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Hands-On with the BlackBerry DTEK50

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Jul 27, 2016, 2:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

BlackBerry's DTEK50 may be a rebadge of the Alcatel Idol 4, but it still manages to look and feel like a BlackBerry. This slim slab should appeal most to those who need enterprise-class security for their business smartphone. Here are Phonescoop's first impressions of the DTEK50.

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BlackBerry announced the DTEK50 this week. Rather than design the DTEK50 from the ground up, BlackBerry instead chose to modify the Alcatel Idol 4. BlackBerry probably saved tons of cash in the process, money that it clearly spent fortifying the device to meet its own strict security standards.

The DTEK50 is one of the finest-looking handsets released by BlackBerry, and for that we can thank Alcatel. The device is incredibly thin and light. The glass front and polycarbonate rear are held together by an aluminum frame. The frame is painted gray but has polished chamfers to give it a dash of personality. The frame is rather thick at the top and bottom ends of the phone, where it houses stereo speakers. The Idol 4 has a glass back plate, but BlackBerry went with something more familiar to BlackBerry fans. The plastic material has a dimpled pattern with a soft-touch paint job to give it some grip. The DTEK50 is definitely easier to hold onto and use when compared to the Idol 4. BlackBerry's stylized logo is carved into the plastic.

The device is put together tightly. The materials, fit, and finish are all quite good. It has a more rugged stature than the Idol 4, but I think business users will still find it appealing. It feels less delicate. The overall size is quite good. It may be too big for those with the smallest hands, but it should work well for most people. I had no trouble slipping the phone into my pocket.

DTEK50  

The 5.2-inch full HD screen looks fantastic. It is bright, offers excellent viewing angles, and delivers sharp text. The display disappears into the black glass that surrounds it. There are no hardware buttons on front. The selfie camera is just barely visible; the user-facing flash is almost impossible to see.

BlackBerry was unable to fix one of my biggest gripes with the Idol series, which is the placement of the screen lock button. Rather than position the key on the right edge or top, the button is near the top of the left side of the phone. The button has a decent profile, though, and good travel and feedback. You can't miss the action key on the right edge of the phone. It's big and circular and sticks out noticeably. The travel and feedback on the action key is rather mushy. BlackBerry said users can program the button to open apps or even perform certain actions, such as compose emails or messages. That's pretty neat. The volume toggle is above the action key. It is easy enough to find with your thumb and the action is good. The microUSB port is on the bottom and the headphone jack is on top.

Other than the BlackBerry logo, the only function elements on the rear surface are the 13-megapixel camera and two-tone flash. They are tucked into the top-left corner and have a low profile. Like the Idol 4, the DTEK50 does not have a removable rear panel. That means the 2,610mAh battery is stuck inside. BlackBerry says the battery delivers 17 hours of continuous mixed use and, thanks to Quick Charge 2.0, can ingest a 20% charge in just 10 minutes.

Wondering why there's no fingerprint reader? Security, says BlackBerry. The company's core enterprise customers haven't set IT policies yet regarding fingerprints are often disable them on work devices. BlackBerry wanted to keep the price down, so skipping the fingerprint reader made sense for now.

The hardware really is quite nice. It's an amazing step up from some of BlackBerry's other slabs, such as the Z30. BlackBerry did not address our questions about its decision to modify an existing handset rather than design its own. Whatever the reason, BlackBerry fans finally have a slab to get excited about.

But that's only half the story.

The DTEK50's real power comes not from the hardware, but from the software. BlackBerry took Android 6.0 Marshmallow and "hardened" it. This means BlackBerry's engineers sifted through the kernel and core software for unfixed bugs and security problems and patched them all. BlackBerry insists its version of Marshmallow is more stable and secure than Google's native build of the platform.

The basic user experience is pretty close to stock Android, but BlackBerry added its entire suite of security and productivity apps. The DTEK50 runs essentially the exact same apps as the BlackBerry Priv.

One of the best features is the action tab, which floats along either the left or right edge of the screen. Pressing the tab automatically calls up a quick view of recent calls, emails, messages, and upcoming calendar appointments. BlackBerry Hub is on board, too, to provide a one-stop-shop for all communications. The Hub can handle email, text, BBM, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Snapchat, and other messaging apps/services. The Hub is great tool for triaging communications quickly.

Other apps and tools include BlackBerry's security tool for testing the phone's level of protection, BBM, documents, and so on.

BlackBerry's treatment of widgets is particularly interesting. Most Android widgets appear on the home screen and reveal certain types of information related to the associated app. With security top of mind, BlackBerry widgets are hidden. Apps that include widgets are signified by three dots. Swipe up on the app shortcut from the home screen and the widget springs open. The idea here is to keep personal or other sensitive information hidden until you can view it safely.

BlackBerry Launcher  

BlackBerry is already taking preorders for the DTEK50. It costs $299 and is sold unlocked with support for AT&T/T-Mobile. (BlackBerry has no plans to build a CDMA version of the phone.) Don't expect to see this device at your local wireless shop. It will only be sold online. BlackBerry will deliver the first wave of shipments on or around August 8. If you need a business device, the Idol 4, er, the DTEK50 is a reasonable option.

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Comments

This forum is closed.

This forum is closed.

Charles Bigelow

Jul 28, 2016, 7:14 AM

BlackBerry DTEK50

Research in Motion got smart on this one.
Saving $$$$$$ with Alcatel as the design and concentrating more on the software.
bofis

Jul 27, 2016, 2:40 PM

should have a keyboard...

I really don't get why BlackBerry bothers making devices without a keyboard...they should release a sequel to the Classic in a slab form factor running Android
Blackberry didn't make this phone
 
 
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