Right when you thought BlackBerry had lost interest in its smartphone business, the Canadian company has come back with two Android-based devices catering to different price points. The Priv, thanks to its price, was not much of a success but the DTEK 50 aims to fix that by offering a secure mid-range Android smartphone. The DTEK 60 takes it a notch higher with premium features and a price that puts it in the flagship range. However, we decided to review the more affordable phone, as that is where the volumes wait.
It is hard to get yourself to think of a BlackBerry phone without looking for the keyboard. Yes, even now. But yes, this is the reality. You can’t really sell a phone anymore because you have the best keyboard on the world. And BlackBerry learnt that the hard way. So the latest BlackBerry phones look like any other Android phone, while offering the other big USP of the brand: Added security.
What is good?
Well, the one thing that impressed me, even before I switched on the phone, was its build quality. Here is a phone that does what even the big Android boys have not had the guts to do. A textured back, solid metal frame and a chassis that gives you the confidence of durability. In other words, this is among the best designed Android phones, right up there with a OnePlus 3 or Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. And it feels premium, unlike the plasticky fare that sells at this price range otherwise.
DTEK was initially an extra security software that BlackBerry started adding to its phone when it opened up the platform for third-party app stores. Now, this protects the phone from the kind of bad influences that makes Android more vulnerable than other platforms. At any point, the DTEK app will tell you how secure the phone is, or how to make it more secure.
The UI is pure Android, but with a very BlackBerry-like layer on top of it. So you have BlackBerry Hub integrated into the OS, ready to be summoned from a widget that floats around the right side of your screen. You have one single point where you can go to see all your incoming notifications, a much needed feature in our smart lives these days.
While it is not highlighted much, it is a fact that over the past couple of years BlackBerry phones have featured pretty good cameras. The DTEK 50 carries this legacy ahead. The camera captures good images in all light conditions. So while this is not the best Android camera in this price range, it offers images that won’t have you complaining. Also, the camera app is much better than what you regularly find on these phones and thus promises a better experience overall.
The battery on the phone lasts a full working day with 4G VoLTE and constant updates. You can get more out of it by reducing notifications and screen brightness.
What is not that good?
Well, if you are moving from an Android phone the extra button on the left side can be confusing. I kept clicking the convenience button on the right to wake up the phone, but to no use until I realised that it was the power button on the left that could do the task. Still muscle memory kept taking me to the right side button, which is also roundish to make it more confusing. But it’s good that this one can be customised to do a lot of tasks in one click.
At this price, the fingerprint scanner is becoming standard. For a secure phone like BlackBerry not to have it might seem a bit hard to swallow for some buyers.
Should you buy?
Frankly, at this price point the DTEK 50 seems like a good buy with a great design and added software and security features. Also, this is among the few phones now with a software enhancement that adds to your productivity significantly.
If you are someone who thinks you have enough on your phone to need some extra protection, then this is a good phone to buy. For the rest, I just don’t know what exactly will make them look at a BlackBerry phone again. That is the biggest challenge for this company we once all loved.
Estimated street price: R21,990