The BlackBerry Priv is a phone that could pave the way to a new future for a company that was once a dominant player in the smartphone space. Over the past decade BlackBerry has seen its market share go down and down… and these days even Tizen smartphones are outselling BlackBerry phones.

So the company is trying something dramatically different: it’s selling a phone with a BlackBerry-style physical keyboard, BlackBerry communication, search, and security apps, and Google’s Android operating system.

If this works, we could see more Android phones from BlackBerry in the future, as well as a bigger emphasis on apps and services for platforms including Android, iOS, and Windows. If it doesn’t… BlackBerry might stop making phones altogether and become a software company.

So is the Priv any good? It depends who you ask.

blackberry priv

Now that the phone is available for purchase, the first reviews are in, and they’re mixed at best.

Most folks seem to like the idea of the keyboard, which hides behind the display when you don’t need it and slides out when you do. It provides tactile feedback as you type in a way that on-screen keyboards do not, and it’s probably one of the most striking things about the Priv… because most smartphone makers have stopped releasing phones with physical keyboards.

Typing a physical keyboard might not actually be faster, but it’s a feeling that some folks seem to prefer. Reviewers that are familiar with BlackBerry keyboards say that the Priv’s isn’t the best the company has produced. But there’s just about no competition in this space right now, so it’s certainly one of the best physical keyboards you’re likely to find on an Android phone for now.

Aside from the keyboard, the features that make this phone most obviously a BlackBerry device are the apps. BlackBerry Hub, for instance, lets you view messages from multiple apps in one place, making it easy to get a quick overview of social media, email, and calendar items all at once.

Android itself hasn’t been customized all that much: the operating system feels pretty close to the stock software you’d get from Google, with some added apps and features. While the phone is currently shipping with Android 5.1, BlackBerry plans to roll out an Android 6.0 update in early 2016.

The phone is also said to have a good display, although some reviewers are baffled as to why the company bothered putting curved edges on the 2560 x 1440 pixel AMOLED display. The camera is also said to take some pretty good photos, although some reviewers say it can be a little slow. As for battery life, most reviewers say it can easily last all day, although some say you might need to pack a charger if you’re a heavy user.

It’s not the fastest Android phone on the market, but the Snapdragon 808 chip and 3GB of RAM certainly mean it’s not the slowest.

Should you buy the $700 phone? Here’s how these publications answered that question.

  • Android Central: Yup.
  • Android Police: Maybe. The phone’s good, but expensive… and a bit quirky.
  • Ars Technica: Nope. At least not yet.
  • CrackBerry: Yup. It ain’t perfect, but it’s the phone BlackBerry needed to deliver.
  • Engadget: Probably not… unless you really want a phone with a keyboard.
  • Gizmodo: Nope
  • Mashable: Yep. It’s one of the best BlackBerry phones ever… but it might be too expensive to replace your Android phone.
  • N4BB: BlackBerry fans might not love it, and the software needs polish… but there’s no more “app gap” between BB and Android devices.
  • PC World: Maybe. It’s pretty good, but it’s also pretty expensive.
  • The Register: Sure.
  • VentureBeat: Maybe. The hardware’s pretty good and the software could get better through updates.
  • The Verge: Maybe. There’s some good stuff and some bad stuff to consider.
  • WSJ: Maybe. This former BlackBerry addict is typing 20 percent faster on the Priv than on an iPhone.

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14 replies on “BlackBerry Priv review roundup (BlackBerry’s first Android phone)”

  1. I like keyboards but I like the horizontal slider kind. Otherwise, I’d go with a slab phone.

  2. They won’t sell any of these in North America without CMDA bands, which is what all the fortune 500 brands use for the corporate wireless phones.

    1. Nope, CDMA is a dying specification… It’s slowly but steadily being phased out in favor of newer specifications like 4G/LTE as well as later updates…

      CDMA just lasted a long time because it helped carriers like Verizon lock in their users and make it harder for them to migrate to other networks but like 3G the tech is now getting too old in the proverbial tooth and has already started to be phased out…

      Only areas where 4G/LTE coverage is low, or still not available, still rely on CDMA but those areas will eventually get updated and then there would be no reason to hold onto CDMA any more…

      Besides, you do know carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile and all the other non-CDMA supporting carriers sell non-CDMA phones just fine and have plenty of corporate phone customers too?!

      Btw, Verizon has been a member of the GSM Association since 2010 and talk of them dropping CDMA has been ongoing since 2013… with an expected end date for CDMA support for 2021…

      Never mind most of the world isn’t using CDMA… can you say dead specification walking?

    2. Well, there was supposedly a leak of a BB Priv running on Verizon. So maybe there’s a CDMA/LTE version that may/may not be sold.

  3. My first Android was a Moto D2G primarily because my wife didn’t want to give up a mechanical keyboard, and I wanted us to have the same phone. She’s now past that concern and quite frankly I appreciate the fact that our current phones (S4’s) have so few mechanical parts. In fact I almost wish the home key wasn’t mechanical (but appreciate it takes some use from the power button). So I don’t think I’ll be even looking at this phone out of concern the mechanical parts would be the weak point of the phone’s durability.

  4. The reviews seem to be positive overall. The phone is $250 on contract with AT&T. I’m not sure why everyone is so hung up on the price – it has a 540PPI AMOLED curved display, large capacity battery, expandable storage (to 2TB), physical keyboard, enhanced security, exclusive software (the Hub), 18MP camera, etc. Not sure why anyone would expect a phone with these specs to be priced at a discount.

    1. It’s mainly that to many the Blackberry name doesn’t mean much anymore and most don’t look past the name and price to really compare…

      Like very few account for the added security and privacy this device provides, which is why they named it “Priv”, which is short for Private… So can be compared to other such products like the Blackphone, which sells for over $625 with even lower end specs, that charge a premium for added security and privacy, which in this day and age where there are real concerns of being spied upon and getting malware that for some at least such a premium is justified…

      The keyboard is also more than just a keyboard as it is also touch sensitive and allows scrolling of content, etc.

      Take articles from Fudzilla for example… They’ve taken to distorting the meaning of the name from Priv to Privy to justify comparing the name to the nick name for a Outdoor Shed/Toilet for no other reason than it’s a BlackBerry product and that’s just an example as other sites made similar non-tech related thinking to basically bash the product and thus there’s little reason why so many people have no real idea what to make of the product or even know that it offers enhanced features that can help justify the pricing…

      1. There is no name recognition in the Android world and definitely no brand loyalty outside of maybe the Samsung and Nexus brands. Think of these names… Zenphone 2, OnePlus, BLU, Fire phone, Yotaphone, etc. If you said those names to an average consumer, you’d be speaking another language.

        Also, I’m really over the idea that a slab phone released today is somehow better than the slab phone I purchased last week. Nothing unique about any of them anymore and I have several. You can’t give me a reason to use my Moto X over my Zenphone over my Galaxy Note over my Nexus 6. I can’t think of a reason either. I’m literally buried in phones that are exactly the same. It’s a relief that Blackberry made a phone that isn’t a clone of what’s already on the market.

  5. It’s amazing that they are as lazy as Samsung and not adjusting the software to fit the curved screen.
    The curved screen is a design affair but you need to factor in that it distorts the content and do something about it.
    A midrange SoC at 700$ is not ideal, guess they only care about sales through carriers but that’s not a long term strategy and it makes this device look worse than it could be.

    1. Manufacturers are in a tight spot right now. If they put the 810 in it some people would be claiming it runs hot.

    2. Many feel SD 808 is a well-matched processor for this phone… No wonder LG G4 went with it to avoid all the thermal throttling issues… SD 810 is not necessarily the king considering all the hue and cry around that SOC. And 700 launch price isn’t surprising for a flagship phone. Depends largely on the device’s overall capability, fit and trim…Even LG G4 launched at ~720 USD… BlackBerry may be targeting the high-end customers first to elevate brand value once again and then work its way down…

      We should remember that this race for BB is not a sprint but a marathon… And I would say they made the right move given the device holds good in terms of performance, usability and appeal…

    3. Lazy? This is their first Android device… It’s not like they have years of experience and the same kind of near unlimited resources as Samsung does… BB is now a very small company that may stop making Smart Phones if they don’t make a profit by the end of 2016…

      So you can say Samsung is Lazy, but BB is just limited in what they can do… Besides, the priority was the key features of the product, which was enhanced security/privacy and showcasing BB apps and services on Android…

      Btw, check out the Blackphone if you want to compare to another similar product that pushes enhanced security and privacy… It has even lower specs but still goes for over $625… Remember, default Android is pretty vulnerable to spyware and malware…

      While high end Android phones from Samsung, etc actually charge even more if you buy them unlocked and off contract… When Smart Phone prices still go up to around $900, it seems people are just not realizing what phones actually cost when not being subsidized or try to compare to cheap mid-range to value range phones that offer a lot less but may have similar SoC but that’s dumb too because there are typically multiple variants of the same SoC model and they don’t all perform the same but most people don’t know that so of course they make erroneous assumptions based on what seems to be similar specs on the surface…

      So sure, a mid range SoC for $700 is not ideal but that’s hardly everything of what they’re offering… Do other mid-range phones offer enhanced security and privacy? Nope… Do other mid-range offer a keyboard, let alone a keyboard that can also function as a scroll pad among other things? Nope… Do most mid-range phones offer 3GB of RAM? Nope, not yet at least… Are other Flagship phones priced even higher? Yup, Samsung alone has phones that go up to $900…

      The only real problem is this is a Blackberry product and that name doesn’t garner much confidence or even respect anymore and will probably be the hardest thing for it to overcome…

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