BlackBerry Motion review: A well built IP67-rated mid-range phone with fantastic battery life

Android / Mobile / Reviews
BlackBerry-Motion-review

The BlackBerry Motion ditches the physical keyboard for a full screen and is a well-built Android smartphone with fantastic battery life.

TA-ratings-90BlackBerry hardware has slowly been making a comeback under the TCL banner as of late, starting with the BlackBerry KEYone and KEYone Black Edition. Both of those sported BlackBerry’s signature physical keyboard, a feature that some people still prefer. The latest outing from BlackBerry/TCL ditches the keyboard in favour of a fullscreen Android device. Our BlackBerry Motion review takes a look at the fullscreen BlackBerry device which, while losing the physical keyboard, gains in an IP67 waterproof rating.

Specifications

The BlackBerry Motion has the following features and specifications:

  • 5.5″ scratch-resistant display
  • BlackBerry® Convenience Key
  • 8MP front camera with flash
  • 12MP auto-focus rear camera
  • Fingerprint Sensor
  • BlackBerry® Security software
  • Processor: Qualcomm® Snapdragon 625 Octa-Core 2.0 GHz, 64-bit Adreno 506, 650MHz GPU
  • Memory: 4GB RAM
  • Storage: 32GB Flash, microSD support up to 256GB
  • Screen Size: 5.5″ IPS LCD, 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Resolution: 1920×1080 FHD, 403 PPI, 24-bit color depth
  • Rear Camera
    • 12MP auto-focus large pixel camera
    • 4K video recording at 30 fps
    • Phase Detect Auto Focus (PDAF), fast focus lock
    • HDR 6-element f2.0 lens
    • Continuous & touch to focus, face detection, electric image stabilization
    • Panorama, burst, live filters, private capture, business card scan, PPT\DOC scan, whiteboard capture
    • Multi-frame low light enhancement
  • Front Camera
    • 8MP fixed-focus, f2.2
    • 1.125um pixel size
    • 84° wide angle/field of view lens
    • Image & video stabilization
    • 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps
    • Light-up LCD flash
    • Wide selfie mode (also known as selfie panorama)
    • Multi-frame low light enhancement
  • Ports: USB Type-C, 3.5mm audio
  • Battery: 4000 mAh 4.4V non-removable Lithium-Ion battery QC3.0, Enabled 50% charge in 41 minutes
  • Operating System: Android 7.1.2
  • Networks: LTE/HSPA+/GSM/GPRS/EDGE
  • Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 GHz, 802.11 a/n 5GHz, 802.11 ac 5GHz, 4G mobile hotspot, Wi-Fi direct
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy
  • NFC: Yes
  • GPS: GLONASS, BeiDou2, OTDOA
  • Sensors: Fingerprint Scanner,  Accelerometer, Magnetometer, Gyroscope, Proximity, Ambient Light, Hall Effect
  • Dimensions: 155.8 x 75.5 x 8.12mm (6.13 x 2.97 x 0.32″)
  • Weight: 167g (5.89oz)

What’s in the box

  • BlackBerry Motion
  • USB Type-C Cable
  • Travel Charger
  • Headset
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Warranty Card Leaflet

Design

The BlackBerry Motion has a darker grey brushed aluminum frame that looks quite slick. The easiest way to describe the frame is that the sides and bottom are one solid, beveled piece, with your typically rounded bottom corners. The top of the phone, on the other hand, has a rounded cap over it which extends to the back of the phone and past the camera area. The camera and flash sit towards the left side of the phone (when looking at the back). Where the aluminum piece ends, the soft-grip textured patterned back begins. Featuring a grey and black diagonal design, the back is nice and grippy and has a nice feeling to it. The iconic BlackBerry icon sits in the middle of the upper half of the back of the phone.

BlackBerry-Motion-review-08

The back of the BlackBerry Motion not only looks nice but has a nice grip to it.

The left edge of the phone is pretty much empty aside from the SIM card/microSD card tray. The bottom of the phone houses a 3.5mm audio jack towards the left side, a Type-C USB port for charging and connectivity, and a speaker grill off to the right.

BlackBerry-Motion-review-05

The ports are all located on the bottom of the phone.

On the right side of the phone (from top to bottom) is the volume rocker, power button, and convenience button. Like the KEYone, the convenience button lets you assign a specific app to it for quick access. A recent update allows you to set up to three different apps to launch based on your location — one for home, work, or while in the car.

BlackBerry-Motion-review-02

The Convenience Button makes a return on the BlackBerry Motion.

The screen covers the entire front of the phone, which is pretty standard, and has rounded edges where it meets the frame. The camera and earpiece speaker are located in the top bezel. The bottom bezel has a physical home/fingerprint scanner button in the middle of it with software back and recent buttons on either side. Even after a few weeks use, I still wasn’t totally used to having to press the home button to bring up the home screen. The device does sport side bezels as well, but they aren’t overly thick.

BlackBerry-Motion-review-01

The front of the BlackBerry Motion.

One key feature which BlackBerry is pushing on the Motion is that it is the first BlackBerry with an IP67 water and dust resistant rating, meaning your device is protected from spills, splashes, and dust. As one would expect, it works as intended. After your phone has been spilled on or submerged, you will want to make sure you blow and shake the water out of the ports before plugging in a headset or the device to charge.

While the BlackBerry KEYone was instantly recognizable as a BlackBerry device, the BlackBerry Motion isn’t. Even though it has great build quality, there’s nothing really that makes it stand out at a glance from other mid-range devices aside from the convenience key.

Display

The 5.5″ IPS LCD screen has decent colours without being oversaturated and is easily viewable in all lighting conditions. The auto-brightness setting works great for brighter and darker rooms, allowing you to view your content with ease. Given that it’s a 5.5″ display, it’d be nicer to see a higher resolution than FHD but in the end it is still pretty crisp, clear, and easy to read. In addition, the BlackBerry Launcher sizes icons and text nicely for both the display size and resolution.

Software

The BlackBerry Motion runs Android 7.1.2 Nougat out of the box and while it would have been nice to see it ship with Android 8.0 Oreo, it is slated for the upgrade. As far as pre-installed apps, your usual Android suspects are here including Gmail, Hangouts, Google Chrome, Google Drive, Google Maps, YouTube, Google Play, Google Photos, Messenger (SMS), Android Device Manager, File manager, and Private Zone.

BlackBerry-Motion-review-07

The added Convenience Button (far left) adds extra functionality through the software.

In addition, there are a number of BlackBerry apps (most of which we covered in our KEYone review) pre-installed as well. These include:

  • BlackBerry® Keyboard
  • BlackBerry® Hub
  • Calendar by BlackBerry®
  • Contacts by BlackBerry®
  • Notes by BlackBerry®
  • Tasks by BlackBerry®
  • BBM®
  • DTEK™ by BlackBerry®
  • BlackBerry® Device Search
  • BlackBerry® Launcher
  • BlackBerry® Services
  • BlackBerry® Help
  • BlackBerry® Password Keeper™
  • BlackBerry® Content Transfer
  • BlackBerry® Productivity Tab
  • BlackBerry®Toolbox
  • BlackBerry® Shade
  • BlackBerry® Notable

While it may seem like a large number of apps, they are definitely useful productivity wise and have been a staple of BlackBerry devices in the past. As you’ve probably noticed above, the Motion runs with the BlackBerry Launcher and also features the Productivity Tab as well. The BlackBerry Launcher works well and has some extra functionality like being able to slide up on select icons for quick widget access, as well as notification indicators on the icons for apps. Speaking of notifications, swiping down on the fingerprint sensor displays your current notifications and swiping down again expands the notification slide further. A simple swipe up on the sensor collapses and removes the slide altogether. To be honest, it’s nice to see some added functionality being brought to fingerprint scanners on smartphones.

 

BlackBerry-Motion-review-06

The BlackBerry Launcher, while not stock, is still decent.

 

I previously talked about the Productivity Tab extensively in my BlackBerry KEYone review. As mentioned in that review, this app adds a barely visible tab on the side of your screen which, when swiped, gives you quick access to your Calendar, Contacts, and unread messages from the BlackBerry Hub. The nice thing about the Productivity Edge tab is that it can be accessed no matter what screen or app you’re using for quick and easy access. You can adjust the height, position, and transparency of the tab as well to position it in the best spot for your workflow.

The BlackBerry Keyboard is another interesting app with one very interesting feature in particular. On most Android keyboards, when typing, suggested words appear across the top of the keyboard and is usually limited to three. BlackBerry has taken suggested words a step further and placed them directly above the keys on the keyboard. At first, it looks confusing and convoluted but once you start making sense of it, it actually makes a lot of sense. For example, if you started to type j then a u (for ju) the word just appears above the s, July above the l, June above the n, hi above the h, and so on. Swiping up on said key will enter that word into your message or text field. It’s really quite intuitive, to be honest, and placing suggested words above the next letter you would be typing in that word makes it quicker to utilize it as that’s where your thumb or finger was heading anyways. Too bad it’s not available for other devices…

BlackBerry-Keyboard

“Inline” predictive text on the BlackBerry Keyboard.

The Motion also features a Locker Mode which lets you take and store photos, as well as documents, in a folder that can only be accessed using the fingerprint sensor.

Even though you’re not getting a stock experience with the additional BlackBerry apps, many of them are actually useful and those that aren’t useful for you can be uninstalled or disabled.

Performance

Even though the BlackBerry Motion is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 Octa-Core 2.0 GHz CPU, it is plenty for what most people need for daily smartphone tasks. Web browsing, texting, music and video streaming, and most games ran just fine without any issues. Some games may take a bit longer to load as opposed to smartphones with an 800-series Snapdragon CPU but in the end I noticed no issues with actual game performance.

The 4GB of RAM is definitely nice as well and helps with smoother performance. There were no hiccups when using or switching between apps and, as can be the case in some budget and mid-range devices, there was no noticeable slowdown while using other apps at the same time.

Speakers/Sound

To be honest, I was pretty impressed with the sound on the BlackBerry Motion. Not only is it pretty loud for not being a stereo speaker setup, but sound is pretty crisp and clear. Like most smartphones though, it is lacking on the bass end of things and while using the equalizer adds a bit it still wasn’t enough to suit my tastes. At any rate, when watching a quick video or using it in speakerphone mode, the sound is decent enough.

Camera

The camera on the BlackBerry Motion launches fairly quickly. Focusing isn’t too bad either, allowing you to launch and take a photo without having to wait too long. The camera has your usual photo and video modes, as well as pano, slow-mo, and a scanner for barcodes and QR codes. You can also manually adjust the exposure to over or under expose for better results. Like most camera phones these days, HDR mode is also included. Finally, there are also a number of filters built into the camera which allow you to take pictures with different styles easily.

BlackBerry-Motion-outside-resized

Sample outside image taken with the BlackBerry Motion (untouched, resized for web).

As far as actual photo quality is concerned, the Motion does a decent job for a mid-range device. Low light photos do tend to suffer without a flash and the best photos from the Motion come in well lit or outdoor areas. When zoomed in all the way, you can definitely see some artifacts and loss of quality.

BlackBerry-Motion-outside-100-crop

100% crop of outdoor photo taken with the BlackBerry Motion.

Still, for the price, the camera is decent enough and launching and focusing speeds are more than acceptable.

BlackBerry-Motion-inside-100-crop

100% crop of indoor photo taken with the BlackBerry Motion.

Reception/Call Quality

As far as reception and call quality are concerned, there were no issues that I noticed in either department. Callers were clear and crisp and no one complained that they couldn’t hear me properly during a call. Download speeds were as expected on LTE and Wi-Fi and when paired with a Bluetooth speaker or headset, the range was as expected as well.

Battery Life

Given the BlackBerry Motion has similar specs to the KEYone aside from screen size and the keyboard, I figured the bigger 4,000mAh battery would last longer. That being said, the larger screen obviously eats more battery and even so I was consistently getting two days of use between charges with 20-30% left and 7-8h of screen on time. This is definitely comparable to the battery life in the KEYone and depending on your usage there’s no reason you shouldn’t see full-day battery life with heavier screen usage from the BlackBerry Motion.

Price/Value

The BlackBerry Motion can be found for just over $500USD on Amazon or around $605CAD outright from local Canadian carriers. Given the build quality and added functionality and security BlackBerry offers with the convenience key and BlackBerry apps, you are getting a pretty solid mid-range phone. Personally, I still prefer the KEYone due to the physical keyboard and slightly better camera quality, but the Motion is definitely not a bad device for the price. That being said, given some recent price cuts of other higher-end devices, the price of the Motion finds itself competing with some unlikely foes and it would probably do better priced around the $500CAD mark instead.

BlackBerry-Motion-review-04

The top features an interesting departure from standard smartphone designs…

Wrap-up

If you prefer a full-screen device as opposed to a BlackBerry with a physical keyboard, the BlackBerry Motion is a well-built Android smartphone with fantastic battery life. As previously mentioned, the convenience key offers added functionality and the BlackBerry apps add increased productivity.

*We were sent a sample of the BlackBerry Motion for the purposes of this review.

BlackBerry Motion

$605 CAD
BlackBerry Motion
9

Design

9/10

    Display

    9/10

      Software

      10/10

        Performance

        9/10

          Speakers/Sound

          9/10

            Camera

            9/10

              Reception/Call Quality

              10/10

                Battery Life

                10/10

                  Price/Value

                  8/10

                    Nailed it

                    • Solid design for a mid-range device
                    • Comfortable to hold
                    • Plenty of productivity apps
                    • Very customizable, especially with the BlackBerry Hub
                    • Great battery life
                    • Fairly decent sound

                    Needs work

                    • Convenience key can't be disabled
                    • Camera could be better
                    • Price could be lower considering some of the recent price cuts to higher-end phones
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