BlackBerry Priv review
The Privilege of Privacy
The BlackBerry Priv is the first smartphone from BlackBerry that will feature an Android (Lollipop) operating system and this is a move that makes a great deal of sense.
The BlackBerry OS had already become a hybrid, by offering Android apps through the Amazon app store or through direct download .apk files. This move will however simplify the process and give users direct access to 1.3 million apps in Google Play store as well as giving Android Wear connectivity.
Update: The BlackBerry DTEK50 launches at a price lower than the Priv and becomes the UK's most secure Android smartphone. Read the BlackBerry DTEK50 news release here.
BlackBerry’s specialist apps remain in place and the BlackBerry grade security makes this the safest Android smartphone on the market, for both personal and professional users.
Available on pre-order, the BlackBerry Priv will ship in the UK from the week commencing 30th November.
The BlackBerry Priv has a design that is really going to make it one of the most desirable smartphones on the market. As soon as the Priv is picked up, it is plain to see that the innovative combination of full tough screen and slide down physical keyboard is a winning combination.
This lets you browse websites with a full-sized touchscreen and if needed a virtual keyboard will appear for entering text. When lengthier text input is needed, the very cool slide down keyboard comes into play.
The importance of this should not be understated as under typing tests, the physical BlackBerry keyboards provide four times higher accuracy and efficiency, compared to virtual keyboards.
The physical keyboard also provides other advantages as it can be used like a track pad, with scrolling and cursor placement controlled by sliding a thumb over the keys. This is a brilliant innovation as you don’t end up blocking your own view when using websites or editing documents.
The build of the BlackBerry Priv includes a 5.4” dual-curved screen with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels, equating to 540 pixels per inch. The screen is protected by the highest grade Corning Gorilla Glass 4 and can be used in Glove Mode and High Brightness Mode, for optimised use outdoors.
Three microphones are used to ensure that you are heard and the very clever BlackBerry Natural Sound monitor ensures maximum loudness without distortion, through adapting the sound output depending upon how you hold the phone next to your ear. BlackBerry has also got another key element right by using a forward facing speaker to project sound towards the user though holes that have been laser drilled for precision.
The experience is powered by a hexa-core 1.8GHz processor that has 3GB RAM for lag-free web browsing and gaming. The 32GB memory is ample but can be expanded upon with a 2TB microSD card.
The Priv is 9.4mm thick and weighs in at 192g, which isn’t light in comparison to other premium smartphones, but you soon get used to this and I think it adds to the feeling that the phone is a high-quality device.
Phone Set Up
The Setup Wizard springs into action when the BlackBerry Priv is first switched on and with ease, this lets you set up the regional time, language, Wi-Fi network and Google account.
The transference of data, from an old smartphone, is aided by either Android’s Tap N Go feature (via NFC) or by BlackBerry’s Content Transfer app. Owners of a BlackBerry Passport will also be able to transfer over their passwords held in the BlackBerry Password Keeper.
Swiping finger gestures are the key to unlocking a great BlackBerry led experience:
- Swipe up from the bottom of the screen - This gives quick access to the BlackBerry Hub, Google Now or Device Search
- Swipe down from the top of the screen - To see notifications
- Swipe up or down over BlackBerry Pop-up Widgets - This gives quick access to the information in the app without actually opening it
The BlackBerry Hub is the heart of communications and this feature is where texts, emails, social media interactions and calendar events can be found.
The BlackBerry Priv offers malware protection on both hardware and software levels and DTEK by BlackBerry lets you know when your privacy could be at risk and what action you should take. A visual security rating can be viewed at a glance and it is possible to control an application’s access to the microphone, camera, location and personal information.
Of course and as mentioned before, the biggest new feature is the Android Lollipop OS and access to apps through the Google Play store.
Camera & Video
The camera on the BlackBerry Passport was already absolutely fabulous but the BlackBerry Priv still manages to take it to a new level with an 18MP camera that has been certified by Schneider-Kreuznach, developer and manufacturer of high-performance photographic lenses.
A dual-colour flash, that emits white and amber light and is unique to the BlackBerry Priv, creates natural lighting and more realistic looking images in low light. This is paired with a Phase Detection Auto Focus, as used on DSLR cameras for increased focus speed and accuracy.
It is a really nice touch that the shutter can be operated with a single tap for taking one image or it can be held down to take a burst of photos at five frames per second.
The BlackBerry Priv allows for colour filters to applied in real time and this lets the photographer see the result prior to taking the shot. The Priv can also record 4K video, which is four times more defined than Full HD.
The 2MP selfie camera does seem to be the chink in the amour and while the results are perfectly acceptable, we have to acknowledge that there are many other smartphones with 5MP or above, secondary cameras. A large 1.75um pixel size does however allow the camera’s sensor to capture more light under low lighting and the Wide Selfie Mode allows a group or the wider background to be photographed.
The battery has one of the highest capacities on the market at 3,410mAh and this will offer 22.5 hours of battery life under a mixed usage scenario. Compare to other Blackberry phones with is a monster and to put this into context, the Apple iPhone 6s has a battery that is half the size, at 1,810mAh.
The Battery Edge feature is a nice touch and this offers a visual indication of charge, through a shortening line on the curved edge of the display, which is visible even when the screen is asleep.
The Blackberry Priv is also compatible with Quick Charge 2.0 chargers, sold separately, and these charge phones at four times the rate of a standard charger.
BlackBerry Priv verdict: Existing BlackBerry Passport users are really going to appreciate the fact that they can get Android apps and know that they will work correctly, which they always didn’t on the Passport. Those new to BlackBerry, will enjoy the familiarity of Android, extra security and BlackBerry apps. Either way, the BlackBerry Priv is a smartphone worth updating to.
Written by: Michael Brown