BlackBerry, for a lot of us, is synonymous with smartphones and communication devices. While the “smartphone” label was pretty much popularized when iOS and Android started to become popular, the fact is that before them, there already were a vast number of Internet-enabled, powerful devices – and BlackBerry was the business standard for most companies. Bringing together solid hardware and a physical keyboard coupled with exclusive software for easily messaging and communicating with your contacts, the company carved a nice little niche for themselves, but that position soon eroded once modern smartphones started to roll around. Now, BlackBerry is throwing their hat back into the ring yet again, this time embracing Android and bringing together the best of both worlds. Is the bet going to pay off? Let’s take a look and find out!
It’s nice to see BlackBerry back. While the company has been reluctant to accept modern mobile operating systems, sticking with their proprietary BlackBerry OS until now, it did have a number of close encounters with other platforms, by releasing BBM for Android, for example. The company has mainly acted as a service provider for the BBM platform and as a support layer for existing BlackBerry devices, with hardware releases being few and far between these days. However, that might be about to change very soon with the company’s newest device – the BlackBerry Priv.
The Priv is the company’s first Android-powered device, and the good news is that, for a first attempt, it’s kind of cool. As you might have guessed from the name, one of the main features about this device is privacy – this is not a budget device aimed primarily at consumers. Instead, BlackBerry wants to keep their enterprise market and is targeting primarily companies, with features and assurances made especially for them. The Priv will ship with a number of safety standards in place, and the company wants to make sure that this device is adequate for big business. This includes things like a safety framework for voice calls, encrypted messaging, non-tampering software and regular warnings about security concerns like troublesome apps or features. You can read the outline of their privacy standards by clicking here.
However, apart from the safety standards of the software, the hardware is pretty amazing, too. Starting with the design, which sets it apart right away. Featuring a curved display, similar to the Galaxy S6 Edge, and an extremely thin profile, this is a really good looking device. And of course, the patented BlackBerry physical keyboard is there as well – all you have to do is slide it down and you can start typing right away:
The keyboard also serves as a sort of trackpad, so you can slide your finger over it and use that to navigate around the screen. The keyboard neatly slides back into the device’s body, and it looks to be remarkably solid and well-built despite the size. It the specs department, it doesn’t disappoint, either. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 808 SoC, 3GB of RAM, a 5.4-inch QHD display and a 18MP camera, capable of 4K video capture. This is no slouch:
It also comes with the feature that matters the most for enterprise clients – a big, all-day usage battery. The Priv comes with a 3,410mAh battery, promising the kind of battery life that you don’t see much of these days, especially when compared to brands like Samsung. It also ships with a near-stock Android experience, with a lot of custom BlackBerry modifications for safety, but the Material stock look that fans love and is increasingly hard to find on branded devices:
Overall, this is a really promising entry by BlackBerry into not just the Android market, but the phone market in general. While their proprietary devices have always been solid in terms of hardware, this feels like a new generation, and the fact that it runs Android makes it the kind of device people would actually want. The Priv checks a lot of marks for Android fans – a nice screen size, a physical keyboard, great battery, great camera, awesome design. And it came out of nowhere, with a lot of people expecting BlackBerry to leave the hardware business altogether. We’ll have to wait for the official release to see if this device gains a following, but as far as I can tell, BlackBerry did no wrongs here. The price is a bit steep for consumers, but I would be willing to bet that if it does well, there could be a consumer version without any of the privacy customizations and at a more affordable price. Let’s hope the market gives it a chance.