Saturday 7 July 2018

BlackBerry Motion

There's only one thing really wrong with this phone, if we're nit-picking. I'll come to that. In the meantime, it's just a bit of a boring slab with a (fairly) USP (if there can be such a thing) which is not enough to lift it into anything very interesting, exciting, special or a device you'd be proud to own. Particularly. But maybe it is! Read on...

Don't get me wrong, the Motion is a perfectly capable Android 7.1.1. smartphone with bang up-to-date Google Security patches on-board, very close to Vanilla Android, loads of interesting stuff for the BlackBerry fan to coo over and a battery which, for the size of the device, punches well above its weight.

The battery is the headline news here. At 4000mAh it's even bigger than the already huge 3505mAh cell in the KEYone. And that performs staggeringly well getting the avid typist well into Day 2. The Motion notches that up further and in my experience here, having had two spells with it, pushes the end of Day 2 and flirts with Day 3 (all estimates of course, depending on use). Screen-on-time I'm estimating at 10+ hours. That's a great performance and, for some, taking into account the peaks and troughs of the following paragraphs, might be enough to swing it for them. USB-C of course, with QC3, so a full charge of this big battery in an hour and a half.

The internals reflect a chip-off-the-old-block from the KEYone (mix of silver/black versions), hosting a Snapdragon 625, 4GB RAM, 32GB Storage with a MicroSD Card for more. Where it differs radically is that it ain't got a keyboard! Instead of 25% of the front of the device being taken up with the KEYone's gorgeous keyboard, this turns all that space into screen, making for a nice and bright 5.5" IPS LCD 1080p 16:9 screen. Some will love this of course, but many won't. Some will argue that BlackBerry means keyboard. But choice is a good thing, and the range of devices being pushed out by BlackBerry, affording options, surely makes for a more interesting world.

Physically, the Motion feels really nice in the hand, solid, a class act with glass front, metal perimeter, nicely formed keys around the outside and a strange directional curve switch between top and bottom. At the bottom, the metal curves round in line with the sweep of the device but at the top, the semi-circular curve goes the other way, against the shape of the device. Hard to describe, so Google a photo of it and you'll see! It's interesting, at least and makes it a bit different. The back is a soft touch material with a reasonable amount of grip and because the device is relatively heavy, I didn't feel the need to case it.

I can't make up my mind about whether the Motion is too thin for its height. I think that on balance, it probably is! This could have been avoided by designers, in my view, making it a tad thicker but losing the bezels, chin/forehead, though not sides. The bottom bezel is huge and provides a home for capacitive Back and Recent Apps. keys with the real Marmite aspect between them. That is the physical Home Button with (huge) BlackBerry logo in the centre. Firstly, they really didn't need to put the logo there. It looks naff. But more importantly, it feels like we've gone back in a time warp as the key is also a click-in button! Surely this was ditched by pretty much everyone over the last few years. Why has it come back, I wonder. It's disorientating to use everything in a capacitive way but then have to change the brain for this button to click it, every time the user wants to go Home. It's an awful idea and I can see only one reason for the madness...

The reason seems to be that BlackBerry wanted to identify it as a secondary Shutter Button. One of the unique features of the unit is that BlackBerry supply a 'Locker' folder, where stuff that the user doesn't want to be seen, including photos, by anyone casually looking at or being loaned the device, can be stored. The system employed to add photos to the Locker is that, when using the camera, the user fires the shutter via the clicky Home button instead of the on-screen capacitive Shutter Button. Thereby sealing away photos that will need a fingerprint or password etc. to access. And that's it. As far as I can see. Oh, and sliding the finger down it to pull down the Notification Shade. But they really didn't need it to be a physical button to do that. The button could still have been capacitive. So I don't get it! (Incidentally, the fingerprint scanner which is incorporated into the Home button works perfectly, quickly and with accuracy.)

Anyway, maybe people lingering in a nostalgic world missing their physical Home button of yesteryear will applaud this, in the same way that BlackBerry keyboard users will have applauded the release of the KEYone. So choice and options. Just seems a bit odd to me! The other unique features which arrive with the Motion are the Convenience Key now having three assignable App. launches when pressed and the Privacy Shade, which gives the user a 'strip' of the screen visible (with various sizes and degrees of background shade) which can then be dragged up and down, the only fully 'lit' part being in the 'shade'. I guess for preventing people looking at someone's phone sideways or over the shoulder, it might be useful. At a stretch. But it feels like a gimmick to me!

All the other BlackBerry services and Apps. are in attendance in the same way as they were on the KEYone. From Hub, to BBM, to DTEK security monitoring, to Password Keeper, to Productivity Tab and all between. For the BlackBerry faithful, they'll be right at home. Nice touches laid on top of a very Vanilla Android experience enhance the experience rather than getting in the way and feeling like bloat. Double Tap to Wake, choice of Recent Apps. style of presentation, battery charging status green light around the perimeter and Glove Mode to mention a few.

I guess I've glossed over the BlackBerry security aspects to a degree, but not being a user of these services, nor seeing the need for them for Joe Average, I guess that they're of little interest. I understand that for the business community these things are important and kudos to BlackBerry for bringing them along with this stuff into the world of Android and no doubt keen fans will entrust that BlackBerry will continue to serve them well.

The Motion is IP67 certified, so dust and water resistant for half an hour in 3ft of water. It has a single speaker firing out of the bottom of the device, which, like many many devices being churned out these days, is a cut above many but not as good as some. It's louder than many. It's richer than many. It's not as tinny as many. But it will win no awards and more expensive phones are now including better speakers with richer, louder sound - often in stereo (or some strange hybrid of it). The unit does have a 3.5mm earphone socket, so kudos for that inclusion.

Like the speaker, the camera will win no awards, but it's a very capable 12 MP f2 unit with LED flash, supported by a front-facing 8MP snapper for Selfies. The camera interface is pretty much the same as the KEYone's and has some nice touches. The photos produced will more than satisfy 95% of users for 95% of uses. Want more - get a camera! But you won't of course get the Naughty Locker!

The phone is £399 in the UK just now. I guess it'll soon drop to £349. It's a big device. It has a big screen. If you love the BlackBerry Way but really don't want or need a keyboard, this will currently be the way to go in order to keep up with what they're doing. It gives you access to all those extras you need and for those who don't, they're not in the way. Just don't use them.

Apart from that it's a very capable smartphone. The chipset and RAM assure a smooth experience for all but hardened gamers. If you can live with the form factor of tall and thin with big bezels and that physical Home button, there's an awful lot to like here. It's really well made and will serve many people's needs very well indeed. If BlackBerry are good to their word, they will push Android 8 Oreo out in the new year and it's already surfing with November 6th Google Security. Good signs indeed.

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