wider audience than the more niche KeyOne.
It’s the evolution of the DTEK50 and DTEK60 from 2016, and it’s fair to say the BlackBerry Motion plays it safe when it comes to design and specs.
It begs the question, who would want to buy the BlackBerry Motion?
It has a few defining features such as its dust and water resistant IP67 rating and a large 4,000mAh battery that should last you more than a day, but unless you’re paranoid about security and trust the BlackBerry brand with it, there isn’t anything unique about the Motion that will make you buy one.
The feeling continues as you look down the spec sheet. The BlackBerry Motion has a Snapdragon 625 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 5.5-inch full HD display, 12MP rear camera and it runs a fairly stock version of Android 7.1.
BlackBerry Motion price and availability
So if the design and specs aren’t much to get excited about, is the pricing something that BlackBerry can compete on?
Launching before the end of October in the Middle East, the BlackBerry Motion will be priced at AED 1,699 (around $460, £350, AU$595) – about the same price as the Honor 9.
While the handset has been confirmed for the Middle East, there’s currently no word on whether it will arrive in other territories – such as the US, UK and Australia. We’ll update this hands on review as soon as we know more.
Design and features
We’ve seen a lot of interesting designs show up on phones such as the Honor 9 or the Nokia 8 with shiny backs. The BlackBerry Motion doesn’t go down the flashy route but manages to come up with a design that is different and recognizable.
An aluminium frame surrounds the unit while the back has a slightly soft finish making it comfortable to hold that’s not too different from the BlackBerry KeyOne. Surprisingly, the BlackBerry Motion feels much lighter than it looks.
The front of the phone looks quite ordinary and very much like most phones in it’s price range. There are chunky bezels on the top and bottom of the screen- especially the bottom where you have the standard Android capitative keys and a fingerprint sensor with the BlackBerry logo.
Unfortunately, that ends up looking more tacky than classy.
The screen on the front is 5.5 inches with a full HD resolution. According to BlackBerry it uses a nano-diamond coating that makes it 25% stronger than Gorilla Glass. We’ll have to wait and see if consumers can put that to test.
The quality of the display seemed standard. Having said that, it’s a bit difficult to truly gauge the display inside an exhibition hall. Colors looks decent but we can only comment on brightness levels once we have put it through the Dubai sun.
Like other BlackBerry phones, the Motion has a convenience key. However, you can now set the key for more than one action based on a profile. For example, you can have this key pull up Google Maps when driving or your music app when you’re at home.
At the bottom, sits the 3.5mm audio jack along with a USB Type-C port that supports Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0 standard. The BlackBerry Motion is equipped with the largest battery ever found on the BlackBerry.
At 4,000mAh, we expect the phone to last a day on a single charge – possibly two – but we’ll be sure to put it to the test during our in-depth review.
New to BlackBerry phones is the IP67 rating on the BlackBerry Motion which makes it dust and water resistant. It means it will be able to withstand submersion at a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes in fresh water.
Also new for BlackBerry in the Middle East is support for dual SIM cards. The BlackBerry KeyOne released in India supports dual SIMs but the rest of the world only got one SIM card support.
On the software side of things, the BlackBerry Motion runs a fairly stock version of Android 7.1. The update to Oreo should land in some time early next year.
All of the BlackBerry software enhancements seen on previous Android phones are present on the Motion such as the BlackBerry Hub and the BlackBerry Keyboard. The launcher supports swipes on icons to bring up widgets and there are tons of shortcuts and actions.
Camera and security
The BlackBerry Motion has the same 12MP camera that was seen on the Blackberry KeyOne which wasn’t a bad camera by any means.
In fact, it was probably the best camera ever on a BlackBerry phone so expect the same from Motion. You’ll get good pictures in general but don’t expect it to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S8.
Like all BlackBerry phones, the security on the BlackBerry Motion is hardened all the way from hardware to software. That’s a key selling point for BlackBerry and one that attracts users to it.
An interesting new edition is a locked area to keep your pictures safe. Using the default camera app, you can press the onscreen shutter button to take pictures regularly, or tap the fingerprint sensor and the picture is instantly stored in a personal locker accessible though a fingerprint or passcode. Besides photos, you can also store documents in this locker.
Although there are a few firsts for a BlackBerry device with Motion, there isn’t anything that hasn’t been done before on a smartphone. You get a massive battery, IP67 rating and dual SIM slots that aren’t anything new and found in many phones.
But these features are new to BlackBerry and good for someone who is a BlackBerry user- possibly because they trust BlackBerry with security and reliability. And for them the BlackBerry Motion is a good alternate to the KeyOne.
Both of these devices share many of the same internals. With the KeyOne you’re getting a hardware keyboard but with Motion, you get a bigger screen, battery and dual SIM capabilities.
That being said, the Motion will be a tough sell for anyone that’s not a BlackBerry fan. There are plenty of other phones at similar price points that provide better value.