- Excellent battery life
- Feature-packed OS
- Water resistant
- Lacks sex appeal
- Limited performance
The BlackBerry Motion packs plenty of appeal, from its massive battery and feature-stuffed camera tech to its unique security-focused software. Our full review follows several days of living with the Motion and we’re certainly impressed, although it’s not quite the perfect package.
Old-school BlackBerry fans will have been pleased at the launch of the KeyOne earlier in 2017. This feature-packed handset boasted the traditional physical keyboard of yesteryear, complete with a satisfying blend of Android OS and BB software. Old favourites such as the Hub and BBM were still present and correct, complemented by a wealth of Android apps for all of your needs.
Now that the year’s nearly done, the KeyOne is joined by a second new BlackBerry phone. The Motion directly appeals to more modern users, who desire some of those BB bonuses such as strong security, as well as a full-sized screen and a big battery for streaming Netflix on lengthy commutes.
With its £399 asking price here in the UK, this mobile is in direct competition with the likes of the Honor 9, OnePlus 5 and Samsung’s Galaxy A5 2017. Some strong rivals there, yet the Motion is a very different prospect thanks to its unique software. Plus, BlackBerry’s latest blower is no slouch when it comes to the hardware side, as you’ll see in our in-depth review.
BlackBerry Motion review: Design
While the Blackberry KeyOne featured quite a unique design, with its blend of old-school physical keyboard and spacious IPS screen, the Motion sports a more traditional smartphone construction.
The display fills up a large part of the front panel, although you’ll spy some rather chunky bezel action beneath the screen. This adds to the handset’s bulk and makes one-handed use that little more tricky. Thankfully BlackBerry has helped out in that area with a fingerprint gesture, which allows you to swipe down on the sensor to drag down the notifications bar.
That sensor is located inside of that chunky lower bezel, along with touch-sensitive back and recent apps buttons. These buttons light up when the phone is in use and are otherwise invisible. You can unlock the BlackBerry Motion with a tap of your finger or thumb to the fingerprint sensor’s surface, which typically takes just a second or so. And that scanner doubles as the home button, returning you to your desktops with a quick push.
Sharp edges to the left and right of the Motion give it a chunky appearance, although it’s not actually any thicker than most other mid-range mobiles. It’s just a deception caused by the lack of curves. Those edges are constructed from metal, for a solid finish, while the rear plate is mostly coated in a soft-touch material that feels good against the palm.
We prefer the look and feel of some other handsets around this price point, such as the Moto X4 with its seductive curves and glass backing. However, the Motion is undeniably rugged and also fully water resistant, which is a definite bonus. What it lacks in beauty, it certainly makes up for in grunt.
BlackBerry’s Motion is just as tough as some of its older handsets, complete with full water resistance to keep on functioning even after a slip into a bath or sink.
Not the most attractive smartphone around, while the thick lower bezel doesn’t help with one-handed use.
BlackBerry Motion review: Screen and media
A 5.5-inch IPS display offers your view into the Motion’s world and it’s a perfectly solid smartphone screen.
Although not as gorgeously vibrant as an AMOLED panel, that display still produces quite attractive images, whether you’re watching a spot of YouTube or browsing your photo collection. The 1920x1080 Full HD resolution means crisp visuals, despite the quite spacious panel. Brightness levels and viewing angles are also fine, to aid with general visibility.
Dive into the display settings and you’ll find a night light option, for evening viewing. This can turn on automatically at set times, to filter blue light and provide a warmer, easier-on-the-eye experience.
As for audio, the Motion has a single speaker for your media output, located on the bottom edge of the phone. There’s clear distortion at top volume and sound quality is as tinny as you’d expect. Thankfully there’s a headphone jack for plugging in headphones instead, as well as full Bluetooth support if you’d rather go wireless.
Want to carry around lots of music and movies? You get 64GB of storage space to fill with your media and apps, plus you can expand by a further 2TB with a microSD memory card. That’s a solid offering at this price point.
A full-sized screen makes the Motion a much better option for video than the KeyOne, while masses of storage space can be used to carry a large media collection.
The single speaker is pretty poor, so you’ll want to use headphones for sure.
BlackBerry Motion review: Features and OS
Ever since BlackBerry ditched the rather limp BB10 operating system and slapped Google’s Android OS on its smartphones, we’ve enjoyed them so much more. That Android support means you can download from a massive selection of apps and games, via the Play Store. Meanwhile BB has smushed in the best of its own features, including the nifty Hub which gathers all of your notifications into one handy spot, plus the strong security measures to keep your data safe.
Sadly it’s Android Nougat on board, rather than the new Oreo OS - although most of the new features in Oreo are admittedly half-baked or far from essential anyway. Here’s hoping things have improved come early 2018, when the Motion is due an upgrade.
Check out our full BlackBerry Motion tips and tricks guide for an in-depth look at the interface and some of the best software features on-board. You can also see these in action in the unboxing and hands-on tour video below.
We did see a couple of funny little issues while using the BlackBerry Motion however, so the software could definitely use a bit of spit and polish here and there. For instance, occasionally while texting with the messaging app, we’d hit an invisible wall. In other words, we were no longer allowed to input any characters. The only solution was to start a new message each time.
Still, these problems are few and far between and the likes of the Hub really do work well. You can quickly check out your day’s schedule and edit your to do lists via the Productivity Tab, which is great if you need a little help staying organised. And those security features, including the excellent Locker, provide a peace of mind that only Samsung and Apple phones can really match.
We also like the Convenience Key housed on the right edge of the Motion, which can load the app or feature of your choosing with a quick push. The only problem was the positioning; we kept pushing it by accident when attempting to switch the phone on or off, mistaking it for the power button.
The delicious blend of Android and BlackBerry software is great for anyone who wants to stay productive and organised - not to mention secure - on the move.
Occasional little hiccups in the software can detract from the overall experience, while the Convenience Key positioning should be reconsidered.
BlackBerry Motion review: Performance and battery life
A Snapdragon 625 chipset is packed inside this handset’s chassis; the same processor used in the older KeyOne. Here you get 4GB of RAM to help out with everyday running however, and the result is a reasonably smooth experience. Even with all of those BB additions to the OS, the Motion holds it together quite well. You can play fast-paced action games with a decent frame rate too.
That said, we saw several instances where the Motion crawled for a moment before recovering. Apps occasionally take a little time opening up as well. Plus of course, only time will tell how the Motion holds up after an update to Android Oreo, not to mention over the life of a contract. We’d expect to see a few more stutters and stammers in another year or so, after lots of use and a few software upgrades.
Thankfully the battery life is simply sublime, and one of the Motion’s biggest highlights. A mighty 4000mAh cell is stuffed inside the BlackBerry Motion, which is one of the biggest you’ll find in any handset right now. We found we could happily use the Motion for over two days on a single charge before the juice finally ran dry. It’s certainly good enough for a weekend away, with plenty of web browsing, messaging and camera use thrown in.
When you need to recharge, the Motion supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0. This powers you back up in under 90 minutes, while a short stint at the plug will see you through a lengthy commute when needed.
Fantastic battery life and fast charge support makes this an ideal companion to anyone who’s constantly on the move.
Performance is limited, although helped along by 4GB of memory.
BlackBerry Motion review: Cameras
While many mobile manufacturers these days are slapping dual lens cameras on their smartphones, BlackBerry has stuck with a traditional single lens snapper on the back of the Motion. That 12-megapixel ‘large pixel’ camera offers an f/2.0 aperture lens, complete with Phase Detection Autofocus to quickly lock onto your subject and keep them sharp. There’s full support for 4K Ultra HD video capture too, although image stabilisation is a basic digital solution.
Around the front of the Motion you also get an 8-megapixel f/2.2 aperture selfie camera, which is boosted by a screen flash mode and some decent features.
Want to know what we think and check out our full photo and video samples? Head on over to our BlackBerry Motion camera review for all you need to know.
Solid photo capture in decent conditions, complete with a capable HDR mode.
Video capture suffers from a lack of decent stabilisation, while more challenging low light conditions can pose a problem.
BlackBerry Motion review: Verdict
The Motion might not be the sexiest smartphone around, but you get a lot for your £399. That feature-packed software is the best part, with a strong emphasis on security and staying organised, while the incredible battery life won’t leave you in the lurch. If only the camera were more capable and the processor a little nippier, we’d have no complaints at all.
- Android Nougat
- Snapdragon 625
- 64GB + 2TB microSD
- Fingerprint sensor, DTEK security