The BlackBerry Motion is one of the surprise gems of 2017, read on to find out why...
I've just spent three weeks with the BlackBerry Motion. I'm not someone who has used BlackBerry devices much in the past, whether Android-based or otherwise, so this was my first true foray into the territory of one of the most iconic smartphone brands ever.
But although everyone still knows who BlackBerry is, it's fair to say that the company doesn't have the same clout it once did, having been left behind in the smartphone race, it has since struggled to close the distance.
Moving to the Android platform has been a big step to addressing this and in drawing BlackBerry back into the limelight, as software was a big obstacle. Adopting Android has allowed BlackBerry to focus on hardware and adding in its own productivity and security suites to the Android recipe.
The BlackBerry Motion is the firm's latest Android handset, running on Android Nougat it's a full-size display device with touch-only input; there's no physical keyboard here like the flagship BlackBerry KEYone.
So what was this debut experience like? What did I make of the BlackBerry Motion as a brand new user? Read on to find out...
BlackBerry Motion Review: Design & Display
As I mentioned in my first look hands-on with the BlackBerry Motion, I'm very torn on its design.
On the whole, I absolutely love it to bits, but there's one area where it trips up, and, knowing what the market's like and what people seem to buy when it comes to phone aesthetics, I can see it being a bit of a stumbling block for many eyeing up the handset as a possible purchase.
So what is that stumbling block specifically? It's the back panel.
It's subjective, of course, but personally I think it's dull and ugly, and I suspect given the number of metal and glass devices on the market in a range of lovely colours there are a lot of consumers who will feel the same. But I'll come back to all that in a moment.
I want to detour and focus on the positives of the design for a moment, because there are a ton of them here. Indeed, for me, something like 97% of the BlackBerry Motion's design is top-tier brilliance. That remaining 3% is largely the back panel, so I feel it's important to emphasise that on the whole this is a superb phone in terms of design and build.
The frame is crafted from brushed metal and has a really solid, high-quality feel in the hand; it has heft without being too heavy, and is nicely balanced.
Aesthetically it's very pleasing to look at thanks to the neatly bevelled edges of the frame and the way the top edge curves smoothly over from the front into a clean-looking top section of the rear panel, which houses the camera. This is a very minimalist, quasi-industrial look overall with punched and machined details and lots of tidy, angular, symmetrical geometry - offset nicely by that one curved accent at the top.
The front fascia is reinforced DragonTrail glass and the metal buttons are of high quality with a nice solid feedback. I think the frame design is fantastic. The phone also has a really reassuringly robust and premium feel when you handle it that is quite unique.
There's absolutely zero creaking, flexing, or rattling as it seems as though everything has been precision engineered for a perfect fit.
There's something very familiar about the premium quality of the finish, it reminds me of something I can't quite place, about the nearest I can come to it is if you've ever picked up and handled a really high-quality, precision-engineered DSLR camera or other professional-tier equipment in the same vein.
The back panel does actually contribute to this in terms of feel - it is a high quality soft-touch synthetic material, which is not only nice to handle and reinforces the high-quality vibe, but also has a number of practical benefits.
It's grippy, for one thing, both in the hand and when placed on surfaces, but also the matte finish means that unlike most of the glass-backed competition it doesn't show up fingerprints. It's also durable in terms of knocks and scrapes. At this point it's also worth mentioning this is the first BlackBerry phone with IP67 water resistance, meaning it's safe to take near the bath, sink, or pool.
So now we come back round to the negative bit. There's no two ways about it, the synthetic back insert is horribly coloured and textured. It is simply ugly. It does, in my view, detract considerably from the many positive aspects of the exterior design, and the other positive aspects of the phone in general.
On balance, I don't feel it's enough to be a deal breaker, at least not for me, I could understand how others might feel it is for them, however. I think in that sense it's a faux pas on BlackBerry's part because it runs the risk of alienating a good chunk of consumers who otherwise might buy one without hesitation.
But even though I can look past it and love the phone anyway, it is a bit of a shame. It didn't need to be this way. The BlackBerry Motion would look 10 times better if the back panel was a solid colour, even a flat grey or black would have been better than this zig-zag grey and black dual-tone effect.
The phone would have been enhanced considerably by a few other options for the more adventurous to complement the otherwise sleek design; a deep red, a navy blue, or a soft gold or copper. If I were to actually buy and own this phone, I'd be half tempted to take it somewhere and have the back panel spray-painted in some durable permanent finish.
As a result, the BlackBerry Motion feels a bit like a "so-close-and-yet-so-far" in terms of exterior design. It's a wonderful design on the whole - which I still find myself ogling every now and then even after weeks of familiarity - but the back panel finish is like a moustache on the Mona Lisa. I can live with it, as it happens, but I wish I didn't have to and it would be much easier to recommend in a heartbeat if it weren't for this glaring visual detriment.
Leaving things on a positive note, the display is excellent; a real pleasure to look at.
It's a 5.5in IPS LCD panel with a 1920x1080p Full HD resolution at 403ppi. At this scale this is a nicely crisp and sharp display and the IPS tech in use here is clearly of high quality, as the white purity, colour, and contrast are all top notch.
Black depth is VERY good for LCD, it's still not as deep as OLED but it doesn't have that washy greyness typical of many other LCD offerings.
Brightness is also great and the screen functions very well in bright sunlight, being quite readable. I'm also a big fan of BlackBerry's adaptive brightness settings which make the screen easier on the eyes after the sun goes down.
BlackBerry Motion Review: Battery Life
For a phone with a medium-sized bodyshell and 1080p display, and a relatively mid-power-level chipset, the BlackBerry Motion has a sizeable battery cell embedded within; rated at 4,000mAh. That's a lot of juice for a couple of major components that aren't going to be as thirsty as what's aboard most of the competition these days.
In my video testing I ran the BlackBerry Motion from full 100% charge with a two-hour film (Sherlock Holmes; 128 minutes), with Wi-Fi and data enabled and the screen on full brightness. As the credits rolled the handset displayed a battery charge of 87%. Yup, it had only discharged 13%.
That's pretty amazing. I've only encountered one other phone I've tested personally that matches that kind of battery efficiency to date, and that was also a phone from this year; Samsung's Galaxy S8+ (though I strongly suspect the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 are in the same territory).
The BlackBerry Motion's battery performance also translates nicely into day-to-day use as well, in fact I'd be tempted to go as far as to say it is slightly better than the Galaxy S8+ in this regard.
Because one of the key talking points around the phone is its alleged superior battery life, I went to the bother of pushing the BlackBerry Motion a little harder than I usually do with review phones in terms of calls, texts, social media, navigation, apps, YouTube videos, messaging, and web browsing. Normally I'd expect even phones with large batteries to suffer under these circumstances, but not so with the BlackBerry Motion. It simply kept going.
Most evenings when going to bed and putting the handset on charge it would be around 50%. It was rare for it to get as low as 30% and I think on one occasion where I'd ran it for a good two days hard with no charging it got as low as around 15%. Two day use on a single charge, even when running moderate to high usage is pretty standard for the BlackBerry Motion, which is impressive to say the least. And it never once left me surprised and stranded with no battery charge when I needed it. I don't think I've had such reliable battery life on a handset since the days of feature phones.
Charging speed was also quite quick, and I rather enjoyed a nifty little visual feature when you plug the handset into the Type-C USB charger; it'll show a coloured bar (changing from red for low charge, through to orange, yellow, and eventually green for higher levels of charge) starting at the bottom of the display and moving up the side towards the top; this will show the charge level at a handy glance rather than having to get in close and inspect the percentage. You can toggle this off in the settings if you're not a fan though.
If you want a reliable smartphone that can really go the distance, then look no further. For me the BlackBerry Motion redefines what is possible in smartphone battery life, which is a sentence I never thought I'd say.
Front Camera: 8MP f/2.2, 1.12-micron pixels, Selfie flash, 1080p video @30fps
Battery: 4000mAh non-removable, Quick Charge 3.0
Connectivity: USB Type-C, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, 5GHz, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, NFC, GPS, GLONASS
Other: IP67 Water resistance, DTEK security suite, FIPS 140-2 Full Disk Encryption, Android For Work, Google Play for Work
Dimensions: 155.7 mm x 75.4 mm x 8.13 mm
As you can see, the BlackBery Motion is pretty well-equipped here with both Type-C USB and 3.5mm headphone ports for wired connections, as well as a full suite of wireless protocols including Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth.
Onboard storage could be controversial - for me 32GB is actually a bit of an upgrade from my usual daily driver but I can certainly understand that power users may find it a bit lacking and be looking for a 64GB option. You do have 2TB of microSD support though.
Check back soon for part two, where I'll cover the camera, software, and performance, as well as giving a final verdict.