The BlackBerry Motion is the latest device from TCL,
the Chinese electronics giant that creates the products and
then uses BlackBerry’s brand to market them.
BlackBerry phones have historically had a hardware
keyboard, which has remained a constant even in the era of
all-touchscreen smartphones; recent BlackBerry phones included
the Priv and the KeyONE.
The BlackBerry Motion is a great device for business
people with productivity in mind, but just an okay phone for
BlackBerry isn’t a top player in the smartphone landscape
anymore, and it hasn’t been for quite some time.
However, unlike Nokia, it hasn’t completely disappeared; it just
maintained a retrenched, low-key profile, and kept making devices
that some people chose either for security reasons, their need
for a productivity-oriented device, the presence of a physical
keyboard, or a combination of the above.
However, the most recent BlackBerry Motion rejects that, at least
in part, as this is the company’s first high-end Android device
that doesn’t feature a hardware keyboard at all. (It’s not even
hidden as it was in the Priv).
It’s a phone that tries to earn its place in 2017’s increasingly
crowded sea of devices, focusing on what BlackBerry does best and
improving features such as battery life and software
customisability instead of trying to offer top-notch performance
or gorgeous-looking, borderless displays.
Making the Motion a full-touchscreen device is a way of
streamlining the product along the lines of virtually any other
smartphone, but this is not a phone that wants to compete with
the iPhones, Pixels, and Galaxys of the world. It still wants to
be a BlackBerry, front and center — and if anyone knows that
that’s what they are going to find, chances are they will be
happy with their purchase.
Nailing down the basics that matter (to BlackBerry users)…
The BlackBerry Motion is a no-frills handset that gets most of
the basics just right, but overwhelmingly focuses on productivity
and features that might be of interest to a business user, or a
busy person in general.
I can say that just by pinpointing its absolute best feature: An
astonishingly big, tablet-size battery (4000mAh), which was
basically impossible for me to kill in one day.
An iPhone X or last year’s Pixel XL, by comparison, always
required to be topped up by the time I went to bed, unless I
wanted my phone to die on me some time during the morning after.
Battery life on the Motion is so good that I simply forgot about
it; and this is especially useful for those who plan to use the
device extensively, travel, write loads of documents and the
likes. The Motion is the kind of device you’d want to use for a
lot of time; or at least feel comfortable doing so.
The other good things this phone has to offer are in certain
details: The excellent keyboard with its smart predictions, the
widgets incorporated into icons via a simple, nifty swipe, the
numerous quick accesses to functions inside the calendar, email,
and notes apps, and even outstanding call quality (the voice from
the other end is almost unexpectedly clear and rich).
There is also a smart “convenience key” button, which lets you
remap it to a number of customisable options for immediate,
one-click access. I found it useful to take screenshots to
quickly crop or scribble on, but the button’s placement is
terrible, as it sits right below the sleep/wake button and even
after a week of use I kept confusing them.
Even worse is the fact that the convenience key has a special
texture on it, which is usually reserved to distinguish the power
button from the volume rocker, and that didn’t help my muscle
memory to adapt.
BlackBerry’s universal search is also fantastic, as it scans
through every angle of the phone to look for what you’re trying
to find; and I also love the idea of its centralised hub, where
BlackBerry manages to keep everything organised in one place:
Email, text messages, phone calls, calendar events, and even
tweets are all under one roof.
And not just that: You have features such as rich text
formatting, snoozing of notifications, and even a nice
“conversation view” to display multiple messages more clearly,
all inside the BlackBerry Hub.
The software overall has a somewhat steep learning curve because
of its profound flexibility and customisation options, but this
also brings an unmatched level of solidity for users that do
master it. It’s powerful, useful for the kind of users it aims to
serve, and can indeed be smart, helpful, and rewarding.
As far as productivity goes, the BlackBerry Motion gets very
…but failing to meaningfully please anyone else
The Motion clearly aims at this one particular audience: Those
who need to have some sort of work computer inside their pocket.
Or, well, current BlackBerry users, if you will. And, in my
experience, the Motion’s software is built to serve them well.
But if I had to purchase the BlackBerry Motion for anything
outside of that, its various shortcomings would inevitably make
me look elsewhere.
Starting from its design, the BlackBerry Motion is as generic a
phone as you can possibly get.
There’s nothing exciting about it: It looks like yet another
black slab with some metal here and there, and even its carbon
fiber-like back doesn’t impress, as it fails the in-hands feel
test beyond the plastic it’s actually made of.
The one good thing is that, at least, the phone is rated IP67 for
water and dust resistance, so it should be more durable than
average, but that’s a kind of design element you can only
appreciate in specific situations, not day-to-day use.
The bezels are just outright enormous, too; alongside the boxy
shape, they contribute to make the phone feel gigantic,
especially on the chin, where the home button and capacitive keys
The button itself hides a fingerprint reader, but it is,
annoyingly, a little too wonky, especially compared to the
stiffer keys on the sides.
The capacitive keys are terrible as well; more often than not a
slightly dirty, wet, or sweaty thumb wouldn’t be recognised, and
even when it did the vibration is weak and unpleasant. The
front’s coating is also particularly bothersome, as for some
reason cleaning the screen was harder than usual, in my
The 5.5-inch, 1080p display itself is fine, with good viewing
angles and okay colors, but it falls a little flat when compared
to anything higher-end smartphones offer — when using it side by
side with an iPhone 8 Plus (which has the same size, resolution,
and display technology), it’s just unfair how much better Apple’s
The camera is also acceptable at best; perfectly lit conditions
will produce good results, but in most situations the Motion’s
rear sensor struggles to get past anything a high-end smartphone
camera from two years ago would’ve handled just fine, with
low-light being the predictably sorest spot.
Photos aren’t bad, but the camera is far from the Motion’s
strongest asset. The best feature it has is probably the built-in
scanner, which ties in with its productivity-oriented software.
The front-facing selfie shooter, on the other hand, does its job
well, and the camera also offers slow-motion videos, up to 4K
resolution at 30fps (frames-per-second).
Performance is also nothing to cheer for — the Snapdragon 625
processor handles BlackBerry’s software without lag or hiccups,
and the phone never froze or rebooted in my testing, but the
Motion never feels like it’s running the otherwise stock Android
7.1.2 like a true champ either.
In short: There’s nothing necessarily bad about the BlackBerry
Motion, whose overall experience outside hardcore productivity is
okay — but so many other phones do the vast majority of things
better, and, even if they’re more expensive, still offer more
value for their money.
This is the perfect phone for former BlackBerry users tired of
dealing with a physical keyboard
The BlackBerry Motion is not a phone for everyone, and it’s not
even a good choice if your budget is the £399 TCL — The Chinese
company behind the newer BlackBerry-branded devices — asks for.
The BlackBerry Motion’s strengths all lie within its insanely
good battery life, as well as the numerous little software tweaks
that make productivity task-completing much more powerful than on
an average smartphone, and usefully customisable to one’s
If you were happy with the company’s previous devices, like the
KeyONE, chances are you’ll like the Motion, too, so long as you
don’t have a problem with a pane of glass taking the place of
BlackBerry’s marquee physical keyboard.
For all other users, just £50 more can get a OnePlus 5T in your
hands, and you can rest assured that the overall experience will
be much, much better.