The BlackBerry Motion continues the BlackBerry revival through a licensing deal with TCL.
The KEYone has already won over many fans who missed the QWERTY BB’s. Now, we have a more regular looking Android experience in the form of the Motion.
Sporting no physical keyboard but a full face screen, there are still enough quirks without the QWERTY. But, are these little touches enough?
BlackBerry Motion design
The Motion does feel solid with its aluminium frame. Although it is markedly lighter than the KEYone.
It retains the premium feel and the 5.5-inch display takes pride of place up front. The Motion measures 155.7 x 75.4 x 8.1 mm with pronounced bezels.
The bottom bezel houses capacitive navigation buttons. Between these backlit buttons is a a physical home key that also integrates a fingerprint sensor. Oh, it also displays the BB logo, just in case you didn’t spot that.
The top bezel is slimmer with camera and LED notification light.
The back features a carbon-fibre style pattern that is also textured, but less so than on the KeyOne. The great thing is that this makes it more non-slip. Additionally, this finish doesn’t show fingerprints like so many other phones do.
I like how the phone curves over at the top rather than being flat. This is one of the little touches that makes this phone stand out from the rest of the slab-fest out there. It’s just a shame that this bit is plastic made to look like brushed aluminium. Still, it looks good and it doesn’t appear to be brittle either.
The BlackBerry Motion is also water-resistant to IP67 standard. This means that it can withstand a dunk in water without fear of permanent damage.
BlackBerry Motion performance
Like the KEYone, the Motion has a trump card in its battery and stamina. The Motion is loaded with a 4,000mAh cell. Paired with the juice-sipping Snapdragon 625 processor enjoyed by the other BlackBerry, but this fully touchscreen BB gets a boost in the RAM and sports 4GB of the stuff.
This means that it is slick in all the right places and you still get way over a day (I average a day and half on a normal stretch) before needing to whip out the charging cable.
All that being said, I would liked to have seen the Snapdragon 630 loaded in the Motion. That way it would’ve been just as efficient with slightly better graphics prowess.
The BlackBerry Motion’s 1920x1080p IPS LCD packs in 401 pixels per inch. It looks vibrant enough, but isn’t the brightest panel out there. Viewing angles are decent but it does struggle a bit in bright sunlight.
You are able to adjust colour temperature via a slider in Settings. This enables you to tweak the screen for a more warm or cool look. Top brightness is good.
In that situation, Blacks won’t appear perfect, they are good and contrast is solid.
Additionally, 5.5inch screens are able to be navigated single-handedly. Also, you can swipe down on the fingerprint sensor to pull down the notification shade just in case your digits can’t quite reach the top.
Touch responsiveness is decent and you’re tapping directly onto glass that is nano-diamond coated. According to BlackBerry this is a world’s first.
Overall, the screen is good enough to survive close insepection, especially at this price point.
The main rear camera has a 12Mp sensor with f/2.0 aperture mated with a dual LED flash. It’s also great to see 4K video recording at 30fps on a phone that costs under £400.
Being BlackBerry, you even get a mode for capturing business cards, complete with optical character recognition.
Another quirk is that the exposure dial is always on screen, just to the left of the shutter button. I quite like it as I am able to alter the brightness with a quick gesture. Saying that, if you’d rather just point and shoot, you can do that too.
I found the camera pretty fast most conditions. There was hardly and shutter lag and mostly no focus seeking.
That said, image quality can be a bit hit or miss. I find this odd as it may use the same high-end Sony IMX378 sensor as the BlackBerry KEYone (and Google Pixel). BlackBerry hasn’t actually stated what the Motion’s sensor is, but its specs sound the same as those of the KEYone.
However, in mid to low light images become soft, losing the punch they have in perfect lighting.
At night photos look very soft. Also, the shutter slows down to quite a degree which is a bold move for a phone lacking optical image stabilisation.
It also appears to take photos before it’s actually focused fully. There’s actually a mode that tells the Motion not to wait for focusing, but it seems to happen even when this mode is ‘off’. Just take a few shots to be sure.
But, if you keep this all in mind, you can still capture passable snaps.
There’s a nifty trick too – if you tap (not fully press) the fingerprint sensor to take a photo it goes directly to the Locker app, bypassing any cloud upload you have. An excellent idea when storing passport details and other such things.
You can shoot video at up to 4K at 30fps, 60fps at 1080p and a full 120fps slo-mo mode. The top modes disable electronic image stabilisation, though.
Around the front of the BlackBerry Motion sits an 8-megapixel camera. Image quality is fine here for what you need it for.
There are, of course, some business-like extras thrown in. For instance, there’s a Privacy Shade feature that lets you illuminate just a small area of the screen. Great for keeping over the shoulder readers in the dark.
The DTEK app analyses your security and Password Keeper lets you keep all your logins behind a single password. Add BBM and you have several core parts of the old BlackBerry appeal.
You are also given frequent security updates, the likes of which you’ll only seen on a Nexus/Pixel.
If an app icon has three-pips below it, it means there’s a widget you can bring up by flicking upwards on the icon.
Do that and then you get the Widget.
As we saw with the KEYone, BlackBerry loves shortcuts. These look like app icons but are actually function shortcuts you drop on your homescreen.
You might have ‘compose email’, ‘torch’ and ‘new alarm’, amongst others.
Flick inwards from the edge of the screen and you get the neat Productivity Tab. This brings up a toolbar that houses your calendar, contacts, a task manager and BlackBerry Hub.
BlackBerry Hub is an app that aggregates your emails, WhatsApp messages and SMS messages, letting you see all your communications in a single feed. This is real useful if you manage a variety of comms channels.
I also dig the the BlackBerry Motion’s Convenience key too. This is the button on the side of the phone that your thumb will almost certainly presume to be the power button many, many times.
You can customise this shortcut key with up to three macro-like commands. They could be launching the camera, sending an email to a contact, locking the screen, or a whole swathe of other actions.
These turn up as little round icons by the button when you press the key, although if you add just a single macro, it’s executed immediately.
BlackBerry Motion review conclusion
The BlackBerry Motion is a tricky one. The KEYone is plenty quirky and has that physical keyboard. Those make it stand out from the crowd.
However, the Motion, apart from its curved top, has little to separate it from all its challengers.
That said, you do get outstanding battery life and additionally security.
I like it and it has been a solid performer for me, but it’s not a phone that I hold any particular affection for. This could be BlackBerry’s difficult second album.
Price and availability
The BlackBerry Motion is out now for £399.
Specs at a glance 5.5in (1920x1080, 401ppi) IPS display Android 7.1 Nougat Qualcomm MSM8953 Snapdragon 625 processor Octa-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A53 Adreno 506 GPU 4GB RAM 32GB storage, up to 256GB microSD card slot 12Mp, f/2.0, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash 8Mp front-facing camera 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi Bluetooth 4.2 Fingerprint sensor A-GPS, GLONASS 4,000mAh lithium-ion battery 155.7x75.4x8.1mm