The Blackberry DTEK60: Almost Perfect Secure Phone

November 10, 2016
By: Rob Enderle

The Blackberry DTEK60 is one of two phones I’m testing using the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset and matching radio.  The common core features are compelling and given the DTEK, and previous PRIV, lines run Android (News - Alert), you tend to get the best of both worlds: a phone that resists malware and is relatively secure and full compatibility with the Android App store.   This is by far the best Blackberry phone ever created and, for once, it is fully in line with other premium smartphones.   The Snapdragon 820 features make it a very strong upgrade from earlier smartphones in market.  Let me explain. 

Feel

This is one of the things that Blackberry didn’t seem to get until now.  The DTEK40 and 50, while nicely weighted, didn’t feel rich largely due to their soft plastic backs which were arguably more utilitarian but not really in line with a high-end phone.  This one trades the plastic back for glass, giving it an even richer feel and surprisingly balanced weight for a phone, even over metal— which is the standard— and the glass coating doesn’t seem to fingerprint.  Corning (News - Alert) in particular should look at this phone as a benchmark because it is a showcase for where hardened glass like Gorilla Glass can be used more effectively.  You’d think a glass phone would fingerprint badly but it doesn’t; the new glass coating that resists fingerprinting appears to work really well. Now if they’d just put them on new tablets and touch laptops, that would be great.  

Snapdragon 820

There are a number of new features that come with the Snapdragon 820, and my favorite is QuickCharge 3.0.  This now gets you to 80 percent charge in 30 minutes and full charge in an hour.  That’s about as fast as a Tesla on a Supercharger and really takes the pain out of phones that use a lot of power.   As a result, while I’d have liked a slightly larger battery, the 3,000mAh battery gets you through about a day and a half of reasonable use and, with light use, I got a full two days.  Blackberries were once known for their week of battery life, and with a bigger battery this could get close, but given it is at least a half longer than any of my older phones, I’m not complaining.  

This chipset now supports MU-MIMO Wi-Fi, which is still pretty rare, but I have it in my home and Wi-Fi speeds are impressively fast.  Routers have been out for some time that support this technology, but this is the first set of phones I’ve had in to test that use it.  Improvements in LTE (News - Alert) support, LTE-U and X12 LTE, mean if the tower supports these new speeds, your phone won’t be limited.  That means up to 600 megabytes per second download and 150 megabytes per second upload speed. 

This class also supports up to a 2TB Micro-SD, card which doesn’t exist in market yet, and will likely be wicked expensive when it does, at least initially.  But that means it has headroom and will run the 256GB cards we have today, which potentially gives the phone more storage than most PCs have.  Camera support is up to 24 megapixels (this phone had a 21-megapixel HDR (News - Alert) back and 8-megapixel front cameras). 

And finally, this will support both Ultra 4K capture and playback and that means resolution for VR if you can find a VR headset that’ll take this phone. 

DTEK60

Of course, what makes the DTEK line different is the Blackberry layers.   You have an initial boot sequence which loads the initial security layer on the hardware, effectively preventing root kits, and then the full OS loads and you get BBM, Blackberry’s secure messaging service which works really well with Microsoft Exchange (as well as most other email systems).   Once loaded, this phone works like most Android phones. Since Blackberry hasn’t significantly mucked with the UI, the learning curve is largely non-existent if you are coming from any other Android phone. 

This phone does have a fingerprint reader on the back, like the signature Pixel phone from Google (News - Alert). In fact, in many ways this phone is very much like the Pixel but with more security, likely making it far safer, and it doesn’t just sell with Verizon, which gives you far more carrier choice than the Pixel currently provides.   It has a 5.5” Quad HD OLED display and nice front firing speakers so it sounds as good as it looks.  

Like most current phones, the DTEK60 uses a USB-C port, but unlike many, and the new iPhone, it still has a headphone jack.  

Wrapping Up:

This is the first truly competitive phone from Blackberry at the high end.  It compares well with the Google Pixel but has vastly more security while running the same apps.  One feature in that regard I didn’t mention is the ability to identify apps that are stealing your data and both flagging and disabling them.  In a world where we are currently up to our neck in hackers, it is the unique security features that, for many, may constitute that killer app.

What is kind of sad is that if they had done a phone line like this five years ago, they’d likely have a far larger smartphone market share today.  But, as it is, the DTEK 60 is by far the best phone Blackberry has ever made from the standpoint of appearance, performance, compatibility and battery life.  This one is good enough to get me to stop missing the damn keyboard.      




Edited by Alicia Young