BlackBerry’s first Android smartphone is now available, and not surprisingly, the $699 BlackBerry Priv feels a bit like a mix between a classic BlackBerry phone and a modern Android device.

It has a large touchscreen display, support for over a million Android apps, and decent camera. But it also has a physical keyboard that hides behind the screen when it’s not in use and some BlackBerry software for communications and security.

I recently got a chance to spend a few minutes with the Priv, and here are a few thoughts.

priv_001

I’ve never spent much time with phones that have physical keyboards, so I’m not nostalgic for a time when most smartphones had them. So when I first started typing on the Priv’s physical keyboard, I made a lot of mistakes: the keys are small and packed tightly together. But I’m told it’s something you can get used to, and once you do, you might find yourself able to type without looking at your fingers, since you’ve got tactile feedback, much the way you do with a laptop or desktop keyboard.

You can also use the on-screen software keyboard, but then you’re kind of ignoring one of the key selling points of the phone. Still, it might be simpler for entering a quick word, email address, or URL.

One nifty thing about the keyboard is you can also use it s a touchpad: swipe your finger across the top of the keyboard and you can scroll through home screens, web pages, documents, or other apps.

The mechanism for sliding out the keyboard is pretty nice. Actually it feels more like you’re sliding the screen up, while the keyboard stays in place. Just give the screen a little push while holding onto the back and the screen will slide smoothly, finishing the motion without any help from you.

While I didn’t spend a lot of time with the phone and some features (such as BlackBerry Hub) weren’t set up on the demo unit I tried, I did notice that some simple actions like scrolling and zooming in the Google Chrome web browser felt smoother on the Priv than on the Google Nexus 5X… even though both phones have the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor.

Maybe that’s because the Priv has 3GB of RAM while the Nexus 5X has just 2GB. Or maybe it was just a fluke and if I’d tried on a different day performance would have been different. It’s hard to draw that kind of conclusion from such a short hands-on.

Overall though, the device has a pretty nice looking 5.4 inch display with curved edges (although the curves don’t really feel all that necessary), a reasonably large 3410 mAh battery, and software that looks a lot like stock Android until you notice that the same gesture that lets you bring up Google Now also offers  shortcut to BlackBerry Hub, which is a unified communications utility that shows all your messages in one place.

priv_002

You also get access to BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry’s DTEK security software, and some other features you won’t find on most Android phones.

BlackBerry is currently shipping the phone with Android 5.1, but plans to offer an Android 6.0 update soon, and the company says that now that Google is releasing monthly security updates for Android, BlackBerry will push those updates to users on a monthly basis.

But the main reason to consider this phone is probably the keyboard. It’s what really does the most to set this phone apart from the competition… although it’s up to each user to decide whether that justifies the phone’s $699 price tag when a $429 Google Nexus 5X has the same processor, same amount of built-in storage, stock Android software, and a a high quality camera, and fingerprint scanner (but less RAM and no microSD card slot).

The Priv feels like a phone that will allow existing BlackBerry fans to buy a new BlackBerry phone that doesn’t suffer from a lack of third-party apps. I’m less convinced that it’s a phone that will convince existing Android users to switch to BlackBerry… it just seems too expensive to do that. But this is just BlackBerry’s first Android phone. Future models could have more attractive price tags, and if the Priv is a head-turner, maybe those models will be wallet openers.

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20 replies on “Closer look at the BlackBerry Priv (video)”

  1. “You also get access to BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry’s DTEK security software, and some other features you won’t find on most Android phones.”.

    …Most Android phones?
    I may be mistaken but I dont think that DTEK, ‘full’ BBM, BB Hub and the underrated pop-up widgets come standard on any other Android devices, so you definitely will not find those features on most Android phones. 🙂

  2. Looks like the BBRY shills are out once again for their new saviour phone……..LMAO!

    1. A phone comes out on a given platform. You either want that phone and that platform or you don’t. If you want it, get it and use it. If not, move on.

      Anyone that makes a religion out of this, or sits trolling bits of plastic, metal and glass that will all be in a landfill within a decade – is retarded with seriously warped priorities in life.

      1. The same might be said for those who mock them for the sake of mocking them.

    2. BBRY shill? That’s funny. I’ve never wanted to own a BlackBerry in my life until now. It just so happens that BlackBerry is the only company making an Android phone with a physical keyboard, so maybe I’m a PKB shill? Anyway, the Priv is a surprisingly good device and people should know about it.

  3. I dont get the reviews Blackberry gets. As far as I know they provide the best phones. I have carried all the phones out there and none NONE have ever stack to Blackberry. There is a bunch of Androids, iPhones and the underrated Blackberry. Now, BB shows up with an Android phone and all of the sudden it might account for something. I wonder how many reviewers really and I mean really tried BB10. I bet you NONE…its a world that moves by trends, thats what it boils down to..

    1. The problem is most tech writers essentially are just writers that follow trends, fads and the flock, until I try something myself, I take everything I read with a pinch of salt. It’s like going into an electricals superstore and relying on a salesman to tell you what computer you need, if they knew anything, they wouldn’t be on minimum wage working in a shop.

  4. I opened my wallet for the Priv. I actually cancelled my Nexus 6P order to get it. Its a quality device that will only get better with software updates. Blackberry has a hit on its hands.

  5. “…I recently got a chance to spend a few minutes with the Priv, and here are a few thoughts” “……….I’ve never spent much time with phones that have physical keyboards, so I’m not nostalgic for a time when most smartphones had them….” with such an attitude you want to review a product and pass your expert opinion, right?? Man, help yourself!

    1. I’d like a phone with a physical keyboard, but the one on this phone is so small I’m not sure it is that much better than a virtual on-screen keyboard. Why not a landscape keyboard?

      1. So I have a oneplus one, 5.5″ with swiftkey, it’s pretty much one of the biggest onscreen keyboards you can get and even then I find myself correcting the autocorrect way too often. With a physical keyboard even if it is a little smaller there would be fewer typos because you can feel which key you’re pressing without looking. Landscape would have been nice, not sure how that’d work with a big phone unless you want to split it into two thumb-keyboards.

    2. C’mon, this was much better than the horrible opinionated reviews like ArsTechnica and such. The reviewer was at least being honest about phone usage experience and did admit it would take more time to ‘discover’ the phone. This was more a first impression than anything else.

  6. “The Priv feels like a phone that will allow existing BlackBerry fans to
    buy a new BlackBerry phone that doesn’t suffer from a lack of
    third-party apps. I’m less convinced that it’s a phone that will
    convince existing Android users to switch to BlackBerry”

    I think it’s the other way around. Android user can now get a phone with a physical keyboard (or not, if you hid it) while keeping all their already-purchased apps. Existing android user can simply move their apps over to the Priv. Also, one of the biggest complains Android user have is the bloat that comes with their phones. Only Google Nexus devices have the stock OS with no krap on top. The Priv comes stock as well, plus with enhancements that make it better, not worse like the bloat on other androids. And with time, BB will be able make the experience even better with updates and new features. As an Android user myself, this a dream come true. As one reviewer said, BB made better android than android.

    It simply doesn’t get better than this, and it will only keep getting better

    1. You nailed it.
      I am a long time Droid 1 & Droid 4 user with unlimited data.
      I bought my Note 3 off of eBay due to my Droid 4’s demise.
      Now i cant wait to get my hand on a keyboard. $700 dollars is a small price to pay to see a manufacture build a relatively unique piece of hardware.

    2. …. and what about the massive security features that this phone provides. You may not care about it but there are millions of people out there who gives importance to their secrecy and privacy of data and for them this is a game changer. just wait for some more time and definitely the negative perception about BB that exist now will definitely change For sure.

      1. Security is enhanced but users still have to be aware and not give possible spyware, etc permission as it won’t really prevent you from installing what you want and the tools are only useful if you actually use them… Like monitoring what apps are doing only helps if you actually make use of that information and not just use it like any other phone…

        While some alternatives like the Blackphone have better lock down setup that prevents almost any spyware/malware from running at all but on the other hand it don’t offer the range of support and apps/services that BB does with the “Hotfix”, BBM, etc… along with lower specs and still high asking price of $625 vs the Priv’s $699… But compared to how most Android phones have virtually no security and only the latest 6.0 version of Android actually addresses the security concerns seriously that most users are woefully vulnerable in comparison…

        But yeah, it mainly needs time and for people to give it a serious look at least but given the negative hype that’s still going to be a uphill battle for them unfortunately…

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