BlackBerry is dead! Long live the new Blackberry!
With these words I bring to you the story of a new generation of Blackberry devices. They still offer you a great bit of hardware, the keyboard that has featured and evolved heavily in BB10 the OS (RIP) features both in physical and touch screen form, and the back still has that lovely soft premium feel to it. Yet, somehow, Blackberry have done something I have been asking (wanting, really. I don’t really have any connections in the decision making) for at least a few years: to give Android a chance. With their hardware, the physical keyboard, and all the apps available on the Android store, Blackberry could easily turn into the next business device. They have finally listened, and we have the Blackberry Priv, a premium device from Blackberry, running Android.
We start off by looking at the specifications quickly:
- Legendary security – In fact Priv stands for privacy, or so I understand.
- Android 5.1.1
- Hidden keyboard with SmartSlide technology
- DTEKTM by BlackBerry warning system
- Stunning 5.4″ dual-curved screen, featuring a 2560 x 1440 resolution, 540 ppi
- Long lasting 3410 mAh battery
- Schneider-Kreuznach ® certified camera, 18MP, shoots video at 4K/30fs with built in OIS
- 64Bit Hexacore CPU, 3GB RAM
- 32GB Internal storage – SD Card slot allows up to 2TB cards
- 147mm x 9.4mm x 77.2mm when closed, 184mm long when open
- The usual Blackberry stuff, i.e. BBM, BB Hub, Intelligent Calendar, etc.
Looks and feel
I know Blackberry may have a bad rep when it comes to style, but the amount of people who have asked me what phone this is, and have exclaimed how beautiful it is now in double figures. And being a nerd means I hardly even see that many people!
Let’s start with the basics then. The first thing you will notice is that this phone is big. It isn’t heavy, but with a 5.4″ screen, it does take up a huge amount of space. This means that it isn’t immensely easy to put this in your trouser pockets if you’re cycling or such like, but isn’t entirely impossible.
However, there isn’t a lot of wasted space. The curved screen (oh yes, Samsung keep talking Edge, but hey, Blackberry just calmly snuck a curved screen in there) means there is literally no bezel on the sides, and apart from the BB logo on the top and a speaker grill on the bottom, you don’t have much to worry about.
The phone may be a bit thicker than the usual slim phone, but at under 10mm, you’re still not staring at something huge.
So let’s start with the curved screen. Did I mention we had a curved screen on this phone? Oh, yes I did. Well, I am merely repeating because others have made a huge fuss about this, while Blackberry don’t even advertise this as a curved model. Okay, maybe all the curved screen does is give you a charge bar when the phone is charging, but hey, it is still a useful feature. It also means that the phone is incredibly ergonomic and nice to touch, without having to worry about ‘sexy curves’ making the phone any bigger.
The top of the phone features the SIM and SD card slot, both of which need the SIM ejection tool to access, while the bottom has the charging slot as well as the headphone socket.
The right side features two volume keys and a ‘mute’ key in the middle, which basically brings up Android sound settings. The left features the power button.
The back though, really shows off that Blackberry means business with the Priv. A soft touch back gives you a premium feel while looking like carbon fibre, and the beautiful finish of the protruding camera is evident. A BlackBerry logo also takes centre stage, and once again is great to touch.
A gentle push on the base reveals the keyboard. This isn’t the same size as the classic Blackberry keyboard. Rather, it is a slightly smaller one, and it is touch sensitive.
Keyboard open or close, the build is solid and the phone doesn’t feel flimsy at all.
Overall the phone sits and rests well in any hand, and feels good too.
I wouldn’t lie, I am rather fussy when it comes to Androids. The reason is simple. I try the high end models, and I try the mid range ones. At around £600, I expect nothing but the best from the Blackberry Priv, and it did not disappoint. I had a bit of sluggish behaviour on day 1, but that coincided with me downloading, installing and running a lot of things at once, and hey, even I know that is not really the end case.
As such, I am happy to report that Android runs well on a Blackberry. It is fast, it is responsive, and it can handle anything and everything that is thrown at it.
Android on a Blackberry? You don’t say!
Well, personally, I have been waiting for it for a while. I know Blackberry have worked very hard on all their software in the past, and probably didn’t want to let go, but still, I always thought Android on a Blackberry was worth a punt. All the apps I like, and the added advantage of great hardware and a keyboard.
So, how does it work? Rather well. It does mean that despite have all the usual Blackberry services installed on the device, and having a play with them, I slowly stopped using them one by one. I moved back to my usual apps of choice, and before I knew it, I was using this like any other Android device. A great one, mind.
So if you have any concerns, but you like Android, don’t worry. You won’t feel any different.
If you are used to Blackberry services, you won’t feel any different either.
Blackberry does sneak in extra privacy settings into the mix though, and you go through them as you set it up. Blackberry promises to deliver on the following levels:
- OS Level protection that goes beyond Android
- Blackberry’s Secure Compound
- Always on, Full Disk Encryption
- BB Integrity Design
Built into each Blackberry is also the DTEK software which allows you to monitor, control and track all events that take place in your device.
You also have a Password Keeper software to help you store and manage passwords.
All in all, the whole phone is designed for security. It encourages you to set up pins and passwords, and keeps reminding you to help keep your phone secure.
Interestingly, Blackberry have opted out of using a fingerprint sensor on this device. Whether that changes or not in the future is yet to be seen. However, it is either a strategic step to not offer something that may have issues, or bit of missed opportunity. Personally, I do not miss having a fingerprint sensor, but I believe as Android Pay gets released, it will be a requirement, and the Blackberry Priv will miss out.
So, now, let’s look at the keyboard in detail.
First of all, you have the slide out keyboard, and you have the standard BB10 type keyboard on the touch screen. We start off by talking about the physical keyboard.
It is true that the keyboard is well designed, and well thought out. Not only do you have the ability to type in all those letters using actual buttons, but thanks to the ‘touch sensitive’ nature of the keyboard, you can also just swipe on it to swipe through texts, tweets, and web pages. You can even use it like a touchpad to move the cursor as you type just using the keyboard. What’s even more impressive is that they have added the features from the touch keyboard ala BB10 into this. When you start typing, and the word you want is suggested, just swipe up to select it. It is clever, well thought out, and simply works.
However, us humans are easily spoilt. One of the funny things I found being annoying was the simple fact that it didn’t autocapitalize. Another lil thing I found annoying was that the suggestions feature didn’t appear in all apps. It appeared in all the Blackberry apps, and most mail apps, but somehow was a bit hit and miss in Twitter and Facebook. If, however, you opened it while you were about to type, it worked perfectly.
The biggest issue I found though was that over and over again, I didn’t use the physical keyboard. I found the keys to be a tad on the tiny sound, and kept making mistakes. The touch screen keyboard just worked better, and smoother. I was falling into a trap, a mental trap. The one thing I was looking most forward to playing on this phone was the one thing I wasn’t using at all. Was I disappointed? No, not really. Amused though, I definitely was!
And slowly, and steadily, as I do with all Android devices, I ended up using Swiftkey in the end.
Is this the keyboard I was looking for? No, definitely not. I hoped I would type away article after article on the Priv, but it just didn’t happen.
The Blackberry is a phone of two camera. The back camera features a great sensor, capable of capturing great detail, and is great in all kinds of light conditions.
Below are a few images I caught.
Frost on a cold morning.
Getting prematurely excited about spring
A dramatic sky
And this horse head near Marble Arch in London.
A night shot
The colours are true to real life, and barring unusual circumstances, it has worked reasonably well.
The selfie camera is okay on the other hand. It works. It is not going to flatter or help you pose for anything magical.
Normally I look a lot more handsome than that.
Blackberry, you have ruined my chances!
Anyway, in all seriousness, the camera probably is one of the biggest proofs that Blackberry have focused this phone towards the serious user. The one who wants to take great photos, but is not too bothered about being Instagram’s next big thing.
Is this a good strategy? You tell us. I am pretty happy not indulging in selfies!
Blackberry promises a 22.5 hour battery life. It is probably the screen eating up most of it, but yeah, it just about lasts a day before needing a charge again. Nothing worth writing home about.
Oh, it was going so well, till I discovered a bug on my device. To be fair, Blackberry support have been rather helpful, and have tried everything they could, sending me a couple of ‘software updates’, but nothing has worked so far. They tell me they are aware of the issue, and are working hard to fix it, but as far as my test unit goes, the issue remains and persists.
So, what is it? After around a day or two’s usage, and I haven’t quite managed to get a pattern on this, the WiFi just disconnects from your connection. It doesn’t reconnect, and it doesn’t work even if you forget and try and connect. The only fix I have found around this is restarting the phone. It works perfectly, till it repeats.
Sadly this puts a rather annoying negative on an otherwise brilliant phone.
More information on the Blackberry Priv can be found on their website:
It is available via various retailers and shops, and can be bought via Amazon.
It retails around the £600 mark, and the price varies if you go contract.
A great set of specs, beautiful looks, a handy keyboard and a great camera all mean that this device has been designed for the businessman. Whether Blackberry manage to salvage back their core user is yet to be seen, but with the extra security, this device has everything one could ask for. Oh, and did I mention it has a curved screen?
I have waited long for Blackberry to put Android on a phone, and I know this is just the first step. So, is this the Blackberry I was looking for? No. But it is a great step in the right direction. Deep down, call me a romantic, but I just want a Blackberry Classic running Android. Is it too much to ask for?