BlackBerry Motion full review
BlackBerry continues to morph into its true second phase in 2017. The KeyOne was a minor success in tech circles, with people enjoying the classic aesthetic, physical keyboard and up to date Android experience.
The BlackBerry Motion continues that revival as part of BlackBerry Mobile’s licensing deal with TCL. The former markets, the latter manufactures. On this evidence, it is doing a pretty great job.
The Motion is a solid, austere slab of smartphone at an affordable price point, but when you look at the specs, there are high-end options out there for less than £100 more.
BlackBerry Motion price and availability
From 15 February it's also available in most parts of Europe.
Carphone also offers the Motion with no upfront cost and many more reasonably priced contracts besides. View them all here.
BlackBerry Motion design and build
BlackBerry is remembered for its mid-2000s heyday when handsets like the Bold 9900 were strictly business looking and felt close to indestructible. The Motion is going to pick up scratches, dents and maybe a smashed screen like any other phone might, but it does feel solid with its aluminium frame, a nice addition at the price point.
The bottom bezel is a tad chunky but houses capacitive navigation buttons that you can’t swap over as they are backlit, specific symbols. A physical button integrates a fingerprint sensor and an unsubtle bit of BlackBerry branding. The top bezel is slimmer with camera and LED notification light if you long for the retro BlackBerry vibe.
BlackBerry’s mappable convenience key is now on the right edge next to the power button, while you’ll also find a headphone jack (hooray), downward facing speaker and camera with flash. The back also has a Kevlar-esque texture that is less pronounced than on the KeyOne, but is still a great addition for grip and also doesn’t show fingerprints like so many other phones do.
It charges via USB-C and has an attractive textured detail to the metallic silver bumper. We also like how the phone curves over at the top rather than being flat, something we've not seen on any other phones recently.
Features and specifications
The Motion is on the large side, measuring 155.7 x 75.4 x 8.1 mm with pronounced bezels. The 5.5in screen is just about manageable one handed, but it’s by no means a small device. Luckily you can swipe down on the fingerprint sensor to pull down the notification shade, but it’s not as intuitive as with a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor.
The sensor itself recalls the Galaxy S6 and S7 in that it is a physical button rather than this year’s trend for static sensors. It’s not the fastest unlock mechanism on the market, but a simple placing of your thumb or finger on the sensor wakes the phone promptly.
In my initial use of the phone it has coped pretty well with all tasks considering the mid-range Snapdragon 625 processor found in the KeyOne and the Moto G5 Plus. 4GB RAM certainly helps that, while it has 32GB of expandable storage up to 256GB for all your local media.
The display is a 1920x1080p IPS LCD with 401ppi, and looks vibrant enough, but isn’t the brightest panel out there. Viewing angles are decent but it does struggle a bit in bright sunlight.
Touch responsiveness is decent, and the panel feels more rugged compared to the sometimes flimsy-feeling KeyOne. The Motion has slight light bleed on the top and bottom of the screen that’s particularly visible when it’s white, but that is commonplace on devices of this price.
You’re tapping directly onto glass that is nano-diamond coated, a world first according to BlackBerry Mobile. It’s therefore not the industry-favourite Gorilla Glass and considering the promise we actually picked up a small scratch on the first day of use.
It feels nicer to use glass though than something like the plastic coated ShatterShield on the Moto Z2 Force, but BlackBerry is saying the Motion’s screen is anti-scratch rather than scratch proof, so it just about gets away with it.
The camera is a 12Mp sensor with f/2.0 aperture and a dual LED flash. It’s also great to see 4K video recording at 30fps on a phone that costs under £400.
Results are predictably mixed, with bright sunlight being the optimum shooting condition. You need a steady hand too, as it’s easy to get blurry shots without realising until you view them enlarged. We also viewed some images on a monitor to find they were better than the Motion’s display suggested.
So, we can’t recommend the Motion’s camera for more than the odd point-and-shoot situation, though it’s perfectly adequate for social media purposes.
One of the headline specs here is the phone’s 4,000mAh battery, and it delivers on the promise of two days battery life. Charging happens over USB-C and Quick Charge 3, though you have to unlock the phone and select boost mode when you plug in or it won’t charge as fast.
The Motion breezes past three hours screen on time with at least 60 percent battery left, and with medium to heavy use using the phone as my main device, We comfortably got two full working days from the Motion, and only reached for the charger around midday on the third day. And if you’re wondering, yes this is insane.
Of all the phones we’ve tested recently, only the Lenovo P2 can match the Motion for this kind of battery stamina. It is no coincidence that these phones share the same Snapdragon 625 processor, but the P2 one-ups with its 5,100mAh battery. The P2 is half the price, but a pain to get hold of in the UK, so the Motion is a fine alternative.
BlackBerry Mobile relentlessly positions its BlackBerrys in the business market as productivity tools, and the battery life is a key part of this. But if you are an avid phone user who needs four hours of screen on time out of a single charge for video and music then the Motion is a phone to consider, but the midrange processor means high level gaming isn’t possible.
Oddly, the Motion refused to run our normal Geekbench 4 benchmark tests (same as the KeyOne) so we ran Antutu and GFX Bench tests to compare the Motion’s pure processing speeds to similar devices.
The phone is also IP67 dust and water resistant, the first ever BlackBerry to be so. This means it’ll handle a downpour or an accidental submersion with no issues. It’s another attractive benefit to picking the Motion over the KeyOne alongside the price and the increase in battery life.
The Motion did hiccup a few times when we flipped between apps, downloaded them, or general tried to multitask like we might on a high-end device. This is to be expected, but as the Motion is £399, it’s quietly creeping towards that arena. The Moto G5 Plus performs very similarly as the benchmarks show, and costs just £199.99.
At first glance, it looks like BlackBerry is simply charging £100 extra for the physical keyboard of the KeyOne, meaning unless you’re absolutely set on that slice of typing nostalgia, the new Motion will save you money and not compromise on any other specs.
There’s no getting away from the mid-range nature of the phone with the compromises on design, display and performance, but it’s a good effort. But for just £50 more, you can buy a OnePlus 5T that has a Snapdragon 835, 6GB RAM and a superior OLED display.
The only things the Motion has on its side against it is better battery life and more regular security updates. This makes it a harder sell against slicker options like OnePlus.
Connectivity and extras
Call quality is good, with a speaker that gets more than loud enough, and we used Bluetooth headphones and a Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro with no trouble over Bluetooth 4.2. Android Pay (and other functions) are a go with NFC too.
Another welcome touch are the included headphones. They are above-average, in-ear buds in a slick black, but like the fingerprint sensor have unsubtle BB branding but we’ll take them over none at all.
The BlackBerry Motion ships with Android 7.1.2, and BlackBerry Mobile has confirmed it will receive Oreo ‘in the new year’ which is incredibly open-ended, but good to hear.
As with its previous Android devices, BlackBerry’s skin over Google’s stock UI is quite utilitarian unlike the playful versions found on OnePlus and even Samsung devices, but you may well prefer this.
We enjoyed the widget features where you swipe up on an app to quick-view your widget of choice right on the homescreen rather than having to place a whole widget on there permanently. There’s also an app called Locker that hides content in fingerprint-secured folders if you don’t want people to access certain files.
An option in the camera is clever where you tap (not fully press) the fingerprint sensor to take a photo and it goes directly to the Locker app, bypassing any cloud upload you have. We found ourselves using it more than we thought to store things like passport details and receipts.
As well as a Night Light feature to turn down the blue tint after dark, there’s the DTEK suite of security prompts and decent frequency of security updates. My review device arrived with a 6 November 2017 security patch, which was mere days before it landed on my desk. You’ll only find this speed of update elsewhere on a Pixel device, and is a great reason to plump for the Motion if you want regular security patches (and you should, frankly).
Consumers unknowingly walk around with Android devices with ancient security patches, and BlackBerry Mobile should be commended for taking the matter seriously.
We also like the convenience key, which you can map to something generic like to open the camera, or something as specific as new email to a specific contact. You can also pin these types of granular commands to the homescreen for quick, efficient and usually work-oriented tasks.
There are other neat integrated features. We initially thought the physical home button was a step backwards in design, but a tap of the button (rather than a physical press) acts as a back button. Slightly odd as there is a back button directly to its left, but we found ourselves using it all the same.
You can do all the tweaks to the OS that you’d expect, but the skin doesn’t invite to customise as much as Samsung, OnePlus or Google. We get the feeling this is a phone to simply set up, be secure and last forever on a charge. And that is not a bad thing.
If you’re a die-hard BlackBerry fan, you’ll also enjoy being able to set app icons to the style of both the BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry 7 operating systems. It’s a small nod to the old company’s past as is the Motion’s name, surely a nod to Research in Motion?
BlackBerry Motion: Specs
- 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