About a couple of years back, BlackBerry transitioned to being a software company and started licensing out its hardware manufacturing to other ODMs (somewhat the same way as Nokia licensed its Brand to HMD Global). Optiemus is one such manufacturer that holds the right to sell BlackBerry branded phones in India.
The two new BlackBerrys that debuted in India today, the Evolve X and Evolve, run the latest Android software and are being touted as the ‘safest Android phones’. But as BlackBerry pointed out, Indian consumers aren’t overly concerned about their data privacy as data theft it doesn’t lead to any immediate loss.
How else then would BlackBerry convince consumers to opt for its Android phones? Are the Evolve X and Evolve competent enough to survive in the hyper-competitive smartphone space? Has BlackBerry finally evolved enough to avoid its past mistakes? Let’s try and answer those questions in our BlackBerry Evolve X and Evolve Quick Review.
BlackBerry Evolve X and Evolve Specifications and Price
|Model||BlackBerry Evolve X||BlackBerry Evolve|
|Display||5.99-inch (2160×1080 pixels) Full HD+ 18:9 2.5D Gorilla Glass 5, 500 Nits||5.99-inch (2160×1080 pixels) Full HD+ 18:9 2.5D Gorilla Glass 5, 500 Nits|
|Processor||2.2GHz octa-core Snapdragon 660||1.8GHz octa-core Snapdragon 450|
|Software||Android 8.1 Oreo||Android 8.1 Oreo|
|Primary Camera||13MP (f/1.8)+12MP(f/2.6), 2x Zoom||13MP+13MP, 2x Zoom|
|Front Camera||16MP, F/2.0||16MP, F/2.0|
|Others||Dual-sim, 4G Volte, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 5, Face Unlock, Fingerprint sensor, Dolby Atmos||Dual-sim, 4G Volte, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 5, Face Unlock, Fingerprint sensor|
|Price||Rs 34,990||Rs 24,990|
Also Read: Xiaomi Mi A2 Hands-on Review
Blast from the past
Both of these phones, the Evolve and Evolve X, shun modern design trends and are distinctly BlackBerry. It makes sense that the Evolve phones are still stuck in Blackberry’s glorious past and holding them will instantly remind you of that BlackBerry feel that we all once admired, craved and coveted in its halcyon days.
The side edges are curved but the design is more of straight lines and bold corners. BlackBerry is using the familiar matte finished rubberized back with a semi-perforated texture. The soft matte finish back panels on the two phones have an inviting feel to them. We certainly wouldn’t mind a well-designed polycarbonate phone in 2018, but the plastic used feels kind of cheap. Anything similar to what BlackBerry offers on Key2 would have been fine. Even when Optiemus suggests that these are the phones you could use without a case, the scratches and scuff marks we noticed on the back panel proclaim otherwise.
Being the high-end of the two, the Evolve X has more metal than plastic which also adds to its heft.. in a good way. The added weight makes it feel more substantial in hands.
On the front, Evolve X and Evolve have the same 6-inch Full HD+ LTPS LCD display with Gorilla Glass 5 protection. There is a fair amount of bezel surrounding the screen on the two, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Also, Both the Evolve X and Evolve felt very comfortable to operate. The size of the Power button and volume rocker has been increased by 20 percent to make them more accessible. The two phones have a Type-C port at the bottom, rear-mounted fingerprint sensors, and retain the 3.5mm audio jack.
Evolve X and Evolve are the first set of BlackBerry phones to include Face Unlock. BlackBerry claims that the fingerprint sensor can unlock the phone in 0.3 seconds, and the Face Unlock can do the same in 0.4 seconds.
Enhanced stock Android
Another thing that’s common between the two phones is the software. The base Android version is the latest Android 8.1 Oreo and BlackBerry adds several useful enhancements on top – like the dark mode, DTEK security dashboard, password manager, and a new launcher – without meddling with stock Android essence and simplicity.
Adding subtle refinements over stock Android is one of the best approaches to software in our books, so we have no complaints in this regards.
The Mobile Platforms driving the software are a bit questionable, though.
The base variant, Evolve, is powered by Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 450, which certainly is a mismatch for a phone that costs 25K. After all, that’s a chip you can spot on phones that cost around 10K. Having said that, the SD 450 isn’t a bad chip and could still make ends meet for basic and moderate users.
On the other hand, the Snapdragon 660 (octa-core) on the Evolve X should be good enough for most of us, even when it won’t lend the X a competitive edge. Online buyers are quite sensitive to the chipsets used and Evolve-series might find itself at a disadvantage here.
And the cameras?
Well, the camera hardware used seems good enough. For the evolve, BlackBerry uses dual 13MP sensors and the for the Evolve X there is a 12MP + 13MP rear camera combination. The second sensor has a telephoto lens for optical zoom. Apart from missing OIS, most other camera boxes are checked.
The front camera is same on both phones – a 16MP snapper with f/2.0 aperture, LED flash, Studio lighting and Portrait mode.
BlackBerry is, however, still working on the camera app. On the demonstration units, the camera app was altogether missing on the Evolve X and, for the Evolve, a BlackBerry representative cautioned us that the camera will be updated before the handset hit retail shelves.
So, basically, we have no idea how the camera performance will turn out to be, but it’s very likely that BlackBerry might not be able to deliver on its camera promise.
BlackBerry Evolve X and Evolve Quick Review
The BlackBerry Evolve X and Evolve heavily rely on BlackBerry branding. The software felt good and the hardware is reasonable on paper, but the price is very steep and there is an uncertainty looming around cameras. We are not writing off Evolve X and Evolve just yet, but we will need to spend more time with the phone to judge the impact that the little things BlackBerry does right have on the overall experience.