Since rumours of a BlackBerry Krypton were floating around, I got excited about another homerun from BlackBerry Mobile, when we got the Motion, I’d be lying If I said I wasn’t a little bit underwhelmed, at least at the beginning, but has my thoughts changed over the few weeks of use?
Disclaimer: BlackBerry Mobile provided us with this Motion for review, however, they have no control over the editorial content, and will not see this review before it goes live. The only other people to see this are MTT editors.
Speeds and Feeds
- 5.5″ 1080p IPS LCD
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC
- 4GB RAM
- 32GB Internal storage (with MicroSD expansion)
- 4000mAh Lithium-Ion Battery
- USB-C w/ USB3.1 gen1
- 3.5mm audio jack
- 12mp rear-facing camera
- 8mp front facing camera
For the complete list of specifications for the Motion, head on over to the GSMArena page here.
Starting off with the high points, the Motion is ridiculously well made. There are no squeaks, no creaks, no flex and no bend. Think of how solid the KEYone felt, and then take it to a belt sander to turn the curved edges flat and blocky, that’s kind of how the Motion feels. A lot of the people I handed it to said pretty much the same thing, it feels very masculine, for better or for worse, a lot of people noted that, and I can see why.The Motion looks quite imposing with 3 of the 4 edges being flat and brushed aluminium. The SIM and SD tray are on the left, the USB-C, Headphone jack and speaker are on the bottom, with the volume rocker, power button and convenience key all on the right. It’s all very utilitarian, the only curved portion of the phone is the top edge, which, unless you hold it in landscape very often, you’re likely to forget is even curved. Maybe they did it so you can know which side it up?
Having a look around the front of the phone, we have the okay but unremarkable 5.5″ 1080p IPS screen, and just like I mentioned in my hands on article, those huge bezels above and especially bellow still annoy the crap out of me. They are seemingly unnecessarily large and that extends to the fingerprint scanner and the capacitive buttons as well. The capacitive buttons themselves are the “disappearing” kind, but the iconography for them is massive. Seriously, look at this compared to the KEYone; it’s ridiculous. In between those we have the front facing fingerprint scanner and ‘clicky’ home button. If there is anything I hate more than capacitive buttons, its capacitive buttons mixed with clickable hardware buttons. Even worse than that, inconsistent ones. the home button of this setup works relatively well, and by that I mean it clicks and takes you home, but it’s also very wobbly, so there is a chance that you can press down on the edges, feel it depress, and even make a sound close to the click you’d expect, but not have anything happen.
My biggest gripe with this setup though is the fingerprint scanner. There is no way around this, it is just bad. I can count the number of times in the last month that I have had the Motion unlock on the first try, and I wouldn’t even need to use all 5 fingers. When it does work, however, it isn’t even all that fast. This is such a shame coming from the KEYone, which has a scanner that is so ridiculously small that you’d think It wasn’t going to scan anything, and in fact, it was bloody brilliant. The Motion is the opposite of that, large, slow and inaccurate, and it makes me sad. Oh, it’s also got a massive BlackBerry logo stamped in the middle of it.
Above the screen we have the 8MP front facing camera, the earpiece with a hidden LED notification light, a staple of BlackBerry devices old and new, as well as the ambient light sensor as well as the proximity sensor, the upper portion of the screen is less offensive to me than the bottom, but it could still have much smaller bezels than what BlackBerry went with.Flipping over to the back, we have something I absolutely love on the Motion that I kinda wish was on my Black Edition KEYone, is the carbon fiber/fiberglass back panel, this thing feels gorgeous and looks even better, it isn’t the grippiest material in the world, but it sure is a looker, and It’s gotten a lot of people interested to look and pick up the motion whilst I’ve had it, it’s certainly a conversation starter, and any conversation around BlackBerry in the consumer market is good. This material doesn’t take up the entirety of the rear though, about 3/4 of the way up the back, it changes from this beautiful carbon fibre/ fibreglass panel to a brushed metal one that houses the camera setup. not bad, and it looks like an elongated version of what we saw with the KEYone, it’s a design choice to show that they’re related, I get it, but I would love to see what a Motion would look like with the carbon fiber panel from top to bottom on the rear, I think that’d be cool.
Lastly, I want to talk about the buttons on the Motion, the volume rocker, power button, and Convenience key, from top to bottom, in that order. The volume rocker is fine – it’s more than fine actually, it’s clicky and responsive. The Power button seems to be the opposite for me, much like the home key, it’s easy to hit the power key on an edge where it feels like it is fully depressed but nothing actually happens. I feel like this could be down to placement as well as button mechanics though. Lastly, we have the convenience key. the convenience key is thankfully textured, as to not confuse it (too often, at least) with the power button. this is somewhat clicky, and is programmable up to three times this year, instead of just a single action as it was on the KEYone, which is nice, though a weird software glitch I’ve found, if you use the convenience key and have 3 applications listen if you close out of that menu, and open up the recent menu, the convenience key pop-out will be there, just a fun little glitch I’ve found.
The BlackBerry Motion is a mix for me of poor design but made with impeccable materials and craftsmanship, and the poor design comes almost entirely down to the front for me, and a little bit to the power button. The frame is rock solid, the ports have just the right amount of tolerance, the 3.5mm plug holds on to the 3.5mm jack just tight enough without it falling out and not too tight that you need a pair of pliers to remove them. The SIM tray is nice and flush and the edges and gaps are just nicely made. Again, impeccable craftsmanship and materials, middle of the road front design.
The Motion ships with Android 7.1.2 and the October Security patch, and like the KEYone and the Priv before it, the Motion has a pretty damn close to stock version of Android on there, which is great. The Motion has all the BlackBerry features you’d expect, but with a few more added extras, such as the locker, a hidden away localised partition of your storage that is fingerprint protected and is purely local, whatever is in there, is not uploaded or backed up to anything, so be careful. What is cool about this is that there is direct access to the camera, meaning that in the camera, if you lightly touch the fingerprint scanner (not depress it) it will take a photo and then instantly send it to the locker, no image preview, and it cant be looked at without your permission, neat.
BlackBerry still have the hub, and it is something I forced myself to use this time, and I did it properly. I made a note of every application and service I had connected to the hub, I colour coded each account, and then I went into each of those applications separately and disabled their native notifications so that I wouldn’t get doubles. Once this was done (it took a good half hour or so… I have a lot of accounts) I remapped the convenience key to only take me to the hub so I had quick access to it whenever I needed to, and honestly, I’m kinda loving it. It’s not quite as seamless as it was on BB10, but that’s because it was all designed to work with the hub, BlackBerry has had to find a way to add the hub on, and how they’ve done it has made sense, though I wish there was a bit more autonomy to it.
For example, if I sign into the hub for my work Email account, once it has synced all my messages, it should have a little popup that says “would you like us to disable notifications in [DEFAULT EMAIL APP] so that you don’t get duplicate emails?” and then you give it permission to do that. Having to manually disable the native notifications on all the apps is what stopped me using the hub on my first 2 KEYones, and the Priv, but now I feel like I might even try and load it up on my Mate 10 Pro and see what the experience is like, but once again, It needs to be more automatic than it is now.
There is more than those, but honestly, those are the big things with the Motion’s software, if you have ever used a KEYone you’ve basically used this software, for better or for worse. What is strange though, and I was able to confirm this with Geekbench (the benchmarking company) that for some reason, the BlackBerry guys, on the KEYone and Motion (potentially the Priv too?) are blocking Geekbench, whether that be through the app or through the browser, it is just completely blocked, and I’m trying to get to the bottom as to why. BlackBerry has committed that both the KEYone and the Motion will be getting Android 8.0 Oreo sometime in early 2018, they wouldn’t give us a more specific time frame or which device would get it first, but we have confirmation that we are getting Oreo, so that’s only going to get cooler. Hopefully, we get Treble too.
This is a weird one for me as for most of the time the Motion is just as fast as my KEYone as it should be. It’s pretty much got identical hardware inside; a Snapdragon 625, 4GB of RAM, 32gb of Storage and a 1080p screen. So when I got my Motion and started getting performance glitches in apps I use quite often, mainly Slack, Snapchat and Instagram, I was quite confused, and I had none of those performance hiccups on my KEYone, even the KEYone that I had been using for over 6 months that has a load of stuff on it. This was just strange to me.
I have spoken to some other reviewers who have experienced similar problems in fact. The one we all seem to have issues with is Slack, and I’m not sure if this is a Slack thing or a Motion thing, but as I have other Snapdragon 625 devices that run Slack perfectly, I’m inclined to believe it might be a Motion issue. At least that means a simple OTA can help it. For the most part, the Motion is snappy, but as I said there are instances where the Motion does not feel as fast as other devices. BlackBerry has some work to do before I can say that the Motion is a flawless performer.
This is where the Motion really shines. With the Snapdragon 625 processor, the 1080p display, and an absolutely massive 4000mAh battery, endurance is the Motion’s strong point. You get a roughly 500mAh improvement over the KEYone, which to me equated to roughly an hour extra run time sometimes more. Just as with the KEYone, the BlackBerry Motion is a phone where 2 days of battery life is the rule, not the exception to it. I was even able to get 3 days out of the Motion on lighter use days. This is absolutely insane. The Motion is the phone you can take on a weekend business trip and if you forget the charger, you might be a little annoyed, but unless you are incredibly low on battery already, you likely won’t care because your phone is likely going to be able to take it.
I have to give BlackBerry props again for also including a QuickCharge 3.0 power brick in the box, meaning that once every 2 days when you do need to charge, you just plug it into the rapid charger and in an hour or 90 minutes and you have at least a day’s charge. Just like with the KEYone, the Motion just does not die, and I kinda love it for that.
This is the section I really didn’t want to write because, in my testing, I can’t think of a single positive for the Motion’s camera. When I first saw the Motion and read the specifications sheet, I, like others, assumed that the 12mp camera on the Motion was the same as the module on the KEYone, which BlackBerry proudly said was the same sensor as the Pixel (though, once again, important to note that the sensor isn’t everything, the ISP and post-processing count for a lot). I was wrong. This in my testing cannot be the same sensor as the KEYone, because the images are so inferior, which is a shame, because the KEYone surprised me with how capable it was especially when you consider that BlackBerry devices have never been known for their stellar cameras. This genuinely feels like a regression on the scale of going back to the V10 Camera, that’s how rough it is.
It isn’t outright impossible to take somewhat decent shots with the Motion, but the sheer amount of effort that has to be put in on your end to get that image doesn’t match up with the image you get out of it. I’ll show you some images below so you can get a chance to see for yourself the shots I took in auto mode, vs the shots I had to compose and go manual with to get.
Now for the manual shots
Pretty stark difference right? Even those manual ones are just okay, which is so depressing to me. Video wise, the Motion fares better than on stills, but no one is going to mistake video from the Motion with video coming from an iPhone, a Samsung Galaxy or others. It shoots 4K, great, but the stabilisation on it might as well not even be there. Here is a sample of the Motion at 4K and at 1080p.
Ouch – that is all.
Writing this review was really hard for me because for everything the Motion does right, it feels like it does two more wrong. It’s not stellar build quality, but the inconsistency between the same devices is stark. For example, the buttons feel completely different on the four Motion units I have tested. The plastic curved portion on the top also differs between units, but there is no creak, no flex. It is dense without being unwieldy etc. It’s got pretty great performance for the most part, but the parts where it doesn’t are weird and shouldn’t be there.
Battery, build, security and performance on the Motion are its immediate friends. The fingerprint scanner, camera and the fact it has launched on an older version of Android aren’t. Some of what I’m annoyed with on the Motion can be fixed or at least altered with software updates, but there are some that are on the hardware level, such as the manufacturing inconsistencies, that’ll be harder to fix.
So, should you buy the Motion? Only if you’re a very niche use case, in which you want an incredibly secure device, great build quality and stupidly long battery life but also don’t want a keyboard, then sure. But unless you really don’t want a keyboard, for whatever reason, I’d go with the KEYone every step of the way, and it’s what my SIM is going back into after this review.
- Insanely good battery
- Stupidly secure
- Impeccable build quality
- QC3.0 recharges this beast fast
- Carbon fiber/ Fiberglass rear panel is awesome
- Camera is abysmal
- Inconsistent performance on certain apps
- Older version of Android at Launch
- lacklustre fingerprint scanner
- dull design overall