The BlackBerry DTEK50's hardware is almost irrelevant, as the magic lies in the software.
Pleasing screen, camera provides good results, hardened security, price
Unremarkable design, so-so performance, confusing button placement, poor battery life
THE BLACKBERRY DTEK50 is the company's second Android smartphone, and, according to the firm, the most secure Android-powered device available today.
Our initial BlackBerry DTEK50 hands-on review poured scorn on the clunky name and, a couple of weeks on, our opinion hasn't changed. Sure, it's just a name, but this underpins a lot of what's wrong with BlackBerry's latest effort. Software lies at the core of the DTEK50 and that's also the handset's undoing.
Crucially the DTEK50 is a BlackBerry in name only, and if the firm's transition to becoming a software-only company wasn't already clear, this latest device confirms it.
We know it's something of a stereotype, but BlackBerry has always been synonymous with business. The company had an image all of its own and, as well as being a hit with enterprises for its hardened stance on security, released a clutch of great devices.
It is still is a trusted brand, but the allure is waning thanks in part to not putting out a handset worthy of its heritage for years. The last truly great BlackBerry was arguably the Bold 9700/9900 series, one of which dates back to 2009 and the most recent to 2011.
By our reckoning, the BlackBerry DTEK50 isn't likely to buck that trend. BlackBerry has taken what was already a fairly unremarkable handset, the Alcatel Idol 4, given it a textured rear, and then pumped it full of its own software.
The BlackBerry DTEK50 is impressively thin and light, which is no surprise considering the plastic and glass construction. It measures 147x73x7.4mm and weighs 135g, and is described as the thinnest BlackBerry ever. That might actually hold some weight if this was a bona fide BlackBerry and not a rebadged Alcatel Idol 4.
The textured rear feels good to hold despite being all plastic. We were half expecting a squidgy and somewhat rubbery finish but it's hardened instead, so not exactly the premium feel we'd have once expected from its creator. The dark grey anodised front and sides are broken up by a sliver of silver, which is a nice touch.
We stop and take notice when a phone gets the audio right. That's because it is so often overlooked, and we wouldn't have pegged the DTEK50 as the exception to this rule considering BlackBerry's track record in this area.
Suffice to say we were quietly blown away by the quality. It uses JBL's Waves MaxxAudio to great effect, and there's a pleasing thrum from the 3.6W speakers. You won't get the best experience straight out of the box, so turning off the Auto select mode and tweaking the levels is recommended.
There are dual front and rear speakers, and the BlackBerry DTEK50 doesn't blast the sound everywhere thanks to the phone's orientation sensors.
We'll cover BlackBerry's impressively accessible software suite in detail later, but it's a shame that the same effort hasn't been put into the phone's exterior. The BlackBerryDTEK50 manages to reverse just about everything any seasoned Android owner might be used to. For instance, the power button is on the left side, while the right has a volume rocker and a programmable 'Convenience Button'.
The Convenience Button is largely superfluous, and we often found ourselves instinctively reaching for it to wake the phone or to put it to sleep. Of course, it can be assigned to a favourite app or shortcut. The BlackBerry DTEK50 lacks a dedicated camera button, so this could serve as a sensible alternative.
The lack of fingerprint scanner on a device so obsessed with security also jars.