For better or worse, the BlackBerry Motion is the future of Android. Neither flashy nor charming, the Motion is plain and utilitarian. It gets the job done. It's a purpose-built device for a small slice of the smartphone buying public, one that values qualities that don't stand out. At $450 unlocked, the Motion is arguably overpriced for what it is, but BlackBerry has never had trouble getting its admittedly small core audience to pay a premium.
That BlackBerry Tax, if I may be so bold, bundles a certain amount of confidence in the post-purchase experience, both from a security and reliability perspective. The Motion is pretty rugged, and aside from my Pixels has the most current security patch of any phone in my office. It's also a decent performer, has insanely good battery life, and an excellent software experience. Here's why I think you shouldn't overlook it now that it's available unlocked in the U.S.
1. The battery lasts forever
The future of Android is a battery that doesn't quit. Most people don't necessarily leave their phones unplugged overnight, but the Motion can and does last well into the following day without a nighttime top-up. The 4,000mah battery is enormous, but it doesn't make the phone itself oversized — it's just big enough to tip over into phablet territory.
The phone is also powerful enough not to make you feel bad about using a phone with such a big battery because you're not sacrificing one for the other. Like the BlackBerry KEYone, the Motion just flies through everything — except between then and now, BlackBerry must have fixed whatever was causing the stuttering and slow app launching that plagued the KEYone when it debuted last year.
2. BlackBerry is great at software ... and security updates
With the Motion, you're not buying a Pixel or even a OnePlus phone; you're buying a BlackBerry. While we don't know the company's long-term record when it comes to platform and security updates — remember, the Priv doesn't count because it was sold prior to the formation of BlackBerry Mobile — we have a decent amount of data to work with. The KEYone has managed to maintain near-monthly software updates on carriers and in the unlocked market alike, and Motion is likely to receive the same attention.
The reason is simple: BlackBerry built security updates into the design of the phone; the company committed to releasing monthly security updates to carriers, so the unlocked models benefit from that work already being done.
On the software side itself, BlackBerry's take on Android is subtle and easy to understand, but steeped in the productivity legacy that, over the years, many people (including me) have come to appreciate. I'm not going to say that the Motion's software is as smooth as the Pixel 2 nor as feature-rich as the Galaxy Note 8, but like so much else with the phone it falls somewhere in the middle.
3. The keyboard is outstanding
I'm a big fan of Google's official Android keyboard, Gboard, but whenever I pick up the Motion I'm always struck by how fast I can type on BlackBerry's on-screen equivalent. Obviously, the Motion lacks the hardware keys that make the KEYone so enticing, so the alternative needs to be just as good, and for the most part, it delivers.
Even as Gboard's prediction engine has improved over the years, there's something nice about being able to flick up on a particular letter to complete a word that makes BlackBerry's on-screen keyboard so satisfying to use, especially for longer-form work like documents and emails. That you still can't download it on non-BlackBerry devices is an indication that the company knows what it has and wants to keep it for itself. Good choice, in my opinion.
4. It's rugged and water resistant
The Motion is the first BlackBerry with an IP67 ingress rating, which means it can withstand up to one meter of water for 30 minutes. That's not uncommon these days — most decent phones above $500 have some sort of ingress protection — but in this price range, it's still rare.
Moreover, the phone is pretty rugged; I've been knocking it around in my pocket or bag going on two months now (yes, this write-up is a long time coming) and it looks no worse for the wear. It may not feel as hefty as the KEYone — there's more plastic than metal in here, largely to keep the price down — but it's a substantial device that will sustain some abuse.
5. It's a BlackBerry
Yeah, yeah, yuck it up. I'll wait. See, a lot of people dismissed the Priv when it debuted in 2015, but it became a veritable critical darling (if not a financial success). Same with the KEYone, except there's evidence to suggest that the phone is singlehandedly carrying TCL into 2018. Demand is so good there's even a bronze one now.
And yes, the Motion lacks BlackBerry's signature differentiator, the hardware keyboard, but it's a fundamentally solid product backed up by a company (well, two companies) that isn't going anywhere. At $450, it's not cheap, I'd wager there are a fair number of people willing to spend that extra hundred or so for the BlackBerry name. And if not, wait a few months: the phone will invariably get discounted to $350 before the summer (just a prediction, but one with precedent).
Why you wouldn't want the BlackBerry Motion
It's not all lollipops and rainbows over here for the BlackBerry Motion. See above — at $450, it's not cheap. While there's a subset of BlackBerry loyalists willing to spend that on a mid-range phone, most others — especially others buying their own phones and not having one foist upon them from a corporate overlord — would like see slicker, cheaper alternatives and balk at the Motion's asking price.
The Motion does a lot more right than wrong, but some people may not be able to get over its price — or its bad camera.
Especially so if imaging is a concern. The Motion has a 12MP camera, but that's just a number on paper; this thing is nowhere near as good as its equal-resolution peer in the KEYone. Indeed, I found it difficult to take a photo with the Motion that I'd be willing to share anywhere.
And finally, if you're interested in using this unlocked phone on Sprint, Verizon, or any other CDMA network, you're out of luck — this is a GSM-only device. Not a huge deal, but it pretty much halves the potential U.S. market.
The future of Android
It's not hard to grasp: Android is maturing, and so are the phones that run it. While people still clamor for the $1000 flagships, the real growth is in the affordable space, and the diversity of choice allows anyone to find the phone that is right for him or her. The BlackBerry Motion isn't the best mid-range phone on the market — not by a longshot — but it's got enough appeal to enough people to peacefully co-exist with products from Honor and Motorola and others.
My take is this: I highly recommend the BlackBerry Motion unless imaging is a priority. It has a camera, but it's not good. Its other flaws are more forgiveable.
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