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Blackberry Motion review: A KEYone without the keyboard
BlackBerry made a triumphant return into the smartphone space with the BlackBerry KEYone, a phone that brought the modern Android experience with the classic BlackBerry physical keyboard. The new BlackBerry Motion looks to continue that momentum by bumping up the specs in a few key areas and losing the physical keyboard.
Although the keyboard is one of the best and most iconic features of a BlackBerry, it certainly doesn’t appeal to everyone. For those that want the BlackBerry KEYone experience, sans the keyboard the BlackBerry Motion is here to fill that void.
Further reading: These are the best Blackberry phones
The question is: does a BlackBerry without a physical keyboard still feel like a BlackBerry or does it just turn into your average Android phone? Find out in our full BlackBerry Motion review!
One thing that you have to commend BlackBerry for is not being afraid to do something different. In an era where bezel-less displays, dual cameras, and curvy, sleek pebble-like designs are all the rage, the BlackBerry Motion bucks those trends.
It all starts with the phone’s design. Instead of a rounded glass or metal slab, the Blackberry Motion goes for a more industrial look with chamfered edges and metal sides that are completely flat. The only exception is the top portion of the phone which is one of the few areas that has some sort of curvature.
One thing that you have to commend BlackBerry for is not being afraid to do something different
The backside features a faux carbon fiber pattern that not only looks great but is soft to the touch and gives the phone plenty of grip. It’s not the most comfortable or sleek feeling phone in the hand, as the hard, sharp edges makes the phone feel very blocky. But it’s refreshing to see a design that doesn’t fall in line with the Samsungs, LGs, and Apples of the world.
The build quality however rivals even the most top tier of smartphones. Every part of the BlackBerry Motion feels sturdy including the volume, power, and BlackBerry’s signature convenience key. They’re all constructed from metal giving them a satisfying click and the convenience key has a ridged texture to avoid confusion with the power or volume keys.
Due to the Motion’s all-touch screen design, there’s no physical space bar this time to function as a fingerprint sensor like there was on the KEYone. Instead, the Motion has a fingerprint sensor designated by the BlackBerry logo on the bottom chin. This doubles as a physical home button.
The fingerprint sensor is fast to unlock and very accurate but it was weird to use a phone with a physical clicking home button again as most phones with front facing fingerprint readers nowadays feature no moving parts. This home button also functions as a trackpad of sorts allowing access to the notification shade with a swipe down and the app drawer with a swipe up.
Flanking the home button are capacitive keys which fill up the bottom chin quite nicely. They are larger than on most other Android phones with capacitive keys and this also makes them much easier to press.
With no physical keyboard, the Blackberry Motion has much more room for a larger display. The screen is an LCD panel that measures in at 5.5 inches and a resolution of 1080p making the Motion a much better smartphone for media consumption compared to the KEYone. The screen is fairly bright, vibrant in color, and has excellent viewing angles, but lacks the darker blacks and contrast ratio of an AMOLED screen. Due to its more traditional bezel size, it also won’t be an attention grabber if that’s what you’re looking for.
Despite the bezels, it's still a very enjoyable display
Despite the bezels, it’s still a very enjoyable display and provides plenty of space for productivity and having fun in your downtime with the occasional game or YouTube video. The screen is constructed from DragonTrail glass for added toughness and resistance against scratches, but the durability coating is tacky to the touch and makes the screen much more difficult to keep free of fingerprints.
Inside, the BlackBerry Motion features the same Snapdragon 625 processor and 4 gigabytes of RAM as its keyboard-fitted brother KEYone, That might be a little disappointing if you were hoping for flagship-tier specifications. While it may not be the most powerful smartphone on the market and won’t blow your mind when it comes to benchmarks, the Motion still performs admirably in day to day use. You will notice the occasional stutter when the phone is under heavy load and some slight rubber banding when swiping or scrolling. but for most daily tasks such as launching applications, checking emails web browsing, or playing graphically demanding games, the Motion is more than capable.
Where the Motion lacks in specifications, it makes up for it in hardware. On the bottom side is the standard USB Type-C port that’s flanked by a single speaker, and a 3.5 mm headphone jack, a port that has become a rarity in 2017.
In terms of storage the Motion comes in a 32GB configuration but is expandable via microSD. Without a porous physical keyboard, BlackBerry was able to make the Motion IP67 dust and water-resistant, a feature that has become more and more common place in smartphones.
One of the biggest pros to the Motion is its generous battery capacity. The Motion is equipped with a massive 4,000 mAh cell and that, combined with the Snapdragon 625’s battery sipping properties, is a recipe for long lasting battery life. The Motion consistently lasts me a full two days on a single charge and screen on time easily hits the 6 hour mark. My usage is quite heavy with several hours of gaming and YouTube watching per day on top of more typical activities such as reading emails, texting, and keeping tabs on social media and I’ve been very impressed with how long the Motion lasts despite my usage.
Wireless charging is not available despite a non-metal backside, but the phone does come with the standard Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 for easy top offs or fill ups.
The BlackBerry Motion comes with the same set of cameras as the KEYone. There’s an 8 megapixel front facing shooter that works decently enough for selfies and a 12 megapixel camera on the rear. In terms of features, the camera app is very basic offering only a handful of modes such as panorama and slow motion video. If you’re a fan of portrait mode or background defocusing effects that other smartphone cameras offer, you won’t find anything of the like on the Motion.
once the sun goes down or you move indoors, the camera is very quick to fall apart
In well-lit or bright outdoor situations, the Motion’s camera is more than capable of snapping some great shots. Photos are crisp, detailed, full of contrast, and colors are natural. However, once the sun goes down or you move indoors, the camera is very quick to fall apart. Shots become very overexposed, especially in the highlights, colors are washed out, there’s a ton of noise, and the camera constantly hunts for focus in low light that taking a photo can feel like a chore.
Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t offer optical image stabilization which would most likely improve the camera’s sluggish low-light performance.
My favorite aspect of any BlackBerry Android smartphone has to be the software. Not only because the experience is very close to stock Android, but also because BlackBerry’s software add-ons provide a ton of utility without feeling gimmicky.
It all starts with the BlackBerry Hub, an application that makes checking your notifications a simple process. The Blackberry Hub aggregates your emails, social media, text messages, phone calls and more into one place, so you don’t have to jump back and forth between multiple applications. It’s one of those applications that works so well that it makes you wonder why other OEMs haven’t copied it.
Then there’s the productivity tab, which is another extremely useful tool for checking calendar events, unread messages, your daily tasks, and contact list. The best part is it can be easily accessed at all times with a swipe in from the screen’s edge, regardless of whether you’re within an application or on your home screen.
My favorite aspect of any BlackBerry Android smartphone has to be the software
The BlackBerry experience would not be complete with applications such as BBM and BlackBerry’s best-in-class DTEK security software, that is always monitoring the security status of your device and keeps all of your data encrypted. There are other useful additions that we’ve seen before in prior BlackBerry devices, such as the privacy shade to keep prying eyes from getting a good view of your display, and the elegant swipe up gesture on app icons to access widgets which practically eliminates the need for putting widgets on your home screen.
New to the BlackBerry Motion is the Locker application. This is similar to the secure folder that we’ve seen on Samsung devices as it lets you lock away sensitive or private information that can only be access via your fingerprint, pattern, or passcode. This all sits on top of Android 7.1.2 Nougat at the moment, and, as mentioned, the software is very close to stock. so hopefully the update to Android Oreo isn’t that far away for the Motion.
5.5-inch Full HD IPS LCD
1,920 x 1,080 resolution
16:9 aspect ratio
Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
microSD slot - up to 2TB
12 MP sensor, 1.55 μm pixel size, and f/2.0 aperture, phase detection autofocus
8 MP sensor, 1.12 μm pixel size, and f/2.2 aperture
3.5 mm headphone jack
4,000 mAh non-removable
Quick Charging 3.0
IP67 water and dust resistance
LTE Home: B1/ 3/ 7/8/20/26/28/32/38/40/41
LTE Roaming: B2/4/5/12/13/17/19/39
LTE Home: B2/4/5/7/12/13/17/29/30/66
LTE Roaming: B1/3/8//20/28/38/39/40/41
LTE Home: B1/ 3/ 7/8/20/26/28/32/38/40/41
LTE Roaming: B2/4/5/12/13/17/19/39
Wi-Fi 802.11 a, b, g, n, ac
Bluetooth 4.2 LE
USB Type-C 2.0
Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Dimensions and weight
155.7 mm x 75.4 mm x 8.13 mm
Pricing & Final Thoughts
The biggest downside to the BlackBerry Motion at the time of this writing is its limited availability. It’s only available in a few select markets such as the Middle East where it retails for around $460 and Canada for $599 CAD which converts to $465 USD. There’s no word on if or when the Motion is coming to the U.S. but you should be able to buy it for less than $500. And that would be a fair price taking into account all that the Motion offers.
The BlackBerry Motion is a simple formula. It’s essentially a KEYone but with a bigger battery, water resistance, and an all-touch screen experience instead of a keyboard. For those clamoring for a keyboard-less BlackBerry, the Motion is your answer. Let’s just hope BlackBerry makes it more widely available before it’s too late.