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A couple of months ago when BlackBerry announced it was ending internal hardware development, I read many stories stating there would be no more BlackBerry hardware and thought the company would never release another BlackBerry-branded phone. There was some misunderstanding and confusion with those reports and with the BlackBerry DTEK60 we see BlackBerry branding on a high end smartphone launched at a very reasonable price.
While BlackBerry will no longer be designing the hardware from the ground up, it did work closely with TCL to modify a reference design for its customers. I purchased a DTEK60 early last week and after about 10 days I am so impressed with the hardware and software that I plan to keep the device as my primary Android smartphone.
Previous BlackBerry flagships came at a high price with the BlackBerry Priv launching at $699 last year. The new BlackBerry DTEK60 is available now for just $499 and is one of the least expensive flagship phones you can purchase today, while offering enhanced productivity and efficiency elements in a sleek form factor.
Display: 5.5 inch 2560 x 1440 pixels resolution AMOLED, 534 ppi
Operating system: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Storage: 32 GB internal with microSD card storage for up to 2TB
Cameras: 21 megapixel f/2.0 camera and 8 megapixel front facing f/2.2 camera with flash
Extras: Dual stereo speakers, convenience button
Battery: 3,000 mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging
Dimensions: 153.3 x 75.3 x 5.19 mm and 136 grams
If you look at the specs above, it matches what we see today from other Android flagships in nearly every way. Water resistance would be great and make the DTEK60 even more compelling for the enterprise, but at $499 it is still an excellent choice.
My first thought when I took the BlackBerry DTEK60 out of the box was that Samsung must have released a BlackBerry device. The DTEK60 has front and rear glass panels with a metal frame and dual beveled edges between the glass panels. It looks and feels awesome in the hand and I'm having a tough time believing this is a BlackBerry device that only costs $500.
Advertising photos may not do this device justice as it truly is an elegant looking classy device that is perfect for the office. You get that traditional BlackBerry red LED and a handful of high end specifications in an awesome looking device.
The back glass panel is interesting in that it rests on a dark gray back with the BlackBerry logo embedded in it. Unlike the fingerprint magnet of the Galaxy S7 and other glass back phones, the back of the DTEK60 stays virtually free of fingerprints with regular usage. After just a few days, there were several scratches along the lower half of the back. These were actually deep enough to be felt with a finger run across the scratches. If you buy the DTEK60, I recommend using the soft shell back or another case to prevent scratching.
There is a 5.5 inch 2K display on the front with minimal side bezels and reasonable top and bottom bezels. There are dual stereo speakers at the extreme top and bottom of the phone with speaker grill openings on the front and back. Thus, you can easily hear audio content with the phone face up or face down.
I played the same song on the stereo speakers of the iPhone 7 Plus, Huawei Mate 9, and BlackBerry DTEK60. The DTEK60 was louder and clearer than either of these two other flagship phones.
There's an eight megapixel selfie shooter above the display with a dedicated LED flash for lighting up those selfies.
The display has a bit of curvature in the glass on either side, 2.5D, with an S7 Edge-esque button that can be swiped from either the right or left side of the phone. This Productivity Tab gives you quick access to your calendar, unread messages, tasks, and favorite contacts and serves as one element of efficiency on the DTEK60.
The power button and SIM card/microSD card slot are found on the upper left. The volume button is found on the upper right with a round convenience key centered on the right side. You can customize the purpose of this button and I have mine set to launch Google Now.
BlackBerry DTEK60 full review: in pictures
Similar to the HTC 10, you can also select the option to have your microSD storage card function as internal storage, called adoptable storage. You can also just choose to use it as most other Androids with external storage for media and other large files.
There's a USB Type-C port off to the right side of the bottom with a microphone opening on the left side. A standard 3.5mm headphone jack and another mic opening are found on the top.
There is a 21 megapixel Sony IMX230 Exmor sensor on the back with a dual LED flash adjacent to it. Centered below the camera is a rear fingerprint scanner, a first for a BlackBerry Android device and something it needed to advertise security.
I took some comparison photos with the BlackBerry DTEK60, Apple iPhone 7 Plus, and Huawei Mate 9 and put the full resolution images in a Flickr folder. The DTEK60 did well, but it's not going to challenge the Google Pixel or Galaxy S7 as the best camera available.
The 3,000 mAh battery has been getting me through most of a day, but when I take lots of photos and spend time with the display on it is not lasting me as long as the iPhone 7 Plus or Huawei Mate 9. Thankfully, the DTEK60 supports the standard Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging technology to top off quickly.
I'm using the DTEK60 on T-Mobile and have full WiFi Calling and VoLTE support right out of the box too.
The BlackBerry DTEK60 is the second BlackBerry-branded handset that was produced from a reference design. The DTEK60 is based on the TCL 950, but with a 2K display instead of a 1080p variant and 32GB of internal storage instead of 64GB. The special sauce that is added comes in the form of BlackBerry software integrated into the Android operating system.
One reason I initially purchased a Lenovo Moto Z was due to the stock Android implementation. Thankfully, we see that same stock Android experience on the DTEK60. There is no carrier bloatware as this is a GSM unlocked phone, but there are some BlackBerry apps that are provided to add value to the experience.
BlackBerry includes the BlackBerry Keyboard, BlackBerry Hub, BlackBerry Calendar, Contacts by BlackBerry, Notes by BlackBerry, Tasks by BlackBerry, BlackBerry Camera, BBM, DTEK by BlackBerry, BlackBerry Device Search, BlackBerry Launcher, BlackBerry Services, BlackBerry Help, BlackBerry Password Keeper, Microsoft exFAT Technology for BlackBerry, and BlackBerry Content Transfer.
The BlackBerry DTEK60 launched with Android Marshmallow and I trust that it will eventually received the Android 7.0 Nougat update as well. BlackBerry hasn't yet provided a timeline for updating the DTEK60.
Like the Apple iPhone, Google Pixel, and Moto Z, the BlackBerry DTEK60 supports visual voicemail right in the dialer app. You no longer need to download and install your carrier visual voicemail application.
Security and productivity features
A major benefit of having a stock Android device with BlackBerry controlling the customization experience is that BlackBerry can provide updates quickly. To date, BlackBerry has an phenomenal record of providing monthly Android security updates and even though I just bought the phone last week I received the November Android security update yesterday.
Security and productivity features advertised by BlackBerry include:
Rapid Security Patching: BlackBerry has a record of being the quickest to deliver security patches, setting the bar in incident response and patch management to protect your device from malicious threats.
DTEK by BlackBerry App: Enables users to automatically monitor their OS and apps to know when their privacy could be at risk and to take action to improve it. The DTEK app also monitors applications and notifies you when someone is: taking pictures or videos without your knowledge, turning your microphone on, sending a text message, or accessing your contacts or location.
Hardware Root of Trust: BlackBerry uses a proprietary technique that adds security from the start, allowing for the tracking, verification and provisioning of the DTEK60.
Secure Boot Process: Starting with the root of trust, each stage of DTEK60's secure boot chain must first verify that the next component is fully intact before proceeding, ensuring your device has not been tampered with since the last restart.
Android OS hardening: BlackBerry provides additional security patches, improves upon Android's native Address Space Layout Randomization and reduces the number of system applications and services running with elevated permissions. This makes it more difficult for attackers to compromise the OS.
FIPS 140-2 Compliant Full Disk Encryption: Protects your private information, like pictures or bank information, from being stolen if you were to lose your phone.
Android for Work and Google Play for Work: Allows for fast, simple and secure integration with an enterprise environment as well as easy access to numerous rich business and IT-managed apps.
Full Enterprise Mobility Management Support: DTEK60 supports BlackBerry's powerful suite of EMM applications and secure productivity solutions, including: WatchDox by BlackBerry for secure file-sharing, Good Work for business-class email and collaboration tools, Strong Authentication by BlackBerry as a VPN solution, SecuSUITE for Enterprise for secure voice and instant messaging communication, BBM Protected for encrypted messaging and BES12 for secure cross-platform management.
Pricing and competition
The GSM unlocked BlackBerry DTEK60 is available for $499 USD ($650 CDN, €579 and £475). The 32GB 5.5 inch iPhone 7 Plus and Google Pixel XL both start at $769 and have no additional storage capacity. The Moto Z and HTC 10 are both priced at $699, but the HTC 10 only has a 5.2 inch display.
Daily usage experiences and conclusion
With my misunderstanding that BlackBerry was done with hardware, I thought the BlackBerry Passport was going to be my last BlackBerry purchase. It turns out that BlackBerry is still working with hardware partners to bring new devices to market with BlackBerry focusing on an enhanced software experience to provide security and productivity to customers. The DTEK60 packs in flagship specs, enhanced BlackBerry services, and is priced $200 to $300 less than competing 5.5 inch smartphones.
The DTEK60 would be nearly perfect with some kind of water resistance, even a nano coating to prevent damage from splashes. Hopefully we see this capability in a future BlackBerry handset.
The device is a pleasure to hold, the speakers are loud and clear, the BlackBerry keyboard is fast and accurate, and the BlackBerry Hub helps me maintain a centralized communications center for better efficiency in my daily routine.
For $499, I can recommend the DTEK60 just based on its specifications alone. Add in the BlackBerry software, BlackBerry committment and track record of fast security updates, and compelling dual glass and metal frame hardware design and it's easy to see why the BlackBerry DTEK60 is a winner.