BlackBerry’s Motion smartphone is built for ‘reliability, productivity and battery’

The BlackBerry Motion is a 'distinctly different' device.

When TCL unveiled the physical QWERTY KEYone, loyal BlackBerry users flocked to the Android smartphone. Many were saying it was the device that BlackBerry Ltd. should have released long ago. However, it took TCL and its design and marketing power to launch it worldwide.

Now, a year later, the company is back with its second Android device and it’s coming to Canada. The Motion will be available on November 10th from Bell, Telus, Koodo and SaskTel.

We caught up with Jason Gerdon, Associate Director, Global Communications at BlackBerry Mobile; Trudy Koen, Director of Brand and Marketing at BlackBerry Mobile (both pictured above); and Patricia Querin, Senior Product Manager at BlackBerry Mobile, to discuss the future of the company, how the new all-touch device fits in the Canadian market and its portfolio of devices.

How many people are now employed in Canada for the TCL-BlackBerry initiative?

We have them split between a couple offices in Canada for BlackBerry Mobile. We have a small office up in Waterloo and a small office in Mississauga, with between 10 to 15 employees in total. We are basically a year-on from when the agreement was signed with BlackBerry Ltd.

How do you find the transition going?

It has been a whirlwind in the best way possible. MWC was the official launch of KEYone and since then we have brought multiple variants of the KEYone around the world. In Canada, there are now three variants of the KEYone available. The Silver Edition, Black Edition and the Space Black with Telus.

Tell me about the device.

With BlackBerry Motion we kept a lot of that core ethos from what we brought from the KEYone. So, same purposeful reliability, productivity, security and privacy features. What is interesting with the Motion is that we actually had really started to transition that conversation just security to additional privacy features.

Will the BlackBerry Motion be upgraded to Android Oreo?

Yes, it will come in the New Year. It is launching on very similar software to what the KEYone has, but just like the KEYone, it will have an upgrade path to Oreo.

The Motion has an all-aluminum frame, the first IP67-rated BlackBerry smartphone for dust and water, USB-C, Quick Charge 4.0. When we talk about BlackBerry Motion, it’s made for real life. This is the BlackBerry for people who want to have an all-touch device.

What is different between the DTEK60 and the Motion?

Specs are obviously one differentiator. What I would say is a big difference is that the DTEK60 was the early iteration of the partnership with BlackBerry Ltd where they were taking a TCL reference design and putting BlackBerry software into it, whereas BlackBerry Motion is built from the ground up and purposely built to be a BlackBerry Mobile smartphone. So you’re not going to find this anywhere else in the TCL portfolio.

Why would someone buy the Motion over the KEYone or a competitor?

I look at the newer all-touch devices out there, like the Note or the Pixel. Somebody who wants to have a high performance — not just specs but something that is going to perform well and be reliable with consistent security updates — so if you start thinking in those terms, people will buy the Motion for its value. It’s half the prices of the others.

We focus on a very specific consumer. The Motion is a ‘distinctly different’ device and if you’re the ‘communication first’ smartphone user, which is who our audience is, you’ll consider the Motion.

Motion

We are not expecting people to use the Motion as a VR device. We went with something that is going to over-index on reliability, productivity and battery.

We also partnered with someone to produce a new display. It’s a nano anti-scratch display. It is 25 percent more scratch resistant than Gorilla Glass 5, so it’s made for real-life usage. That’s the real value proposition here is being able to say, ‘this is the BlackBerry smartphone for folks who want the all-touch form factor but don’t want to think about everyday events.’

In the past year, how has the BlackBerry Mobile brand evolved?

We are committed to building true BlackBerry smartphones that carry that reliability, productivity and security that have been the benchmarks of BlackBerry devices over the years. We said that we were committed to building a portfolio and we are now selling devices globally. This is a great foundation to build upon for what’s coming in 2018 and ahead. We are going to continue to evolve and expand the portfolio.

The Motion is not the flagship smartphone for 2018, correct?

No, I would say if you had to categorize them it’s the KEYone.

When would a new flagship be on the horizon?

I’d say, we are closing out 2017, 2018 is on the horizon. I would venture to guess we will be having more conversations in 2018.

Will the portfolio expand past smartphones, like a tablet?

Today, we are focussed on the KEYone and Motion. But again, we will have some more conversations in 2018.

Comments

  • Marshall Davidson

    Three things stand out from this interview. The first is talk of ‘communication first’ and this somehow being a ‘distinctly different’ device than others. How so? We all use our phones to communicate and contrary to the myth peddled by fans of the brand, users of rival brands do not spend all their time gaming or downloading useless apps. One only has to look at the business set in downtown Toronto to see what the vast majority are using and it ain’t Blackberries anymore. Sure, there may be the occasional Keyone floating around or some old Priv, but really they remain firmly entrenched in the minority.

    The second thing is that I don’t hear any talk of how well the Keyone has gone over since its release earlier this year and this is particularly hilarious given the talk here of creating another line of Blackberry branded phones. Seems to me that TCL hasn’t learned a thing from the mistakes of Blackberry proper when it was hawking garbage devices that few wanted. They’ve upped the marketing angle a bit but is it reflected in greater sales? Who knows because no one is talking about it.

    Last but not least the ‘security’ angle is really getting tiring. I can’t remember the last time the Priv got an update really and the Keyone certainly doesn’t get monthly updates but either way they are no more frequent than what Google does on the Pixel and handful of other OEM’s that roll them out. The company has no monopoly on this and for them to say otherwise is just laughable.

    • ToniCipriani ✓pǝᴉɟᴉɹǝʌ

      Actually I just got an update a day ago on my Priv, October update with the KRACK fix. OS upgrade on the other hand… Thurber told me to go pound sand.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Well there you have it but still, they aren’t the only outfit updating devices so its a fallacy pushed by these guys.

    • John Youle

      I am still waiting on the October update here in Australia.

    • bigshynepo

      Blackberry released a security update in September.
      https://crackberry . com/blackberry-begins-rollout-september-android-security-update

      You know what ‘is really getting tiring’? Seeing you run to every blackberry article to spread misinformation in the hopes of seeing it’s stock price drop. If this is the best you can do, raining on various BBRY parades, you should find another stock that sees better returns. Many pot stocks jumped today with the Canopy investment, but you’re probably too busy spamming BBRY articles with negativity to care.

    • Marshall Davidson

      lol…I never said they stopped updating altogether did I? Nor did I talk about my comment having any impact on share price as even I’m intelligent enough to know it doesn’t. What IS tiring is reading about this company telling a narrative that isn’t true and in some cases a bald-faced lie.
      And why doesn’t TCL or BBRY for that matter talk about Keyone and how well that’s doing? Or is the Motion like every other attempt to cover up failure or mediocre sales? As an investor here (which I suspect you are) you should be worried about how the revenue hole is going to be filled up here because the shell games that Chen plays to make nothing look like something is getting tiring as well.

    • bigshynepo

      The time to invest in Blackberry has come and gone in my opinion, and I’m not currently holding any tech stocks. You did say “the Keyone certainly doesn’t get monthly updates” when there is rumor of one hitting today for Rogers, and I provided you a link to reference the Sept update. Just trying to keep things factual.

      I have always liked rooting for Blackberry, they are the home team, the underdog, and the origin of smartphones. In a marketplace they horribly misread, it’s nice to see them get little wins when they can. Plus I enjoy their keyboards, but if someone made a better phone with a keyboard, I’d be on it like a fat kid on a smartie.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Actually the Keyone doesn’t get monthly updates. I’ve had precisely two since owning the phone back in June so there you have it. The Priv, which I also used, was getting monthly updates and apparently still is which I acknowledge.
      Otherwise I respect the rest of your comment but feel there is much wrong with this company of which its moribund smartphones is really the least of their problems.

    • bigshynepo

      The KeyONE received updates from Rogers in June, July, August, and September, with one pending with Rogers in their release schedule for October 31st. I know I had to do an update when I bought mine on Day one of the Canada release as well.

      Please, double check your facts below.

      https://forums . crackberry . com/blackberry-keyone-f445/june-security-patch-just-dropped-rogers-1110291/
      https://crackberry . com/rogers-blackberry-keyone-update-scheduled-july-17th#KVcSzvYiXCWwHWhz.97
      https://crackberry . com/rogers-begins-rollout-aan517-update-blackberry-keyone#dsxfbfxthxT3rTg2.97

    • ToniCipriani ✓pǝᴉɟᴉɹǝʌ

      I’m not going to comment on his motivation for the posts, but he does have a point. The selling points of this phone they are trying to sell for $599 is ringing hollow. You can get better all-touch phones elsewhere.

    • bigshynepo

      When has Blackberry ever provided a piece of hardware that seemed like a ‘deal’? And I know I have never felt like their ‘last-season’ phones were quick-to-fall in price…. I mean, look at how long they kept Passport and Priv pricing high. I won’t even get started on the build cost for the last release of the Curve compared to it’s retail price.

      Sitting around complaining that Blackberry handsets are ‘priced too high’ or ‘still to expensive’ is no better than the people who moan and groan over the price of Sony phones. We should all be used to it by now.

    • ToniCipriani ✓pǝᴉɟᴉɹǝʌ

      50 and 60 were actually okay at $399 and $649, for a 617 and 820. A bit high, but the Motion is just ridiculous.

      Again, my point is the explanation on why they are charging more for this is weak and fluff.

    • allsports

      Maybe it’s the angle they can use. LG, HTC don’t report unit sales of their phones but we know they are both losing lots of money.

      There are people who are interested in their privacy locker for hiding photos unless you unlock it with the fingerprint reader and the privacy shade where most of the screen is blacked out except for a certain band, so there are some security differentiators, include the very long battery life, and monthly security updates and you’ll see more people interested in it. How many, and how who knows but if they weren’t selling enough of them they wouldnt be designing new ones like the motion.

      I see the motion being the all touch for the KEYone and I see for the next couple of years this type of product rollout for BlackBerry Mobile.

      Whether or not it really sells well, we can find out in a couple of years.

    • Marshall Davidson

      In a couple of years? lol! You notice of course they never announced how well the DTEK phones did and of course we’ll never know. I doubt very much we will ever know about these newer devices either. Neither company is really willing to shed much light on this stuff and TCL has pretty much taken a page from the BB playbook when it comes to announcing new devices to cover up for the inadequacies or mediocre sales of previous models.

    • allsports

      The poor explanation recently is that bb mile couldn’t get all the partners together to do their share of the OS update. I consider bb a niche player so if they’re going to give monthly security updates as well as provide new security software updates then great, LG, HTC, and Huawei for sure don’t as well. Samsung only does it for their flagships and that only started a few months ago.

      I don’t care now about their sales as I pick up their phones not right away but a few months later anyways.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Yup. Its a poor explanation I’ll grant you that, especially considering this is now a ‘software company’ lol Priv owners were left high and dry in that they couldn’t at least Nougat on their devices and same for DTEK owners. Another explanation for all this could be that the company just doesn’t give a shjt since so few of these devices sold anyway and much like how they left Playbook user out to dry its par for the course.

    • allsports

      That’s the BlackBerry company of old and not the new BlackBerry Mobile owned by TCL so I’ll give the BB mobile a break because the alternatives aren’t much better. Phone slabs have caused phone fatigue so less people are upgrading every year, but just like pc’s before it.

      BB mobile has said they’re not playing in the flagship realm and the device performance of the KEYone isn’t bad at all, those milliseconds don’t make a big difference to me.

    • ToniCipriani ✓pǝᴉɟᴉɹǝʌ

      They might not be playing the flagship realm… but they seem to think they are Vertu or Tonino Lamborghini when pricing the devices.

    • allsports

      Bs, Virtu or Lambo?? Try again their phones don’t cost thousands of dollars.

    • ToniCipriani ✓pǝᴉɟᴉɹǝʌ

      Not in numbers, but there are parallels. Both scenarios have a very small niche group who actually _believe_ there is brand value and willing to pay the premium, and this belief is the only basis they have.

      TCL themselves said it, they consider it a “success” if they can capture the fanbase.

    • Andrew Thorburn

      I have a PRIV, DTEK50 and DTEK60 and usually get the monthly updates mostly a week or sometimes two weeks into every month.

  • bigshynepo

    The Motion is not releasing a year after the KeyONE, as the article states. The KeyONE released in April in the UK first, then Canada in May. The Motion comes out Nov 10, 6 months later. TCL is on a roll, hopefully we see an upgrade to the KeyONE in 2018-19.

    • Plazmic Flame

      Hopefully the KeyTWO will have larger physical keys like the BlackBerry Classic.

  • The only complaint I have is that I can’t buy it in the US yet!

    Seriously, on a cost:benefit basis this is a crazy-attractive piece of equipment. The biggest issue with darn near everything out there is that you ARE tethered to a charger at SOME TIME in the day if you’re a heavy device user. The KeyONE is the first competent, darn-good-camera, full-spec (e.g. has NFC, etc) phone that can nearly get TWO full days of heavy use, but it lacks water resistance.

    Give up the keyboard, get water resistance and even MORE battery life — and it’s a bit cheaper too.

    What other mainstream-manufacturer device can you buy today that will EASILY get into the second day without a charge, has a full set of features (that is, they DIDN’T de-content it like by removing NFC so contactless payments will never work, it has a really GOOD camera, etc) and is waterproof so if you’re out running and get caught in a rainstorm you aren’t worried about smoking your $500 phone?

    I’ll answer that for you: None.

    Sure, you can do cheaper. But you get less. You either have a Chineesium phone with no in-country support at all (and a potentially worthless warranty) or one that is de-contented on purpose (e.g. what Motorola did with the “Play” series where they removed NFC and the compass, plus a “meh” camera) so as not to compete with their $700+ “flagship” offerings. Never mind that Moto’s last “update” to their Play series cut the expected battery life nearly in HALF, all in the name of “slimmer and lighter.” Bad trade-off, if you ask me, and it’s not much cheaper either.

    Here’s the other issue — with the 2-day battery you can “ad-hoc” charge it (e.g. 30 minutes to an hour every other day, say, when you’re in your car) and only run it up to 85% or so, which means you’ll put about 0.6 cycles of wear on the battery every TWO days. That in turn means the battery should not require replacement for close to four years, instead of every year or 18 months (conveniently just outside of warranty!) for competing devices.

    One thing I do wish TCL/BlackBerry Mobile did — they ought to make a true North America “carrier agnostic” device that has CDMA capability in it along with the modern LTE bands, and I’d like to see Dual SIM. Is lack of these a deal-breaker? Not for me, but it would be a further feather in the BlackBerry Mobile cap.

    Oh, as for security updates and such my Priv just got the KRACK update and the October update is not hitting for the KeyONE; what’s there to complain about there? Plenty of people with Sammy phones are still on spring or early summer firmware! I don’t like the hole-ridden mess that is Android but if you’re going to be Android then you’re stuck with bolting on fixes (like DTEK) to what Mordor-the-monopolist of Silicon Valley has foisted off on people (if you’ve ever ported AOSP as I have you know exactly how bad it is – it’s a 5-alarm MESS!) and that BlackBerry has done as well as they have is to be commended — and recognized.

    My one complaint, as noted above, is that I can’t buy it yet.

  • Adderbox76

    The problem really is the snowball effect.

    None of those features; the scratch resistant screen, the battery life, etc… mean anything if the people selling the phones in the store don’t CARE. Myself and my staff already know that there isn’t going to be anyone coming in asking about that phone. There will be zero consumer interest because the advertising for it in the consumer sphere will be little to none, which has been their usual approach to all of their phones for years now; release it with a pathetic advertising budget and hope that the salespeople try to push it for you.

    But the salespeople don’t care to change people’s mind. MOST customers walk up to my store already knowing what brand/ecosystem they want. It’s faster, easier and more profitable to just go with that instead of trying to convince them to change their mind. And while we DO get customers that are sick of Apple and wanting to move to Android, or vice versa, there is NO incentive to make that switch to a Blackberry when that Blackberry (despite it’s feature set and battery life) has the styling of a four year old Samsung.

    If Blackberry/TCL wants to change people’s minds, THEY have to do it. By the time that consumer gets to a store, their mind is usually already made up and there is absolutely no incentive for some kid working in a carrier store to change it when that kid makes the same wage no matter what.

    • Andrew Thorburn

      I have used 10 BB10 devices and 3 BlackBerry Androids without any problems besides broken screen or lost / stolen phones I have had such good luck with that brand and the 1st non BlackBerry phone I buy the headphone jack and the memory storage doesn’t work, nice phone though otherwise. Because BlackBerry won’t make smaller phones or add any bold new colours and my gf wanted something white and the same size as her Z30 I had to switch brands and now I get to see how the warranty hassles are for the 1st time.