Arms-On With Priv, BlackBrerry’s First Android Telephone

We’re informed that the ‘priv’ in BlackBerry Priv, the Canadian handset maker’s first Android telephone, stands for each privilege and privateness.

Privilege maybe as a result of the Priv is being pitched very a lot as a flagship Android system with a price ticket that pits it towards the iPhones and Samsung Galaxy S6s of the world.

Priv may additionally stand for privative, denoting the absence or lack of an attribute or high quality

Standout premium options embrace a 5’four″ curved show just like the one Samsung just lately debuted on the S6 Edge, an 18 MP twin-flash digital camera with optics ‘licensed’ by Schneider-Kreuznach — just like Nokia’s emphasis on Carl Zeiss for its digital camera-targeted flagships again within the day — and a slide out bodily QWERTY keyboard (extra on that later).

In the meantime, Privateness is a mirrored image of BlackBerry’s legacy in safety and a few of the privateness function additions it’s bringing to Google’s OS.

These embrace switching on encryption by default, a brand new image-based mostly move code that claims to guard towards finger smudge trails and presumably key logging, and an app by BlackBerry referred to as DTEK that provides your system an general safety score and screens issues like modifications to app permissions going ahead.

Nevertheless, after utilizing the handset for simply over every week, ‘priv’ may additionally stand for privative, denoting the absence or lack of an attribute or high quality. What that attribute or high quality is I can’t fairly put my finger on, however I’m positive it has one thing to do with the Priv’s bodily keyboard, which, like a nasty second date, by no means fairly lived as much as early expectations.

The slide out keyboard feels clunky and I discovered my arms tiring extra shortly than I anticipated

BlackBerry made a reputation for having greatest-in-class QWERTY keyboards however this one suffers from being a ‘slider’ and one that’s hooked up to an already very tall sweet bar telephone. Holding the heavy and vast system whereas typing on the slide out keyboard feels clunky and I discovered my arms tiring extra shortly than I anticipated.

For comparability, the Priv weighs 192 grams in comparison with the iPhone 6 plus at 172 grams. The additional heft is partly because of the Priv’s large and all-day 3410 mAh battery, which by itself is welcome however has a specific commerce off in relation to dexterity and general consolation.

The second difficulty I’ve with the keyboard is, like most sliders earlier than it, the highest row of keys really feel somewhat near the protruding edge simply above it.

As a result of making certain the Priv is as skinny as potential — although it’s nonetheless a reasonably beefy 9.4mm, one thing that BlackBerry unconvincingly claimed makes it extra snug to carry — the keys are additionally fairly flush with the gadget and so don’t fairly have as a lot journey because the BlackBerry Q10 or the Daring of yesteryear. Or a minimum of so far as I can keep in mind.

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Thirdly, the on-display keyboard, which is identical one discovered on BlackBerry 10, is quite sensible, not least its autocorrection and phrase ideas. Consequently I discovered myself not often, if ever, sliding out the Priv’s bodily keyboard, and I say that as somebody who was a QWERTY holdout till I lastly made the change to an iPhone 5s. I even wrote to Steve Jobs on the matter.

Lastly, the space between the bodily keyboard and the highest of the display the place many Android apps place necessary on-display buttons means you’ll constantly end up adjusting your hand place as you leap from keys to display until you could have particularly giant palms or lengthy fingers.

That’s a disgrace since I actually like the best way the bodily keyboard on the Priv is contact enabled, doubling up as a touchpad that can be utilized to quickly wade via tons of e-mail or shortly scroll net pages and different paperwork. You can even map particular keys to shortly launch purposes or actions by way of an extended-press. You realize, all of the issues that BlackBerrys are historically good for, like truly getting stuff finished.

Hands-On With Priv, BlackBrerry’s First Android Phone

So in case you aren’t going to purchase the Priv for its bodily keyboard — and undoubtedly some individuals will — then isn’t this simply one other Android system? Briefly, sure. However judged solely as an Android telephone sans bodily keyboard it nonetheless has a number of issues going for it.

(In reality, in a briefing, Gareth Hurn, Director of International Smartphone & SW Product Administration for BlackBerry, tried to persuade me that folks will purchase the Priv no matter its bodily QWERTY-touting credentials. Why not subsequently launch a model with out one, I requested, however didn’t actually get a solution.)

It’s within the particulars the place you’ll doubtless recognize the Priv extra over time

I notably like the best way BlackBerry has introduced over its BlackBerry Hub from BlackBerry 10, a unified inbox for all of your messages, together with e-mail accounts and Twitter DMs and interactions.

Now you can additionally swipe to ‘snooze’ a message, having it float to the highest of your in-field once more at a later time, say in two hours, or once you arrive at a specific location, akin to returning to the workplace after lunch. Google’s new mail shopper ‘Inbox’ has an analogous function, however nonetheless it’s a welcome addition to BlackBerry Hub.

As well as, you possibly can swipe/pull down inside the Hub message listing for a fast view of as much as four of your subsequent conferences or calendar occasions, which is an easy however good contact. It’s within the particulars the place you’ll probably respect the Priv extra over time.

Gestures in BlackBerry 10 are additionally one thing I miss and, though not fairly on the identical degree, BlackBerry has introduced over a few of that considering to its first Android telephone. Swipe up from the underside of the telephone from anyplace and it brings up three tappable shortcuts to shortly launch any of three apps. I’ve mine mapped to BlackBerry Hub, Google Now and Twitter.


The Priv additionally introduces one thing BlackBerry is looking the productiveness tab, an on-display tab that sits alongside the display’s curved edge to offer an ‘at a look’ view of essential information from BlackBerry Hub, Calendar, Process, and Contacts. Regardless of being a bit fiddly, it really works fairly nicely and goes someway to justifying that curved show. That stated, replicating BlackBerry 10’s ‘Peek’ function, which allow you to entry the complete BlackBerry Hub from anyplace with a fast left to proper swipe, would have been preferable.


There isn’t any doubting the trouble BlackBerry has made right here to not solely convey a brand new premium and its first Android gadget to market — a big transfer in itself — but in addition one that gives one thing totally different in a largely commoditised soup of Android units obtainable at each worth level conceivable.

When you go the Android route, there’s little room to distinguish

When you go the Android route, there’s little room to distinguish. What there’s often comes right down to branding, largely off-the-shelf hardware decisions and, to a a lot lesser diploma, software program. The BlackBerry Priv has made some fascinating decisions in all three areas.

How robust the BlackBerry model stays, I’m unsure, however the Priv will probably improve it not diminish it. It’s priced premium and feels it.

The digital camera is high quality, together with capturing 4K, battery life is strong, it has the newest curved display know-how, and a quick trendy processor — this factor is not any slouch. And now that typing on glass is the norm, you’ll be able to’t get any extra totally different than a bodily QWERTY, even when I can’t assist considering it will deter as many individuals as it should entice, given the tradeoffs that a slide out keyboard virtually all the time entails.

And in a single sweep, by switching to Android, BlackBerry has solved the corporate’s infamous ‘app drawback’ — the shortage of apps on BlackBerry 10 being the primary grievance from present and previous clients, myself included. However the firm has gone additional, tweaking Android to be safer and privateness-minded out of the field and has introduced over a number of the greatest apps and software program options from BlackBerry 10 or at the least re-interpreted them for Android. Each features are to be applauded.

Nevertheless, as gallant as BlackBerry’s first Android effort is, the truth that I discovered the Priv’s bodily keyboard to be virtually totally redundant means there are virtually definitely higher choices if I discover myself out there for a premium telephone operating Google’s cellular OS. See Drew’s assessment of the newest Nexus flagship, for instance.

Lastly and as an afterthought (simply in case BlackBerry is studying this), I’d have a lot most popular an Android telephone extra akin to the BlackBerry Q10 or Basic however barely taller for max Android app compatibility. That’s one thing I’d purchase in a heartbeat, and I anticipate so would many different BlackBerry followers previous and current.