Blackberry Priv Review

Rating:

Upon first glance, the Blackberry Priv is probably the best looking and most elegantly designed phone Blackberry has made in recent memory. Everything from the smartphone design, build materials, to the gorgeous 5.43” AMOLED screen and the novel slider keyboard for the most die hard Blackberry keyboard lovers, they spared no expense in making an Android based Blackberry smartphone.

Now that they’ve finally made quite the splash with the bold move of adopting Android as the Priv’s Mobile OS instead of their own Blackberry 10 OS, it seems like a move that Blackberry should have made a few years ago when things were turning south.

But despite the seemingly “too little too late attitude” that’s been a mainstay from various tech outlets for Blackberry phones ever since Apple and Google usurped the once dominant Blackberry marketshare, will the Priv be the saviour of Blackberry and put them back on top despite having lost market share to iOS and Android? Read on to find out!

Screen

blackberry priv

The screen is gorgeous. The Priv sports a 5.43″ AMOLED display with 2,560 x 1,440 resolution, with a pixel density of 540 ppi, which is in fact higher than the iPhone 6S Plus ppi which stands at 401. While it’s aesthetically pleasing, its curved Gorilla glass screen doesn’t offer much utility outside of a battery charger indicator. All the indicator does is that it gradually wraps around onto the curved screen letting you know how much time it will take for your Priv to fully charge. What would be nice is to be able to take advantage of the curved screen with a ticker feed for important notifications or movement sensor that recognizes the proximity of your palm waving over the phone to reveal notifications much like you could do on a Moto X.

Software

One of the cornerstones of Blackberry’s pre-installed software and the reason why it’s called “Priv” is their focused on security and privacy, which is their DTEK software. It gives you a very clear idea of how secure your device is with a simple to understand metric, being a speedometer on how secure your phone is. Check out the screenshot.

DTEK Blackberry Software

It allows you to drill down into what apps have what kind of access so you’re fully aware of what app has what kind of access and how often it’s accessing certain data like your contacts, location or how it delivers notifications. Take a look at Instagram for instance.

DTEK Blackberry Software privileges Instagram

As for Blackberry Hub. I’ve given it a fair shot, and I actually enjoy it as it’s one app experience (hence “Hub”) for my schedule at a glance, text messages, email accounts, call logs and even my WhatsApp account. I probably use this app the most simply because it’s the spot where I receive all my communications and handles the experience natively such as email or it punts me to messenger. Blackberry Messenger should be in here as well, but because of the majority of my friends using WhatsApp, it doesn’t fit into my life. For other die hard BBM adherents, however, it would remain in Blackberry Hub.

Other than that, the software experience is what you would expect with any other Android phone. They didn’t load a lot of bloat into the OS, which was a nice touch, and when they did load Blackberry software, it was in line with their core audience that values a hardware keyboard, security, and privacy in a luxurious design, which leads us to their overall design of the phone.

Design

 

DSC_0556

DSC_0558

Blackberry Priv extended

The device namesake, “Priv”, short for “Privilege” and “Privacy” are something that are evoked in its design. With its gorgeous curved 5.43” screen, woven glass fibre back, its slider keyboard accompanied by the satisfying “click” after swiping your thumb up to reveal the keyboard. You get the immediate impression that the Priv is a premium device. That it was made for the high end business user or the heavy texter.

The slick slide out keyboard is tactile, grippy and feels good in the hand, which is a nice departure compared to its brushed aluminum brethren from other smartphone makers.

The design of the Priv will no doubt polarize users. Either you love it or hate it. With it, there is no middle ground, especially with something as contentious as having a hardware keyboard as it’s centre piece.

Keyboard

Blackberry Priv Keyboard

Positioned as a big selling point for the Priv is the slide out keyboard. For die-hard “Crackberry” fans, the hardware keyboard is a must in terms of blazing through emails, texting or helping edit long form documents. However, for folks including myself who’ve never enjoyed smartphones before iPhones turned the mobile world topsy-turvy, using the keyboard can be a bit of a stretch despite the really cool slide out ability of the keyboard.

Getting myself to use the keyboard regularly was challenging considering I never used a Blackberry as a primary device for an extended period of time. It takes an active desire to want to use the keyboard. Why try when you have a standard Android software keyboard that pops up. To counter my natural tendency to use touch keyboards, I’ve tried to remind myself to try to take advantage of the hardware keyboard to see if I could use to it, but despite my best efforts, the habit never quite stuck as the system default is the Android software keyboard.

Along with the software autocorrect in full force, it forces the user to have to uncomfortably stretch out thumbs to reach the autocorrected word, which feels like a bit of an awkward user experience.

In hindsight, it feels like the keyboard is a feature built for pure Blackberry fans who want an Android experience, but with the signature Blackberry keyboard tacked on for good measure.

Camera

Blackberry Priv Camera

The camera is a 18 Megapixel with a Schneider-Kreuznach lens. It provides a richer level of depth and clarity that most other smartphones that I’ve owned. With Optical Image Stabilization built in, and dual LED flash, it is easily the best camera that Blackberry has ever shipped in any of their devices. However, despite the amazing on board camera, it’s marred by less than stellar software and slow shutter speed, which can be a second between pressing the shutter button.

Also, its front facing camera is a 2 MP camera that will allow you to be (and take) your best selfie.

A Great Big World Kaleidoscope Tour Toronto

Great at concert photos

La Carnita Guacamole and Chips

While it’s “good enough” to help you take photos of documents or documenting and capturing moments in your life (or in my case food photos). Take a look and see for yourself below.

Battery life

Blackberry phones are famous for their frugality when it comes to using up battery life. With the adoption of Android, along with the gargantuan 5.43” in screen, which is about the same size as the iPhone 6S Plus, battery life expectations should be curbed.

With the Priv, it’s slated for 22 hours of use. Depending on how heavily you use your Priv, in terms of screen use, processor intensive apps, video or music, realistically, you’ll be getting around 12 hours of continuous use with the screen brightness set to 50%.

With battery saving mode turned on, you can probably eke out a few more hours, but for the most part to get the most out of your phone. Unfortunately, as with older Blackberry models, there is no user replaceable battery, so keeping a power bank handy in case you need to continue powering through your day might be a good idea.

Specs

  • Battery: 3410 mAH non removable Li-ion battery
  • OS: Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop)
  • Expandable microSD slot (up to 200 GB)
  • Memory: 32 GB onboard
  • Screen material: Corning Gorilla Glass 4
  • Screen Resolution: 2560 x 1440 pixels (540 ppi pixel density)
  • Colours: Black
  • Keyboard: 4 row slide out Blackberry keyboard.
  • Height: 147 mm tall
  • Height with keyboard extended: 184 mm
  • Width: 77.2 mm
  • Thickness: 9.4 mm
  • Weight: 192 g

 

This product is perfect for: Blackberry devout users. You’ll get the best of both worlds in terms of having a popular OS along with everything Blackberry is great at. Business minded users who value security and access to Blackberry’s famed keyboard. Curious users who want a premium smartphone who want to try something a little bit different.

Key things to be aware of: using the keyboard can be awkward if you haven’t owned a Blackberry before. It’s pretty pricey, considering there are lots of other amazing Android smartphones on the market. The price premium is having Blackberry design and engineer the fusion of Android and Blackberry together.

Final review score: 3.5 / 5 As polished as the Priv feels, there are many details that are left out. Things like a user replaceable battery that Blackberry was known for are absent, making their camera software more polished, and their software helping with typos as you type on the keyboard aren’t as well executed as it could be. While a valiant effort in building a strong contender in the Android market and differentiating itself, with the slider keyboard, while novel, seems as if it’s meant to quell the exodus of Blackberry users to other smartphone makers. If you’re a Blackberry fan, and don’t want to abandon Blackberry, this phone just might be for you.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Blackberry Priv
Author Rating
4
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Will obsesses over the latest and greatest in gadgets, startups, does CrossFit and writes about technology, growth marketing, programming and personal development. He curates the Startup Digest in Toronto and is a coffee enthusiast.

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