All Hands on Tech: BlackBerry DTEK50

On the day when BlackBerry announced that it was going to follow the approach it adopted with the DTEK50 and outsource the hardware design and manufacturing of its handsets, we thought we’d take a more in depth look at how this is working by doing a revisit of the DTEK50. I’ve been using it for several weeks and overall – it’s one of my favourite phones.

First, we have to explain why the DTEK50 doesn’t really “feel” like a BlackBerry. But it feels great. Just the right size – very lightweight.

So there’s no keyboard to speak of here, just a touch screen. A nice rubberized backing adds a bit of elegance, and otherwise this phone is very plain and straight-forward. It’s comfortable to hold and you can get a grip on it. No more shiny back to slide off your desk or the arm of the couch…. The placement of the buttons feels natural and the placement is much better than a lot of other phones. And they have some resistance – not too much, but enough so you don’t accidentally press them all the time.

Also, don’t come here looking for killer performance specs. The DTEK50 isn’t about providing the most premium smartphone on the market, but a well-costed mid-range device that’s affordable for companies to pick up en masse. But you have to look beyond the specs on paper for this device. I was pleasantly surprised.

The sound on the speakers is great for playing music or taking a call. The phone quality is also excellent, as you’d expect from BlackBerry tradition. I found the camera surprised me with its quality and it delivers on video too. Having the option to add extra memory with a micro SD expansion slot is nice. I opted to add 80 GB – I just hate deleting stuff.

I had some issues with the battery. It’s not as big as some other smartphones on the market, but still enough to last you through a full day with typical mixed use. But be sure not to try and update the device without being connected to power – I found drained it quickly. Also, I found it got quite hot at times. This is similar to an issue I had with the PRIV – and it doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue.

The 5.2-inch screen looks pretty sharp. But its colours aren’t as vibrant as what you’d get from a more expensive device. I found the touch screen was very sensitive as well, and I was prone to “pocket launch” some apps. I suspect this is a result of Android’s new features to keep your phone awake while you hold it.

With the Priv and the DTEK50, BlackBerry has embraced the Android OS. I had to wonder – how would a mobility company that’s built its reputation on security survive moving to the mobile operating system that is the most-targeted by malware?

Not only has it survived, but BlackBerry has set the standard for what security can look like on Android. It pushes out Android security patches just as fast as Google releases them. Sometimes, it even beats Nexus devices to the update. It’s making good on its pledge to eliminate risk of zero-day exploits.

Then there’s the DTEK software that is the namesake of this device. This is a powerful security hub that empowers users to both understand their device security profile at a glance, and dig into the details of various app permissions. Tweak your settings to match recommendations, track what information your apps are accessing, and be notified if an app is doing something fishy.

One thing missing here is any type of biometric access. You can lock down your device with a PIN of course, but there’s no shortcuts to unlock it with the help of a fingerprint scanner.

Overall, I’m a big fan of the DTEK50. It’s not the premium experience I got with the Priv, but if I was handed this to use as a company device, I’d be thrilled. In fact, I’d say my DTEK50 and I have become inseparable.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jim Love
Jim Love
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO of a great company - IT World Canada - Canada's leading ICT publisher.

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