BlackBerry Priv evaluate: Android alone can't save the corporate

BlackBerry Priv review: Android alone can't save the company

Sports activities followers typically say that their workforce might pull itself out of a dropping streak if solely it’d play that thrilling however untested, child who’s often consigned to the bench. Devices followers sing an analogous hymn about BlackBerry, opining that it might have remained related if it’d adopted Android to run on its telephones. Now, a number of years too late, we will see what the lengthy-deposed world champion can do with the world’s hottest working system. The result’s the Priv, a premium Android smartphone-cum-hail-Mary that is providing two issues different corporations cannot: Privilege and Privateness. It is also packing a slide-out bodily keyboard, a 5.four-inch curved show and, naturally, the corporate’s well-known safety software program. However the system has one thing else that we have not seen in a BlackBerry telephone because the launch of the Q10: the expectation that the gadget may truly be value shopping for.

seventy seven



  • Mixes the most effective of BlackBerry and Android
  • Good-wanting system, snug to carry
  • Respectable digital camera


  • Keyboard is not nice
  • Excessive worth
  • Ships with Android Lollipop


For bodily keyboard devotees, there’s not a lot selection within the smartphone world proper now, however BlackBerry does an honest job with the Priv. The excessive worth will deter truthful-climate consumers, however should you can’t stand typing on glass, that is your solely choice. 


BlackBerry Priv review: Android alone can't save the company

BlackBerry’s concentrate on enterprise clients meant that the agency devoted all of its energies towards making austere smartphones look attractive. Sadly, its designers fell into one thing of a rut, knocking out units from a rote listing that included a matte black physique with silver buttons and little little. The adoption of a sliding, bodily keyboard has pressured these atrophied artistic muscle tissues to spring into life, and that may solely be a very good factor. That is as a result of the Priv might be the perfect-wanting BlackBerry system that has ever been made. Sure, the matte black and silver buttons are nonetheless there, however the telephone’s curved display provides a a lot-wanted dose of humanity. Then there’s the best way that it feels within the hand, because the 9.4mm thickness makes it a heifer in comparison with the 7mm-thick Galaxy S6 Edge. BlackBerry, nevertheless, cannily tapered the sides of the telephone to reflect the show, making it really feel quite a bit thinner than it truly is.

“The Priv might be one of the best-wanting BlackBerry system ever.”

BlackBerry’s legendary status for making units that really feel as if they will take a beating stays intact, too. I had anticipated the Priv to really feel flimsy provided that sliders, by definition, have a number of extra factors of mechanical failure in comparison with a daily bar smartphone. It might be manufactured from two separate elements, however I could not discover any bend or flex in my evaluate unit — at the least on the limits I used to be ready to attempt to twist it. The Priv has a woven glass fiber again and a Gorilla Glass four show coating, so I am anticipating it to final nicely past the 2 years that most individuals’s telephone contracts run to.

“The telephone’s barely curved display provides a a lot-wanted sprint of humanity.”

Beginning with the entrance of the system, you will see the BlackBerry emblem nestled under the earpiece, ambient mild sensor, ahead-dealing with digital camera and notification mild. Simply beneath that’s the 5.forty three-inch display, whereas within the chin of the system you will discover the ahead-dealing with speaker array and first microphone. On the highest aspect you will discover the microSD slot that may settle for playing cards as much as 2TB, in addition to the SIM tray — the other finish homes the micro-USB port. You will discover the sleep/wake button on the left hand aspect, with the trio of quantity and mute buttons on the other edge.

The telephone stands 147mm tall au naturel, however when you slide out the keyboard, that measurement will increase to 184mm. For those who weren’t wanting too intently on the publicity stills, you may need missed that the Priv’s keyboard is not the fretted type you will discover on the corporate’s different handsets. As an alternative, it is a customized affair that, just like the BlackBerry Passport, can also be able to recognizing easy gestures. Every key’s tightly spaced and if, like me, you’ve gotten fats fingers, it’s going to take some time to get your eye in, however there is a shocking quantity of journey given its measurement. Just like the Passport, if a phrase hits the autocomplete suggestion bar, a tough swipe up on the keyboard will add it to your message.

I do not assume that it is unfair to say that BlackBerry actually solely has two strengths anymore: its cellular keyboard know-how and its system safety. Why, then, did it not give some critical consideration to only cramming in a Basic keyboard into this gadget? I imply, this variation is usually high-quality and after some apply, you will be utilizing it prefer it’s 2008 another time, it is only a disgrace, you recognize?

Show and sound

BlackBerry Priv review: Android alone can't save the company

BlackBerry noticed match to equip the Priv with a 5.forty three-inch plastic AMOLED show with a 2,560 x 1,440 decision and a pixel density of 540 ppi. That places it simply behind the Galaxy S6 Edge (577 ppi) and simply forward of the LG G4 (538 ppi). Utilizing AMOLED means brighter, hotter colours and allows BlackBerry so as to add a slight curve to the Priv’s show, on the expense of correct colour copy. Then once more, when you’re shopping for a BlackBerry telephone, certainly you are not clamoring for a trustworthy and correct illustration of a real shade panorama, proper? Suffice to say, for those who’re watching a 1080p film on this factor, you will discover excessive-definition movies look beautiful with deep blacks and vivid colours.

In contrast to, say, the Android app launcher you will discover on Samsung’s Observe Edge, BlackBerry hasn’t seen match to do a lot with the sloping sides of its curved display. The one actually worthwhile use, up to now, is that when the show is off and charging, a inexperienced energy indicator bar runs up the proper-hand curve. It is fairly candy, because it creeps in the direction of the highest of the gadget the fuller your battery will get. Once more, not a groundbreaking piece of labor, nevertheless it’s a cute contact from an organization that is not often recognized for such fripperies.

Audio-sensible, the underside of the chin is given over to a brief, however large speaker hidden behind a band of laser-drilled holes. It is no HTC BoomSound (what’s?) however the setup is obvious sufficient to offer mono sound for an entire room. In considered one of my weirder checks, I put the gadget beneath two pillows on the different finish of my house workplace and located that the sound, whereas muffled, was nonetheless sufficient to kick off an impromptu dance social gathering.

Software program

BlackBerry Priv review: Android alone can't save the company

There’s some good / dangerous information for BlackBerry 10 devotees whose muscle reminiscence signifies that they insta-swipe proper to get to the BlackBerry hub. It might be on the system, nevertheless it’s been faraway from its regular resting place on the left of the house display. As an alternative, nevertheless, is the Productiveness Hub, a breakdown of your schedule and any essential messages that may be accessed by pulling a small white tab on the left-sided curve of the display.

The Priv makes use of a barely custom-made model of Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop), though the most important modifications are all beneath the hood. With a purpose to make the working system safe sufficient for BlackBerry to slap its emblem on it, the agency had so as to add a cryptographic key on the hardware degree, harden the Linux kernel and create the Dtek safety app to watch consumer exercise. For those who’re interested by Lollipop, please level your browsers to our evaluation from a yr in the past, though the corporate has confirmed to us that a Marshmallow replace is within the works and ought to be made obtainable inside the subsequent six months.

The remainder of probably the most noticeable modifications are beauty quite than practical, just like the inclusion of the BlackBerry splat on an icon to spotlight when you have got an unread notification. Aping BlackBerry 10’s design, the default residence display is not on the middle of a carousel, however on the left-most pane, forcing you to push further shortcuts additional out to the correct. As well as, the app tray is now one constantly scrolling-choice, as a result of for those who swipe to the aspect, you will be given entry to customizable widgets and shortcuts.

BlackBerry is clearly preaching to the choir right here, ditching a few of Android’s extra distinctive navigation options to impose its personal system. It is private choice, however I feel that it is extra elegant, and I am one in every of a minority that backs Huawei’s controversial choice to remove the app tray from its personal variations of Android. I am additionally positive that this transfer is more likely to rankle Android devotees, and it is bizarre the way you get such quick access to widget choices and shortcuts on the expense of a extra simply-navigable app tray.

As talked about, the opposite massive addition is Dtek, the corporate’s safety suite that sits on prime of Android and nannies you into ensuring your system is troublesome to hack and steal. Once I was establishing the gadget, I skipped the choice so as to add a safety pin, and Dtek shortly began nagging me to vary that state of affairs. After some time, I gave in, and needed to see if it might inform I used to be being intentionally lax by selecting 1234 as my code. Sadly, the app did not push again, and with the addition of that one code, my safety degree went from being “weak” to “wonderful.”

Digital camera

BlackBerry Priv review: Android alone can't save the company

BlackBerry has by no means actually been too fussed with smartphone imaging, with the Passport being the primary of its units to even get a double-digit digital camera sensor. As if to overcompensate, the Priv comes with an 18-megapixel Schneider-Kreuznach-licensed imaging sensor. As well as, the agency is throwing the standard bundle of options that prime-finish smartphones get so as to declare that they will function on equal footing with a DSLR. On this case, meaning optical picture stabilization (OIS), part-detect auto focus and the power to document 4K video at 30fps in addition to the software program-based mostly reside picture filters we have already seen in older BlackBerry 10 units. The entrance-facer, in the meantime, is a backyard-selection 2-megapixel affair with 720p video seize and 2x digital zoom that may do panoramic selfies, do you have to want it.

Paw via the pattern pictures and you ought to be fairly impressed on the high quality of images this gadget can produce. I say “can” as a result of there isn’t any assure that the picture that you simply see pop up on that AMOLED display is the one you are going to discover when viewing it on various show. As well as, there may be some inconsistency within the shade between two photographs taken at precisely the identical location. Check out the final two photographs on this gallery (the shot of the railway strains) and you will see a pair of pictures snapped one after the opposite. Besides one has a blueish tint and the opposite has extra trustworthy copy.

“Claims of it with the ability to substitute your DSLR are, as regular, bull.”

The photographs taken at night time (throughout a very foggy week) are a bit nosier than I might want, however a bit tweaking of the on-display publicity wheel can enhance that barely. There’s a minimum of a number of photographs in close to pitch-darkness (within the woods near my house) that I used to be anticipating to not come out in any respect that had some measure of element in them. General, whereas any claims of it with the ability to substitute your DSLR are, as ordinary, bull, it isn’t a nasty digital camera to have in your pocket.

Efficiency and battery life

BlackBerry Priv review: Android alone can't save the company

In recent times, BlackBerry excused itself from the spec wars, preferring as an alternative to depend upon outdated chipsets to run inside its smartphones. A part of that was as a result of BB10 wasn’t notably useful resource-hungry and, you already know, as a result of it needed to reduce prices someplace. By comparability, the Priv has been created with a “spare no expense” mantra that is worthy of the fictional creator of Jurassic Park, John Hammond. The gadget has a 1.8GHz twin-core sixty four-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 chip paired with 3GB RAM and 32GB of constructed-in storage.

It is necessary to keep in mind that whereas BlackBerry produces smartphones, it is by no means made a pure Android system earlier than. As such, the system’s staggeringly fast actual-world efficiency is worthy of remark, provided that it is produced it from a standing begin. Naturally, that is partly because of the sledgehammer that’s the chip-and-RAM combo right here, however BlackBerry has clearly accomplished some work behind the scenes as properly. I a lot want to match the actual-world efficiency of the system, too, as a result of in case you glided by its benchmarks alone, you’d assume that the Priv was about as quick as an agricultural car.

BlackBerry Priv Sony Xperia Z5 Google Nexus 6P HTC One A9 Samsung Galaxy S6 AndEBench Professional 7,505 6,989 7,377 7,750 10,552 Vellamo three.2 three,461 5,204 5,one hundred and five 2,585 three,677 3DMark IS Limitless 19,200 23,one hundred ninety 21,847 9,076 21,632 GFXBench 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 15 23.three 25 6.6 25 CF-Bench fifty six,206 sixty four,860 forty eight,796 sixty one,789 sixty two,257

You see, on the time that I used to be reviewing the BlackBerry Priv, I used to be additionally testing Sony’s Xperia Z5, and had assumed that the latter would in all probability stand forward of the previous in the actual world. As such, I did some aspect-by-aspect loading checks to see which of the pair might crank demanding apps like Asphalt eight and Lifeless Set off 2 the quickest. Because it turned out, each units managed to load ranges inside a second of one another — Sony profitable the primary warmth, the Priv returning the favor within the second, and so forth. It is an unscientific check, positive, however you possibly can relaxation assured that this system can stand aspect-by-aspect with the large boys.

One factor that BlackBerry 10 telephones have traditionally struggled with is name high quality, and the agency’s a lot-hyped Paratek Adaptive aerial know-how by no means actually amounted to a lot. The corporate claims that the Priv is much more name-pleasant, because it packs in eleven antennas inside its svelte body. As such, I had a number of lengthy, romantic chats with my fellow Engadget editors on Three’s community right here within the UK. So far as they have been involved, my audio was tinny and someway choked-off, as if the complete gamut of my speech was being erased from the chat by the telephone’s secondary, sound-canceling microphones.

The Priv ships with a non-detachable, three,410mAh battery, which is extra capacious than each the Galaxy Word 5 (three,000mAh) and the S6 Edge (2,600mAh). Regardless of this large battery, the corporate solely rated it for 22 hours of combined use which, to me, felt somewhat suspect. In my expertise of reviewing BlackBerry telephones, you’ll be able to usually divide that determine in half and get near what it is going to get in check circumstances. Fortunately right here, I used to be stunned. In our normal rundown check, we loop a HD video with brightness set to 50 % and the Priv managed to final 12 hours and 23 minutes.

If I am trustworthy, that stunned me, because it by no means appeared to be able to lasting that lengthy throughout my day-to-day use. As an example, the day I acquired the handset, I charged it absolutely after which started the setup course of, which took about an hour. Sadly, simply an hour of use managed to eat away 20 % of the gadget’s battery life, so whereas video playback will do in the course of most lengthy-haul flights, you will wrestle to realize comparable outcomes each day.

The competitors

BlackBerry Priv review: Android alone can't save the company

At this level it is in all probability protected to say that BlackBerry does not have lots of competitors, since no different main agency produces an Android smartphone with a keyboard. The one fairly new system that comes near the Priv’s hardware can be a Galaxy S6 Edge paired with one of many Korean agency’s bolt-on keyboards.

Should you’re in search of a safe Android telephone, in the meantime, the one different mainstream various can be a Samsung Knox system — once more, main you again to the Galaxy S6 Edge (amongst others). The one different system that readily involves thoughts is Silent Circle’s BlackPhone 2, which makes comparable claims to have the ability to shield your privateness.

In any other case, the sector of competitors is fairly barren, and in case you’re simply in search of a bodily keyboard, the one different choice is BlackBerry 10 units. Proper now you’ve gotten a selection of two: the extensive-framed Passport or the Basic, each of which include the agency’s trademark frets.


BlackBerry Priv review: Android alone can't save the company

BlackBerry might be executed as a telephone producer, and John Chen has pledged to shut down the division if it does not flip a revenue by 2016. That is not going to be potential, not by way of any fault of BlackBerry, however as a result of virtually no Android producer appears to have the ability to flip a respectable revenue on smartphones lately. As a lot because it is sensible that BlackBerry might, or ought to, have adopted Android 4 years in the past, there isn’t any assure that it might have extended its life a lot past now anyway.

The BlackBerry Priv, then, is one half hail Mary and one half fan service, and that $699 price ticket goes to scare off truthful-climate clients. Regardless of spending this time with the BlackBerry Priv, I am nonetheless unsure if that is a great factor or not, as a result of there are many issues that I like about it. I like the way it seems, the way it feels and the way properly-constructed it’s. The tweaks to Android are smart too, no matter how you are feeling about BlackBerry Hub.

However then there’s that barely lackluster keyboard, which is not dangerous, however is not as superb as what you’d anticipate from a BlackBerry gadget. Since a bodily enter mechanism is the telephone’s raison d’etre, certainly the corporate would have been higher off simply cramming a full-sized one in, by some means? In any case, in case you’ve gone to the difficulty of cleaving the telephone in two and constructing a, frankly killer, sliding mechanism, higher to go the entire hog, proper?

I assume the ultimate check is to ask myself if I might, with a straight face, advocate this to my buddies and family members. The one one that I do know would really like that is the one which scours eBay every time his Motorola Professional+ breaks, which it does, often. The truth that an organization in 2015 is making a reasonably respectable Android smartphone with a keyboard deserves loads of reward, as a result of individuals do nonetheless crave them. I simply cannot think about anybody who has develop into inured to utilizing an on-display keyboard will think about dropping seven hundred huge ones to return to the way it was.

Images by Chris Velazco