It may sound like Skynet's best friend, but DTEK50 is just the name of BlackBerry's new Android smartphone
Last year’s PRIV was a mixed bag
and a letdown for many of the brand’s fans, but BlackBerry is now back
with a new (and very different) smartphone. Rumor has it that one (or
even two) more are coming by the end of the year, but until then let’s
take a look at the DTEK50.
What we have here is in many ways the exact opposite
of the PRIV: full-touch candybar form factor instead of a slider,
regular 1080p display instead of dual-curved QuadHD, rebranded hardware
instead of a custom BlackBerry-engineered design.
Yes, it’s true: save for the back plate, the DTEK50
is identical to the Alcatel Idol 4 (not to be confused with the more
advanced 4S). This was disappointing for many, but I think it’s the
right idea. Maybe not the best choice of device to “borrow”, but it’s
the right idea for BlackBerry to focus on the software and security side
and pick up whatever hardware design they deem appropriate for the
market segment they wish to target with each device.
Given its specs, price (299 USD / 264 EUR / 226 GBP )
and even its name, the DTEK50 is clearly intended to appeal to the
business sector, which has always been BlackBerry’s bread and butter,
not to impress with hardware capabilities, cool software features or any
kind of gimmick.
Design & build quality
The DTEK50 has a clear-cut look that I can only
describe as “unassuming yet elegant”. It sort of resembles older Moto G
models and the Nexus 4, especially with its top and bottom mounted
In terms of dimensions, this 5.2-incher can be
comfortably held with one hand despite some generous bezels all-around.
At 135 grams (4.76 oz), it’s also quite light, but I would have welcomed
a bit more weight in the form of extra battery capacity. Overall it has
a solid build which ironically is a step up from the rather creaky
The DTEK50 wouldn’t dare call itself a BlackBerry
without a notification light up front, so LED fans can rest easy. Well,
sort of, because the familiar red blinking is no more: this LED doesn’t
support any colors at all. Going with a white (and larger than usual)
notification light might have something to do with the front camera, but
more on that later.
A 5.2-inch / 1920x1080 / 424ppi display should look
crisp and the DTEK50 does not disappoint, especially since it’s an IPS
panel. Not the brightest I’ve seen but it does a great job (unless you
put it against this year’s flagships, which wouldn’t be all that fair).
Colors look good and can be further tweaked from the settings app.
It supports the double-tap to wake gesture just like
its higher-end predecessor, but enabling it might not be the best idea
given the smaller battery. The battery charging green “snake” also makes
One more thing: I don’t consider this a drawback,
but the multi-touch support is limited to 5 points instead of the more
We already know the hardware specs are identical to
the Alcatel Idol 4, which brings nothing impressive to the table. Still,
it’s nice seeing 3GB of RAM on a device in this price range.
The DTEK50 uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 617 SoC
combined with the Adreno 405 GPU, making for a decent and mostly snappy
device, but certainly no gaming machine.
There are plenty of sensors, including magnetometer and hall effect, and no misses in terms of connectivity: LTE/4G, Wi-Fi up to 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2 with EDR and A2DP, GPS and NFC.
Sadly, the data/charging port is of the old microUSB
2.0 variety, so it seems we’ll have to wait some more until BlackBerry
makes the jump to USB Type-C. It does support Quick Charge though, but
it’s the 2.0 version, which is strange since Snapdragon 617 was supposed to support QC3.0.
The SIM/microSD card tray can be populated with a
second SIM in place of the memory card, which might lead you to believe
the DTEK50 has some sort of dual-SIM capability, which is not the case.
5.2-inch IPS LCD / 1920x1080 424ppi 24-bit
Scratch-resistant glass and oleophobic coating
147 x 72.5 x 7.4 mm / 5.79 x 2.85 x 0.29 in 135g / 4.76oz
13MP f/2.0 with 1.125um pixel size Optical Dual-tone dual-LED flash, HDR, phase-detection autofocus, touch focus, face detection Video up to 1080p @ 30fps with OIS or 1080p @ 60fps without OIS
8MP f/2.2 with selfie flash(uses notification LED), video up to 1080p @ 30fps with OIS or 1080p @ 60fps without OIS
LTE / HSPA / GSM Bluetooth 4.2 with A2DP, LE (Low Energy) and EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) GPS with A-GPS, BDS, GLONASS NFC Dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac with hotspot/tether and Wi-Fi direct
microUSB 2.0 with Quick Charge 2.0 support Charges to 50% in 51 minutes
2610 mAh Li-Ion
Accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope, proximity, ambient light, hall effect
FM Radio using wired earbuds as antenna
Customizable convenience key on right side
Notification LED (white only)
As expected, benchmarks revealed mediocre performance across the board:
Some didn’t run fully due to a strange
network-related error. It looks like the DTEK50 blocks connections to
some sites, including those of AnTuTu and Geekbench, at the OS level.
As can be seen from the graphs, the AnTuTu 15-minute stress test did not cause the device to overheat or throttle the CPU, drained about 10% from the battery.
Looking past numbers and benchmarks, what we have
here is a smartphone that runs well and without snags most of the time,
especially if you’re not into mobile gaming. The Hub is miles away from
the lag fest that it was on the PRIV when it initially launched, which
is great, considering it’s one of the selling points of the device.
The DTEK50 rarely gets warm (when installing Android
OS updates or patches, for example) and I didn’t notice instances of
overheating. It’s not a gaming machine, which is understandable given
the specs and price range.
The near-stock Android used is a great help, things
would have certainly been different (read: worse) with a “skin” like
many OEMs love to use these days. BlackBerry has done a good job
implementing Marshmallow on their Android-based devices (on the PRIV it
runs visibly better than Lollipop) so let’s hope the same happens when
they move to Android M.
Software (OS & BB Apps)
BlackBerry’s Android flavor is still very close to
the stock experience in terms of customization, a far cry from the deep
customization other Android vendors love to do much to the dismay of
their customers. Still, the security features and extras we’ve first
seen on the PRIV are here as well, including the Hub which is better
than ever… on Android that is. It’s still (and probably will ever be)
inferior to the original, BBOS 10 version.
Apart from the Hub, BlackBerry’s productivity suite
includes: Contacts, Tasks, Notes, Calendar and Device Search, plus the
BBM messaging app and a handy data transfer application that supports
both Android and OS10-powered BlackBerry devices.
I’ve described them all in detail in BlackBerry PRIV review
but it must be mentioned that the Hub is still the best mobile email
client out there, despite all the competition, especially after the
latest updates which added more app integrations and the missing pinch
gesture support. It’s fast, never misses emails, doesn’t lag and does
wonders for productivity on the go.
There’s still no gallery app, so you’ll have to rely on the pre-installed Photos from Google, or find a third-party one that doesn’t suck.
As a side note, most of BlackBerry’s apps are now
available for all Android phones, with a small catch: after 30 days you
can either subscribe for $0.99/month or agree to see advertisements
every now and then.
Before we move to the camera, a mildly interesting
fact: after adding a Google account to the phone I got the usual “New
Sign-in” email but instead of DTEK50, it mentioned Acer Iconia, which
isn’t even a phone (it’s a 6-year old tablet).
BlackBerry continues to work on its camera app and it shows: there are manual controls baked into it now, which might help squeezing the best shots possible from the DTEK50’s mediocre sensor.
I also took some comparison shots using the DTEK50
against the iPhone 6, Nexus 6P, Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ and BlackBery
PRIV and medium light and bright light.
There’s no optical image stabilization at all, which
BlackBerry tried to mitigate by using a software-based solution. It’s
better than nothing but keep in mind it gets disabled for 60fps videos
regardless of the resolution.
The 1.125um pixel size is all you need to know when
it comes to camera performance in low-light conditions: in short it’s
terrible, all the more so for videos. In bright light, however, results
are decent for this price range, but nowhere near anything you might
call a flagship device. Using a different camera app did not help
Audio & call quality
In-call audio quality is very good, something we’ve
grown to expect from BlackBerries. After PRIV’s rather sneaky mono
speaker, we are again treated to a stereo setup that sounds great,
albeit not very loud, which was sort of a surprise given the four
individual speaker grilles.
The preinstalled Waves MaxxAudio app comes with
several equalizer presets for music plus a movie mode. It can be used in
simple mode (four knobs to tweak bass & treble levels, stereo
separation and “revive” – whatever that is) and advanced mode which
gives access to a traditional 10-band equalizer ranging from 32Hz to
There's an automatic mode as well, which picks the preset to use based on the audio being played at that moment.
Battery life & charging
The DTEK50 has a battery capacity of only 2610 mAh,
which is low and frankly unexpected given the market segment targeted by
the device. Matching PRIV’s 3410 mAh battery would have been advisable
because the device can barely last a day of moderate usage (20% or less
battery left in the evening) without a quick charge-up at the office.
Using the included charger with Quick Charge 2.0,
the DTEK50 charges from 0 to 50% in 50 minutes and to 100% in 2 hours
and a half. There is no indication of fast/normal charging however, and
as far as I can see, the red/yellow/green charging indicator doesn’t
display the ETA to full charge anymore. You can get an estimation in
Settings -> Battery, though.
The white-only notification LED also means you have
no way to quickly see the phone is fully charged, unless you allow the
charging indicator to be displayed at all times, which keeps the screen
dark but visibly on.
During charging, the lower part of the screen gets warm, but not the back side.
Security is still front & center and DTEK, the
app the phone takes part of its name from, is preinstalled and ready to
give all sorts of advice regarding phone settings and permissions.
Its most useful feature is keeping tabs on what
permissions apps use (and when). You can review events by app or by
permission and there’s also the option to get notifications
automatically every time an app accesses something (configurable for
each app and permission). There are handy shortcuts to any given app’s
permissions and info pages from the app manager (settings) if you need
to make adjustments or even uninstall rogue apps.
A strange choice was removing the picture password
unlock method that was present on the PRIV. Granted, it was a bit
confusing for some users, but removing it altogether instead of fixing
it is not the way to go.
Other than that, you still get BlackBerry’s hardened
Android environment and the fastest security patch cycle among all