Oh Blackberry. Once again you have risen from the dead and have haunted us with yet another glimpse of promise and wonder: the Blackberry Motion. But is this just another ho hum version of the original — and once mighty— computer in a pocket?
Blackberry has done something a little different this time around. After many years of failed operating systems and silly comparisons to the goliath iPhone, Blackberry has done the equivalent to the high school dork bringing the cheerleader to the prom. And that cheerleader is Android.
Blackberry Motion review
That’s right. The Blackberry Motion comes with Android Nougat 7.1, which turns the Blackberry from a Saturn to a Lexus. I must admit that I am a loyal iPhone user and haven’t had the best experience with Androids but like trying sushi when I was young and not liking it, I gave Android another try for the sake of this review and I must say I was very impressed. This review won’t focus on the Android specific features that many people are familiar with already (there are other articles here on the site for that). Instead we’ll look at some of the key features and the ones that set this phone apart.
The Motion also has another new-but-not-new feature: unlike it’s recently released cousin the KEYone, it is without a physical keyboard so this smartphone is all screen.
I received the Motion for a few weeks of real world testing and review.
Blackberry Motion’s special features
Blackberry has always been synonymous with security. Two added security features are the Privacy Shade and Locker Mode.
BlackBerry Privacy Shade prevents anyone from being able to read over your shoulder with only a small viewable area you can widen or narrow with a tap, so you can view private documents in small spaces like the bus or if you’re trapped in an elevator.
What is Locker Mode? No it doesn’t turn your phone into a locker mirror so the principal doesn’t sneak up on you. It just prevents all of your precious and embarrassing selfies from being shared. With Locker Mode, you can take photos or confidential documents with the fingerprint sensor and these images are password-protected, and not uploaded to the cloud. A handy feature for those not wanting their “it was a good idea at the time” moments shared with the world.
Shortcut key is handy… too handy?
Aside from security, Blackberry has typically been known for it’s quick no-nonsense abilities. Many people have issues with swiping gestures. Blackberry tries to help those helpless anti swipers with a short cut button called the Smart Convenience Key.
The Smart Convenience Key is a customizable button that allows you to instantly bring up apps you use most often based on your location. An example of this would be hitting the convenience key on your way to the office so you could quickly check your email. I tested this and it did work as advertised but I honestly developed a bad habit of hitting the key by mistake. The key is located on the right side – exactly where the standby key is on the iPhone 7 plus and most Samsungs. If you aren’t a current user of either of those you won’t even notice but if you are thinking of switching to BB this feature may be very annoying.
Size & feel Blackberry Motion
Side by side the Blackberry Motion was almost exactly the same size as my iPhone 7 Plus. The feel of the Motion was very comfortable. I think when we picture people with a Blackberry – we envision a wide game controller looking device with silly side wheels, a clicky keyboard and half a screen. Those days are over. The Blackberry Motion has a beautiful scratch and dust resistant display and a solid aluminum frame.
IP67 waterproof design
The Blackberry Motion is also waterproof but this also means you cannot remove the battery like the good old days. I think all loyal Blackberry users have had to take the battery out and put it back in when the phone goes wonky, so hopefully those days are over. With the Motion’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 Octa-Core 2.0 GHz 64-bit Arano 506, 650MHz GPU with expandable memory up to 2 GB this phone is powerful, stable, and fast.
Motion battery life
Battery life is an obvious need for a phone that is constantly being used. Sure we all use our phones constantly, but a typical Blackberry user is either at the office or away from home. BlackBerry considers this and adds its longest-lasting battery ever to the Motion. You’ll get over 32 hours of power without needing a charge. Quick Charge 3.0 with Boost mode also ensures faster charging. I gave this a try and the Motion performed like a champ: “Quick Charge 3.0” boasted a 50% charge in about 41 minutes.
Motion has improved camera
Now to the fun features of the Blackberry Motion. Camera and multimedia technology has never really been Blackberry’s strong suit until more recently but that may change now that the Motion allows you to take sharp, crisp photos in any light with BlackBerry Motion’s 12 MP auto-focus camera.
The wide aperture lens with dual-tone flash makes it effortless to take photos with superior colour and clarity. The 8 MP front camera allows you to join in on video conferences on the go. Plus, scan documents and receipts with the built-in Scanner for easy-to-access digital copies. How does this compare to the iPhone 7 plus? Below is a side by side taken without any special filters or flash. I performed the test this way because with a good amount of tinkering, any photo can be altered to look amazing. I wanted to demonstrate how a candid photo might look because that’s how a majority of photos are taken when you’re on the go with default settings.
As you can see there really is no comparison under low light conditions. The iPhone wins hands down, but with a proper flash and some iris adjustments the Blackberry Motion does take nice photos. Just be aware of this if Bigfoot happens to be strolling by in the woods.
Below is a low light picture with all of the Blackberry’s bells and whistles including the light-up LCD flash.
As you can see the colours really pop and the detail is impressive.
This review isn’t about convincing you that Android is better or worse than iOS. That’s like arguing PC’s versus Macs. The phone itself is what’s worth mentioning. When I first laid my hands on the Blackberry Motion I honestly didn’t know what to expect. But I really did like the “feel” of the phone. The features like the smart convenience key and the privacy screen are perfect for the on-go business professional who I believe the phone is marketed towards. The rest of the features like the Dragontail glass (which is supposed to be better than Gorilla Glass) and its IP67 waterproofing were also impressive but at the same time they’re also expected in a new phone these days. Not having these types of “extras” would be like buying a new car and not having a backup camera included.
To keyboard or not to keyboard… to phone or to tablet…
The biggest change for Blackberry users — and perhaps what has kept them from jumping ship — is the keyboard. I had a Blackberry Pearl many years ago and can still without a doubt claim that it is the best keyboard that I have ever used on a cell phone. Yes, that sounds crazy and the phone wasn’t the greatest, but there is just something about using a raised keyboard that makes a world of difference. Blackberry takes perhaps a big risk in getting rid of the physical keyboard in the Motion but they really had no choice. You can’t have a physical keyboard and a 5.5” high res display at the same time unless you’re walking around with a tablet.
The keyboard has the same little haptic vibrations as do most Android phones and it will take some time for those with hot dog fingers to get used to. If you want the best of both worlds, I’m afraid you’re just going to have to get over it. As I said, Blackberry also has the keyboard-equipped KEYOne so it will be interesting to see which phone sells better, or if those loyal Blackberry users prefer the Motion or the KeyOne.
Overall review of Blackberry Motion
With the Blackberry Motion you’re going to get what you expect in a new phone: a good display, decent camera, solid housing, good battery life, and a speedy processor. There are also some handy features that are specific to this phone like the Privacy Shade and Locker Mode. Even the camera improvements are heartening.
But does the Motion standout versus the iPhone X or Samsung S8, phones which many customers will no doubt be comparing this one to? Probably not. I really don’t believe Blackberry will lure away those users but they will most likely hang onto their existing loyal clientele, and maybe even lure a few early 2000-era users back for a crack at the Berry. The features aren’t a huge upgrade of “the smartphone” itself but a big improvement for Blackberry.
Blackberry Motion sells for about $599 from many cell phone providers in Canada.
-This review was done by guest contributor Ron Leung.