BlackBerry Motion Review

Adam Matlock

Trusted Member
Jul 24, 2015
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From a time long, long ago, when BlackBerries were the way of the future, I can still remember when I bought my first BlackBerry. My very first model was the BlackBerry 7100G. I had wanted a BlackBerry from the very first time I saw one, but I couldn’t afford one. By time I got the 7100, I had a pretty good job and was happy to pay Cingular (now AT&T) by hard earned money for this fancy new device and the additional fee for BIS. For the uninitiated, BIS stands for BlackBerry Internet Services, which was required to use mobile data at the time. The 7100 was my first BlackBerry, but it wasn’t my last. Fast forwarding through the years, the next BlackBerry I got was the Pearl, with its slick little trackball (I went through two of these phones because I used it so much that I blew out the trackball and contacts). I ended up skipping on the Bold series, opting for the iPhone because I wanted 3G internet. I patiently waited for the inevitable upgrade that was slow to come, and then finally pounced on the Z10 once BB10 was launched; it was love all over again. I was happy with the Z10, but I missed the physical keyboard so as soon as the Q10 came out, I switched to that. Over time, I owned the Z10, Q10, Z30, Classic, Passport in White, Black, SE model, as well as the ATT version, and finally after BB10’s glory days had begun to fade, I got a BlackBerry Porsche P’9982, and P’9983. I was even an early adopter of the bug-plagued Priv that I was proud to use, and then my hopes faded as BlackBerry outsourced the hardware division, and shuttered the doors on the BB10 factory. I was disheartened to say the least, and found it difficult to decide where to turn to for my next device. That was until the KeyONE was announced. I was a day-one adopter, pre-ordering the device and driving semi-recklessly down to Best Buy to pick it up on launch day; everything was right with the world again. I had my keyboard, I had the convenience key, and most importantly, I had my BlackBerry back – minus the screen that fell out of my phone after a few weeks, but that’s neither here nor there. The most important part of this story is that I finally had a real BlackBerry back in my hands. Sure, it isn’t exactly the same, but the nostalgic effect of BlackBerry Mobile and the well-built BlackBerry oriented version of Android made me feel right at home, especially after I enjoyed the Priv so much. The whole experience helped me to believe in BlackBerry again, and helped me to reestablish ties with the brand after everything seemed to spiral down the toilet over time. Enter stage right --- the BlackBerry Motion.

The BlackBerry Motion is an important device, because it marks the very first all-touchscreen model made by BlackBerry Mobile. It is as momentous as the release of the Priv, and the KeyONE, which are both unique and novel in their own way. From the first time I picked up the Motion and started using it, it was like the Z10 and Z30 experience all over again, except it felt comfortable and the dimensions finally snapped. I, and many other faithful BlackBerry users has been waiting and waiting for an upgrade to the Z30, and hoped for another true all-touch phone after the Passport and the Priv, but it never came. Well, I’m here today to tell you that it has arrived, and I’m also here to tell you about it.

Pricing: The MSRP is $449, which is the best pricing I’ve seen yet on a new BlackBerry, and I think it fits. I was turned off a little bit by the high prices of the Priv and KeyONE on launch, I feel like this price is much more representative of the specs that are in the phone, as well what the device brings to the table.

- The timeless Snapdragon 625 clocked @ 2.0ghz (the same processor that powered the KeyONE)
- 4GB of memory (hallelujah!)
- a 5.5” curved display, with 1920x1080 HD resolution, made with DragonTrail glass (403ppi)
- Display is protected by the nano-diamond anti-scratch coating for enhanced protection
- A 4,000 mAh battery --- awesome battery life
- 32GB of internal storage (Expandable up to 400gb with an SD card)
- Rear Camera: 12 MP, f/2.0, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED dual-tone flash
- Front-Facing Camera 8MP f/2.2 with flash, and supports 1080p video @30fps
- Runs Android 7.1 Nougat out of the box, complete with BlackBerry software suite and DTEK security
- Records video at 30FPS for both 4k and 1080p
- The first BlackBerry ever with IP67 water/dust resistance!
- GSM unlocked for use with ATT and TMO, and their various MVNOs

Overview and Performance: The performance for the BlackBerry Motion is very balanced. The SD625 is not exactly a beast when it comes to straight-line speed, but it’s a very efficient and able-bodied processor that really shines when it comes to multi-tasking, especially when it’s paired with 4gb of RAM, which is a nice addition from the original KeyONE. I very much enjoyed my experience on the KeyONE, but the overall performance was stymied a bit because of the 3gb of RAM. It was eventually corrected in later versions, and I’m happy that it transferred over to the Motion as well. I tried playing some games on the phone and it can get choppy, even on games a few years old like Boom Beach. It’s not enough it unplayable, but it is a bit annoying at times. The overall flow and utility of the user interface, the Productivity Tab and Hub, are unaffected, and work very well. The Hub was a big question mark for me, especially since the last time I really used it was on the Priv, which left me very unimpressed. The Hub finally seems to have the kinks worked out of it and works as it is intended to, and it was a delight to have it back again! In addition to all of this, this is the first ever BlackBerry with IP67 water/dust resistance – safe for up to 30 minutes in 3ft of water!

Display: The display is excellent, at least in my opinion. One of my biggest hang ups with the KeyONE was the screen. It felt white-washed and bland, and was not an enjoyable experience as well. I actually had my expectations set fairly low for the Motion screen, so it was a nice surprise when I fired it up. The color balance is good. It’s not oversaturated, and it’s not bland. It’s a well-balanced color and tone ratio that does a good job for an LCD screen. I wasn’t disappointed, and I don’t think you will be either. Another nicety is the true, full-HD display, rocking a solid 402ppi, and 1920x1080 resolution. Video and graphics are crisp and look good. It’s definitely the best looking screen I’ve used on a BlackBerry, to date.

Battery Life:
The battery life on this phone is spot-on. It’s really hard to beat a 4,000mAh in your phone. On top of the serious battery capacity, the SD625 processor helps take it to the next level. The 625 is a very power efficient processor, and it’s also great for multitasking performance. I was initially hesitant and disappointed when I found out that they were using the same chip for the Motion, but that was until I used it. The experience isn’t watered down at all, and additionally, it’s really about usage. If you’re a gamer and you want to run the latest and greatest games, then this isn’t likely a good fit for you. However, if you’re a traditional BlackBerry user and you love long-lasting performance combined with efficiency, then this will be a good fit. I don’t usually like to test out my phones when it comes to multi-day use because I’m paranoid about being caught out without a charger, but the Motion held up well into day two for me on a single charge. It didn’t make it through two full days because I use my phones heavily, but it made it all the way to lunchtime the next day before I needed to plug it in.

Fingerprint Sensor: The fingerprint sensor is good, and if you’ve read my reviews before then you know how much of a fan I am of front-mounted FPS’s. I hate having to reach around the back all the time, especially in instances like the S8/S8+ debacle. One area of disappointment in the Motion is the lack of accuracy. The KeyONE spacebar/FPS hybrid was next-world level good, and I think that set my expectation really high for the Motion. The Motion FPS is good, but it’s not Grrrrreeeaaat (thanks Tony the Tiger). However, it’s not bad… it’s just not fantastic. It will definitely let you know if your finger placement isn’t in the target zone by vibrating and refusing you unlock. Once you get your finger trained to the FPS placement, it’s perfectly fine. In addition to being a FPS, BlackBerry upped their game and made it a combination home button/notification scroller as well. While touching the home button works as an FPS, pressing down on the button performs the traditional home button function. As for the scrolling function, if you swipe down on the FPS once it pulls down the quick-option screen and notification, and an additional swipe will bring the notifications shade all the way down; how cool!

Sound: The sound on the Motion is adequate. It’s not really anything to write home about but it works well for what it is. If you’re a serious sound jockey and really care about power and volume, then this probably won’t be a selling point for you. If you’re interested in good sound that won’t hurt your ears and provides an enjoyable sound experience, I think you’ll be happy with the speaker and sound quality. There is only one speaker on the phone and it’s a downward firing driver on the bottom of the phone. The placement is “ok”, but could be better. I find that many times I find myself cupping my hand over the speaker port and muffling the sound, which is not something I’m crazy about. However, it’s mostly the industry standard and the exact same thing you get out of Samsung devices, except it’s slightly better than that. So, marginal placement and adequate sound is the rating that I’ll give for the sound experience.

Camera: The camera experience varies from ok, to painful. If the lighting is good, you can catch some decent shots. However, if it’s less-than-optimal lighting conditions, or low-light conditions, your happiness with the quality of the pictures this thing takes will quickly plummet. Additionally, I found that taking pictures of objects with reflective surfaces is not good either. It drastically dims the screen and takes pretty awful pictures. The only thing I can really say here is that they took the business model for phones to the extreme, as-in, it’s a work/productivity phone and isn’t designed around the camera. However, I would caveat that by saying that it should be better, and could have been better. The KeyONE camera was a bragging point for marketing, and I feel like that should have translated over to the Motion as well. I guess it’s one of the sacrificed specs that ended up on the chopping block for the $100 price reduction. On a positive note, the shutter speed is pretty snappy and it takes quick pictures, which is a bonus for me. Additionally, one cool photo feature that the Motion offers is the secure folder. While taking pictures, if you want to send a photo to the secure folder, place your finder on the home button (don't press it), and it will snap a picture and send it directly to your secure folder that requires either a fingerprint or PIN to access. Of course, regular snaps utilizing the shutter button go straight to the photo folder.

Software: In today’s society where BlackBerry is now competing on the Android platform, there are some people (myself included), who really have to sit back and wonder, “why should I get a BlackBerry?” It’s not BB10 anymore, so why should I shell out the money when I could arguably get something better from another manufacturer? The biggest answer to that question is the software experience. Although the Motion is still running Android 7.1, I have to follow that up by saying that so is the Galaxy S8/8+, so let’s not throw it on the chopping block for that. The BlackBerry UI experience is deeply modified in important ways that takes time to move over to a newer version of Android. The assistant, the Hub, and the DTEK security suite are vital integrations into the OS, and really help secure BlackBerry’s place in the Android world. Sure, there’s something to be said for “stock Android”, but I believe that there is something to be said for modified UI’s, especially when done right; and the Motion does it right. It’s a pleasure to be able to swipe from the left, or the right (depending on your configuration) and open up the Productivity Tab, which features your email, the Hub, notifications and upcoming events on the calendar. The Productivity Tab has come a long way from the Priv, and is chock-full of customizations. You can make the tab larger or smaller, adjust placement on the screen, and even move it from one side of the screen to the other. I dream of a day when a simple swipe from the left will get me straight to the Hub, but for now this is definitely nothing to scoff at. The entire integration of the Productivity Tab into the UI is seamless and works like a charm. Along with the Productivity Tab and the Hub, the DTEK security suite makes a reappearance, as does the BlackBerry Software Suite, which I love. If you swipe over a few screens you can get to a host of BlackBerry gems, like notes, tasks, events, email, composing texts and BBM messages, and even check your data usage and battery level. The best part of the software suite is the BlackBerry touch keyboard, which I argue is the best in the business. If you’re another device, definitely use GBoard, but if you’re rolling with BlackBerry, you never need to look any farther because you’ve already got the best. It is a perfect and seamless translation from BB10, and I have sorely missed it. I love being able to swipe backward on the keyboard to erase, tap the space bar for suggestion and flick up on the selected text predictions that hover over the letters on the keyboard. If you’ve never used a BlackBerry touch keyboard, you’re certainly missing out; it’s a pure delight.

If you’re uninitiated to the BlackBerry Hub, then you’re also in for a treat. The Hub is just what the name is, a consolidated, easy-to-use hub that integrates all of your notifications, communications and events into one convenient locale. You can even customize it to prioritize the information/notifications that you want to see. You can even take it one step further and assign a customized color LED notification to the particular notification. For instance, you can make text message notifications Blue, BBM’s can be Yellow, email can be Green, and so on and so forth. The power of the LED and customization is strong with the Motion. Last but not least is the convenience key, which is unique to BlackBerry and configurable to your favorite apps. Although the placement could arguably get better, you get used to it quickly, and then it becomes second-nature. I personally use the convenience key for Slack, which I use all day long, and it’s incredibly neat, and nice, to be able to press the convenience key and pull the app up without a second thought. Software Conclusions? Game. Set. Match, BlackBerry.

Conclusion: Overall, the BlackBerry Motion is a fantastic device and the experience is a gem among Androids. Every manufacturer tries to find ways to differentiate themselves from others, and tries to find a way to stand out from the crowd. Oft times though the additional features seem gimmicky, and not appealing at best; not so for BlackBerry. The Hub integration, the convenience key, the fancy front-mounted FPS with the emboldened BlackBerry logo, and so much more, really help create a unique offering that helps power you through the day. Sure, there are hang-ups (most notably the camera), but in the grand scheme of things for $449, I think the overall package and experience really help make this a worthwhile offering, especially if you’re a current BlackBerry user and are looking for the next leap in your device upgrade future. If you’re a BB10 user, past/present, then this is the next best thing, and my hope is that the experience will only get better and better. However, as-is now, the integration and experience are top-notch BlackBerry!

If you’re interested in picking up one of these delightful other-fruit phones, you can find them on Amazon and BestBuy for the everyday price of $449. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them down in the comment section.

Here is my full video on my YouTube Channel - TechOdyssey:
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