BlackBerry Leap Review – A solid, productivity tool with no keyboard

You may not be able to buy it from T-Mobile, but the BlackBerry Leap might be worth your consideration if you’re one of the few people who actually likes BB OS10 on an all-touch device. It’s compatible with T-Mo’s band 2 and 4 LTE networks and you can buy it unlocked from ShopBlackBerry.com for $275 in dark grey or white. I’ve reviewed it for PhoneDog, and you can see that review in the video embedded above.

Key Specs include:

  • All-touch keyboard
  • Battery life: up to 17 hours talk time (UMTS)
  • 5″ diagonal display, 1280 X 720 HD Resolution, 294 dpi
  • Ultimate privacy and security to protect your workspace and personal data
  • 8MP, auto-focus rear-facing camera with 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps
  • 2 MP, front-facing camera, 720p HD video recording
  • 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB storage (expandable up to 128GB via Micro SD)
  • LTE Bands: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 13, 17
  • HSPA+ Bands: 1, 2, 4, 5/6

To save myself from writing the entire review script again I’ll point you in the direction of the PhoneDog review page. But I still wanted to bring you my thoughts in a summarized form.

The Good

  • Battery life is awesome. Regularly got 2 days on a full charge with moderate use. Even heavy users would struggle to use it up in a day.
  • Screen has good qualities, including accurate colors, good levels of contrast and brightness.
  • Camera results are good, and there are plenty of options in the camera to tweak your images.
  • Solid build quality and grippy feel on the back make this a true workhorse.
  • Reliable wireless performance on cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

The Bad

  • Despite being generally quite solid, the design isn’t exactly premium. It’s plastic and rubbery, not for the aesthetically picky.
  • Game loading times can be a long wait.
  • Camera is slow to focus, and doesn’t like close-up shots at all.
  • For those who haven’t used it before, the software can be a little confusing
  • Lack of apps on BlackBerry is still a problem despite the addition of the Amazon Appstore. Even if you manage to install Android apps another way, you’ll still have a hard time without Google Play Services.

Take-away

I’ve always liked BlackBerry 10’s user interface. Although it can take a little while to get used to the gestures, once you’ve got it, it feels faster, more intuitive and productive than anything else. At least, it does to me. It reminded me a lot of using the Z10 and is hard to fault as a work and communication tool. But it’s still hard to see exactly who’s going to buy this.

There are better-specced phones like the OnePlus One and Idol 3 on Android, at a similar price. In fact, the Idol 3 – which we reviewed recently – costs less and has support for T-Mobile’s band 12 LTE network which the Leap doesn’t. And tit’s Android, which means a ton more apps and features for the regular consumer.

If the Leap had a better screen and camera, and maybe looked prettier, I’d love it. But it doesn’t, so I don’t. If I was buying a BlackBerry today, I’d at least go for one with a keyboard like the BlackBerry Classic. For a sub-$300 phone, there are better options out there. But if you’re dead-set on getting an all-touch productivity tool and don’t care for games and apps so much, the Leap is a surprisingly solid offering.

 

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  • Great Write-up

    Great Write-up, I truly preferred and loved the 9900 BlackBerry. Older device, but, for me it had the best keyboard…

  • g2a5b0e

    I understand that it runs the device perfectly fine, but I don’t get why BlackBerry still insists on using the Snapdragon Plus. It’s 3 years old at this point. I’m surprised they can even still get their hands on it. A 400 or 410 would make much more sense. It can run circles around the Plus. At end of the day, performance is key & most end users of this phone won’t care what processor it’s using as long as it gets the job done.

    • To keep the price down probably and keep development unified in the OS. End-users probably won’t hit performance issues until they run a lot of android apps. Native apps are usually always smooth and quick. Example: Google maps will make this device cry (pretty sure google should just start suggesting a minimum of 16 cores to run the app). The Passport doesn’t have these issues but you could buy two of these for the same amount.

      I also don’t think tiny Blackberry can get the same pricing on SoC’s as behemoths like Apple and Samsung can (o wait they have enough loot to just make their own in-house). So they are stuck using older chips or being forced to raise price. The latter ruins any advantage this phone has over the Z10.

      • g2a5b0e

        Chips in the 400 series don’t cost very much. The cost savings over an S4 Plus would be negligible. My guess is that they still have a surplus of chips from the Z10 & Q10 that were never used.

      • eanfoso

        You’re missing the obvious bro: Unlike lagdroid BlackBerry doesn’t need 8 cores to run properly.

    • eanfoso

      Unlike lagdroid BlackBerry doesn’t need 8 cores to run properly.

      • g2a5b0e

        Thanks for the peanut gallery comment. If you can’t add anything useful or constructive to the conversation, don’t bother to reply to me.

        • Respect…

          Freedom of Speech…with Respect!

        • eanfoso

          Says the guy who solely focuses on specs to judge a phone’s performance * epic face palm*

        • eanfoso

          says the guy who solely focuses on specs to judge a phone and it’s performance *epic facepalm* XD

  • Fhritp

    Since Tmo started carrying BB again there has been all sorts of black berry ads in between articles and I don’t understand why. It’s really annoying.

    • the good person test

      Maybe a good ad block application would help.

      • Fhritp

        Still doesn’t answer why all of a sudden black berry is flooding this blog now. I can deal with advertising I was just curious why all the bb sponsorship all of a sudden.

  • AS118

    This is an interesting phone, but I’m more interested in seeing their slider. A full-touchscreen with a slideout portrait keyboard is much more up my alley. Especially if it’s with a 16:10 screen rather than a too-narrow 16:9.

  • Blackberry

    Cam or Anyone, I am a blackberry fan and a fan of the physical keyboard. Do you have any idea how well the BlackBerry classic is selling? In my area, the local stores do not have the device in stock And I was told to order from the online store. Just curious…

  • Nearmsp

    I would not have minded buying the $275 phone as a backup phone to my iPhone 6+. At the moment one can switch iOs and Android phones as long as the sim card fits. But for BB one needs a BB service, not just a data plan. Right?

    • Wrong. BB10 devices don’t need a secondary service. BIS is a thing of the past. Their advertising has to be the worst of any company in history. When you own a Blackberry in the US you are constantly on the defense, no the company isn’t out of business, no the OS is nothing like you remember. Up in Canada it was a little less harsh owning one.

      I was going to upgrade my Z10 to a Leap but it seemed like a downgrade in a couple ways, namely loss of 5ghz wi-fi and nfc. Don’t get me wrong it’s a solid device but I ultimately shelled out for the Passport to use on T-Mobile and I love it.

      The OS and the build quality are why I kept choosing Blackberry. The android support fills the gaps in major applications like spotify and google maps (blackberry maps are ok just not nearly as verbose as google maps).

      As an aside, I used to be a blackberry hater. I picked them up when they went to BB10, I thought the old java OS (bb7 and earlier) was a nightmare for configuring and apps. The company is suffering from an identity crisis and it’s a shame because I really see the innovation and the quality coming forward. I do think the worst is behind them though.

      • Travis

        I have the Leap (I jumped on the Blackberry as soon as I heard they were still in business, as I was once a mis-informed one who thought they died out) and I really enjoy using it. I can see why you’d miss a few features from the Z10, but the Leap is a great device. I can’t find anything wrong with it, and I usually find flaws within minutes of holding a device. So I think the Leap’s a success, at least to me.

        • The battery life is where the massive improvement comes in. That was the Z10’s biggest flaw in my opinion. Good to see they addressed it in the Leap.

        • Travis

          I don’t know as I never got to use the Z10, but I do manage 2 days on my amount of use (probably considered “moderate” to “heavy” use) and I’m happy with that. My Nokia would die within a day or so.