I’m disappointed the company went with a “reference” design from a manufacturing partner for the hardware, while at the same time excited to use a device that marries Android with BlackBerry’s software suite.
I’m still in love with the Hub
For some reason I can’t begin to explain, I still really enjoy using the BlackBerry Hub. The Hub is where all of your emails, text messages, call log, Slack, Facebook, Twitter, and who knows what else are combined into one, overloaded stream of notifications.
The simplicity of opening a single app and having access to nearly my entire online existence, pending alerts and messages awaiting my attention is something I’ve enjoyed since BB10 was a thing.
The problem with the current Hub’s implementation is it’s full of bugs. Tapping the compose button followed by Text Message was like clicking Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button — you just don’t know where you’re going to end up. Sometimes it would do what I expected, which is create a new text message thread and wait for me to select a contact. Other times it would go to a random text thread, or back to the home screen, and on a few occasions it would loop back to the Hub’s main screen.
Outside of the Hub, BlackBerry tweaks Android just enough to make you aware you’re not using a completely stock Android device. The app drawer puts your apps, widgets and shortcuts to common tasks (adding a contact, compose email, etc.) in the same place.
Apps with widgets will have three-dots just below the icon on your home screen, indicating you can tap and swipe up on the icon to view a widget. According to BlackBerry, this is done to help keep users’ home screens clutter-free while maintaining a level of privacy by not permanently displaying personal information.
Is that an Idol 4 in your hand?
The biggest downside to the DTEK50 (outside of its name) is that it’s not a unique design. For the DTEK50, a hardware manufacturer came up with a generic phone design, shopped it around to a few different phone companies, who then customized and tweaked different aspects.
Look at Alcatel’s Idol 4, and you will think it’s a DTEK50. Or is it if you look at a DTEK50 you’ll think it’s an Idol 4? I forget.
The biggest aesthetic difference between the two devices is on the back. Instead of using a glass back as Alcatel did, BlackBerry used a rubber back making it easier to grip (thank you!).
The Idol 4 and DTEK50 also share some of the same interface design elements, such as the power off menu that displays Restart, Power off and Airplane mode.
For those that care about specs, the DTEK50 has a 5.2-inch 1080p display. It’s easy to view in direct sunlight, and looks just as good as any 1080p smartphone display on the market. The phone fits comfortably in your hand, aided by the previously mentioned rubber back.
Inside is a 2,610 mAh battery with support for Quick Charge 2.0, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage and microSD support up to 2TB. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor provides enough power to carry out everyday tasks like email and Facebook, but don’t expect the DTEK50 to excel at gaming.
As for battery life, I was able to sneak in a full day of use, but only barely. You will need to charge the device nightly, or take advantage of its quick charge capabilities if you plan on going out after a long day’s work.
What’s in a name?
According to BlackBerry, names are important and DTEK50 is a symbol of that importance. The name DTEK50 is inspired by the company’s DTEK security app, with the 50 paying respect to the Z10 and Z30 BlackBerry 10 devices of a few years back.
BlackBerry first introduced the DTEK app with the Priv last year. The app’s primary focus is to detect any potential security issues and bring them to a user’s attention.
For example, if you don’t have some sort of lock screen pin or pattern set, the app will advise you on how to set it up in order to better protect your data. Furthermore, you can view a list of installed apps and the various facets of your personal data they’ve requested permission to access, along with how many times that data has been accessed.
BlackBerry is advertising the DTEK50 as the most secure Android device available.
Looking at Facebook’s requests through DTEK will make you sick, I know it made me nauseous. According to DTEK, in a week’s time Facebook has accessed my location on 519 different occasions. Some of those instances were done when I wasn’t even in the Facebook app. A fact I know because DTEK logs the requests and displays it in a convenient timeline.
BlackBerry is advertising the DTEK50 as the most secure Android device available, citing the DTEK app, steps taken during manufacturing and the company’s eagerness to push out critical security patches once available. I can’t vouch for how secure the device truly is, and even though it’s easy to shrug off DTEK as a gimmicky app, the ability to view how often your personal data is being accessed is enlightening and welcome.
A device built for a specific type of user
On paper and in use, the DTEK50 isn’t a phone that’s going to draw a massive amount of new users. It’s a mid-range phone meant for BlackBerry loyalists who’ve grown to love and rely upon BlackBerry’s productivity apps. In that regard, the DTEK50 is a success.
Triaging my email and managing my calendar on the DTEK50 had a familiar feeling, and I rather enjoyed it. But then I would do things like take a photo and it would come out grainy and somewhat blurry, and I was reminded of the fact I’m using a BlackBerry.
Despite BlackBerry giving it a solid effort, the DTEK50 just isn’t a device built for mainstream users. Don’t believe me? Just look at the name. DTEK50 is not a consumer-friendly name, lending itself to marketing materials and billboards.
This is a very niche device built for a niche set of users, most of which work for big corporations or the government.
Still, at $300 it’s hard to beat what the DTEK50 has to offer. Although, you could spend another $100 and get something like the OnePlus 3 or the ZTE Axon 7, both of which blow the latest BlackBerry away.
The BlackBerry Hub still rocks • Inexpensive
Crappy camera • Uninspired design • Terrible name
The Bottom Line
Even diehard BlackBerry fans may not care for this mediocre phone. Unless you really, really care about security.