Raise your hands if you ever owned a BlackBerry?
Asking this question to an audience at an Executive Business Summit resulted in 100% hands-up scenario.
Asking the same question at the Social Media Expo results in only 2 or 3 hands raised and then quickly lowered.
The fact is that today’s generation of mobile users don’t know the pain of only being able to make a call from the office or home and in between only being contactable via a Pager. So when the first BlackBerry arrived on the scene, allowing not only phone calls but also email on the go – life changed forever.
Fast forward to 2016 and BlackBerry is a shadow of its old self having missed the smartphone-app revolution as Apple and Samsung did. It has no appeal to the young generation. However, as the classic line from Mark Twain goes “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” as no matter how many analyst predict that Blackberry is dead, it seems no one told BlackBerry that and it continues on.
BlackBerry’s latest device is the BlackBerry Priv. It is the first Blackberry to run Android. Before this model came along we had BlackBerry 10 operating system which allowed its used to run Android apps, however this was still run on top of the BlackBerry system. The Priv has no other operating system but only Android. Having grown with BlackBerry and loving the BlackBerry 10, it took a while for me to get my over “wow – its running Android”.
So its the BlackBerry Priv any good ?
I was given a BlackBerry Priv on loan by Verizon Wireless to check out some of the features.
Quick overview of the Look and Feel
The BlackBerry Priv is a “whats that phone?” device. Every time I pulled the phone out of my pocket I had that question asked. Every. Time. The only other time this has happened was when I use my BlackBerry Passport. The Priv is a good looking phone with a premium finish that even had strangers asking to see the phone !
The Priv is comfortable to hold, easy to use and no need for finger-gymnastics to bounce around the 5.4inch screen. It is 5.79in x 3.04in x0.37in and weighs 192grams with 2560 x 1440 resolution with 24-bit color depth. What this means is that in direct sunlight the phone is not only perfectly useable but the icons are clear and there is no reason to squint the eyes looking for a good angle to see whats on the phone.
The Priv has3GB of Ram and 32GB of storage which can be expended up to 2TB by inserting a MicroSD card so running out of space is never a worry.
The Battery life on the Priv is great. It has 3410mAh non-removable battery which in the US is also compatible with the Qualcomm Quick Charge for wireless charging. I managed to get a good full day usage out of the unit and didn’t panic at around 3pm looking for a place to charge the phone (unlike other devices which WISH the could make it to 3pm).
Now that we got the basics out of the way, here is what makes the Priv a superb device:
1. The Keyboard
our mobile world today has very few devices with a physical keyboard as we have all made the transition over to the software-keyboard and forgot about the click-click of the mobile keyboard. Some people never ever had a physical keyboard (making the rest of us feel old). BlackBerry has retained their legacy of making the best mobile keyboard and they have one on the PRIV. While not as sexy as the keyboard on the Passport, the keyboard is a great surprise as you flick open the Priv to reveal it. I must say that it took a little getting used to to start typing on a physical keyboard again, however it soon became apparent that I miss doing that. The tick tick of the keys that actually move up and down like a computer keyboard made typing feel allot faster with fewer mistakes.
What is also exceptionally impressive with the BlackBerry keyboard is that it can be used as a track pad. As you read a website article, or a document, you can run your fingers up and down the keyboard and the page moves up and down. You no longer need to have your fingers in the way as you navigate.
There are other gestures such as running our fingers to the left will delete the previous word. As you type the predictive text shows three words and just swipe up under the respective word and it will insert it into your text.
For those who don’t want to use the keyboard, just use the soft-keyboard that is equally good. Simply put away the hard keyboard by sliding the keyboard in and the soft keyboard takes over. The predictive text in this mode takes a little getting used to as the words appear ontop of the keys rather than on top of the entire keyboard.
I will say that I typed an entire document to a client who needed an “URGENT” proposal using only the BlackBerry Priv’s keyboard. I would not have managed to do that on another phone as the soft-keyboard is great for shot bursts but gets tiring when typing repeated paragraphs.
2. The Apps
Blackberry is running full Android 5.1.1 – not a scaled down version, not an emulator but the real Android Lollipop. I am told that Android Marshmallow will be coming to the BlackBerry Priv soon.
What does this mean ?
BlackBerry 10 is/was a great operating system, however the lack of apps meant that people (read as: journalist) didn’t give it a chance. It was a vicious circle. The lack of apps means that people didn’t buy the device for fear that they would be missing out which meant that less units were being sold which meant that there was even less incentive for developers to build BlackBerry apps.
This is no longer a problem as the BlackBerry Priv now has every app that Android has because it IS Android.
During my test period with the device, I ran Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and every app I tried just worked. I even ran the “not your usual” apps such as the TomTom Bandit app that connects the device to the TomTom Bandit camera – that ran beautifully.
During my entire test period the only time I encountered an issue was with a game that did not recognize the movement of the BlackBerry Priv to control the character. Other games that relied on the gyro of the device worked perfectly fine.
3. The Camera
The one grief I have had with my previous BlackBerry devices was the seemingly lack of importance they gave to the camera – not cool. This is no longer the case with the Priv. The rear camera is a nice 18 megapixel camera with image stabilization and f2.2 lens and a 4x digital zoom. The image quality is great and even the camera software has had a nice makeover with features like Panorama, Burst, Live Filters and Slo Mo video.
The video camera is set by default at 1080p with 30fps but can be beefed up to 4k video with 30fps. Nice !
What is also great is that you can now finally connect the BlackBerry to your computer without having to install the BlackBerry desktop software. This is really handy to just pull images off the device without all the complications.
See below for some examples of images shot on the BlackBerry Priv
4. The Security
Mention security and eyes start to roll. It seems that more people just don’t care or couldn’t be bothered. The common expression is “I got nothing to hide” or “I am not a terrorist let them look”. This is very shortsighted in a world where identity theft is so rampant and people’s passwords are still 123456789 or really smart ones 987654321, security of personal information should really be much higher on the priority list. BlackBerry has the DTEK app installed on the Priv bringing security to Android. DTEK constantly analyses the phone and the apps and scans every app before it is installed for any malware. DTEK has an interface that shows how secure the phone is and what needs to be done in order to make it even more secure.
You no longer have to worry about your rouge apps, dodgy websites and which app is able to grab your credit card information.
The 3 Problems:
1. The front camera unfortunately missed the upgrade-train and is not so lucky as it is still has a 2MP with 2x digital zoom and a “wide selfie” mode. This is going to be a problem for any Snapchatter/ Selfie shutterbugs. If BlackBerry is trying to gain momentum with the younger generation this is going to hurt, however, even the old-people are doing more video conferencing and remote working where the front facing camera is also important. Not cool BlackBerry
2. The phone gets hot. Not scolding burn your hand type of hot, but hot enough to notice especially when installing multiple apps. This had me worried enough to charge my phone not next to my bed but in the kitchen. Being overly cautious as it has passed all the safety tests but it is still wroth mentioning so that you aren’t caught off guard.
3. The price of the device had put it in the top end and will make people question if they are buying the right phone as for the same price they could buy a “regular” phone.
So in summary:
I have been a BlackBerry supporter forever. I predicted that BlackBerry will eventually adopt Android as its operating system and this is an ideal time to say “TOLD YOU SO” <insert smug look here>
The Blackberry PRIV is laden with features that will take another 12 posts to get through them all. Things to look for are the HUB, Unified messaging, useable curved screen, great multimedia experience, good quality sound and a great gaming experience to name but a few.
I really urge anyone who is in the market for a new phone to pick up the BlackBerry Priv and check it out. Don’t be put off by he sales person who is trying to sell you the latest phone where he/she gets their biggest commission from . Take time to make an informed decision and try it for yourself.
Note: This is NOT a paid for post. The BlackBerry Priv I used for this review was on loan from Verizon Wireless where it is available at $720 or $30 per month.
Here are some examples of the images from the camera:
on a gloomy Dallas day, the images are still nice and crisp. Note the zoom on the building in the middle.
Front facing camera – really? its 2016….
an image which would usually would be hard to capture due to the lights comes out perfect with the BlackBerry Priv.
nice rich colors