LAS VEGAS — The BlackBerry KeyOne proved to be a solid release in 2017, bringing a number of devotees back to the BlackBerry fold. And TCL Communications, which now develops phones under the BlackBerry brand, hopes to keep the momentum going this year, with two additional keyboard-based phones coming out later in 2018. But first, a touchscreen-based BlackBerry will make its debut in the U.S. later this week.
The BlackBerry Motion goes on sale this Friday (Jan. 12). Unlike the BlackBerry KeyOne which tucks a classic QWERTY keyboard underneath its 4.5-inch display, the 5.5-inch Motion features onscreen controls, just like you'd find on most other Android devices. The BlackBerry Motion will be available at Amazon and Best Buy, where it will cost $449.
The lack of a KeyOne-esque physical keyboard — and more importantly, the many shortcuts those different keys enabled — may disappoint hardcore BlackBerry fans, who hailed the KeyOne as a return to form. But the BlackBerry Motion packs in some other features, which are firsts for a BlackBerry device.
The Motion boasts an IP67 water resistance rating, meaning it can survive a 30-minute dip in 3.3 feet of water and be none the worse for wear. Adding to the Motion's durability, the phone also features anti-scratch display technology to keep the full HD screen free from any scuffs.
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Just as noteworthy, the Motion will contain a 4,000 mAh battery. That's the largest capacity battery ever found in a BlackBerry device, an honor previously held by the KeyOne. That phone's 3,505 mAh power pack helped it last nearly 13 hours on our Tom's Guide battery test, so we're eager to see what kind of performance the BlackBerry Motion turns in when we set it to continuously browse over an LTE network.
One of the features I really appreciated during my demo time with the BlackBerry Motion was the enhanced Convenience Key. That's the programmable button on the side of the phone you can use to trigger shortcuts.
On the Motion, the Convenience Key can launch up to three different shortcuts. Even better: It's smart enough to detect where you are, and change what the shortcuts do, based upon your location. For example: When you're in your car and the BlackBerry Motion is connected over Bluetooth to the car's infotainment system, the Convenience Key shortcuts can launch Google Maps, Google Music and the phone app. Once you arrive at home and the Motion connects to your Wi-Fi network, those shortcuts will automatically remap to settings such as smart home or entertainment app controls. In addition to Home and Car profiles, the Convenience Key on the BlackBerry Motion also offers Office settings, triggered by meetings synced to the BlackBerry Hub app.
Another BlackBerry Motion feature, Locker, takes advantage of the privacy and security features in the BlackBerry platform. Using Locker, you can create an encrypted zone on your phone for photos, files and messages, making them accessible only with a fingerprint or a password.
Don't expect those features to live only on the Motion, either. A TCL spokesperson told me that the Locker and Convenience Key features will also find their way to the KeyOne via a software update. Another update that both Motion and KeyOne owners can look forward to involves Android Oreo: Both devices are slated to get the latest version of Google's operating system. (The Motion ships with Android 7.1, unfortunately.)
The BlackBerry Motion runs on a Snapdragon 625 mobile processor: a solid performer, albeit hardly Qualcomm's top-of-the-line CPU. It's the same mobile processor that powers the BlackBerry KeyOne, which turned in so-so results when we tested it last year. Still, BlackBerry's audience is probably not turning to their phones for cutting-edge processing; they treat their phones as productivity tools, and the Motion, like the KeyOne, should have enough oomph to handle their day-to-day tasks.
|Model||BlackBerry KeyOne||BlackBerry Motion|
|Screen Size (Resolution)||4.5 inches (1620 x 1080)||5.5 inches (1920 x 1080)|
|Processor||Snapdragon 625||Snapdragon 625|
|Keyboard||Physical QWERTY keyboard||Onscreen|
|OS||Android Nougat 7.1||Android Nougat 7.1|
Don't interpret the release of the Motion as a sign that TCL is done with keyboard-based BlackBerry devices, though. At CES, the company announced a new version of the KeyOne that comes with a matte bronze finish and dual SIM compatibility. Unfortunately for U.S. users, the BlackBerry KeyOne Bronze Edition is likely to come out only in select markets across Asia, Europe and the Middle East, with a TCL spokesperson suggesting that dual SIM phones don't resonate with a mass audience in the U.S.
The addition of the Bronze Edition to the KeyOne lineup gives TCL four different variants of that phone, with the standard KeyOne and a special Space Black version for AT&T customers available in the U.S. The phone is now available in 50-plus markets, so TCL has plenty of incentive to keep coming out with keyboard-equipped phones.
In fact, after announcing both the Motion and the KeyOne Bronze Edition, TCL has promised at least two new BlackBerry phones in 2018. A spokesperson told us that the new phones will have physical keyboards, citing the opportunity to innovative with shortcuts and other features.