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Reviewed – BlackBerry Priv

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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BlackBerry finally jumps aboard the Android bandwagon, but is it a match made in heaven?

BlackBerry raised a number of eyebrows when it announced the Priv, its first-ever Android smartphone, back in October.

Sporting an eye-catching design, including a slide-out QWERTY keyboard alongside traditional touchscreen interface, the Priv marked BlackBerry’s latest attempt to relaunch itself as a smartphone heavyweight.

So how do BlackBerry’s first steps into the brave new Android world pan out?

First Impressions

blackberry privThe BlackBerry Priv certainly is unique in design. It harks back to the good (or bad, depending on your opinion) days of slide-out keyboards to provide that classic BlackBerry feel.

blackberry privThe 5.4-inch display is bright and colourful, and the curved glass of the screen lets it fit neatly in to your hand– although it’s probably worth noting that if you have small palms this might be tricky to use.

The side of this curve is used to display notifications and also information such as charging status, similar to Samsung’s Galaxy Edge devices, and is a useful way of keeping track on your device.

The device actually weighs in at 192g, making it slightly heavier than many of the leading Android devices on the market at the moment, and thanks to the slide-out keyboard it is actually significantly thicker too – at 9.4mm it’s hardly a pocket-buster though.

Initial set-up of the Priv was also easy enough, thanks to logging in with an existing Google account, which means all your favourite apps can be quickly downloaded from the Play Store, alongside classic BlackBerry offerings such as BBM and Notification Hub.

The Experience

Given that this is BlackBerry’s first go at an Android device, you might be under the impression that the user experience could be a bit sketchy – thankfully that’s not the case. As noted above, transferring apps from a previous Android device is simple enough via Google Play, with BlackBerry’s own favourites also making an appearance.

This includes BlackBerry’s DTEK security app, a pre-installed service that automatically monitors apps and processes in real time to provide an overall security rating for your device, providing an extra level of privacy that’s essential for a work-friendly device such as this.

There’s no Android 6.0 Marshmallow here, as the Priv is powered by Android 5.1.1, but this easily offers a complete range of services that should be enough for most business and consumer users. The Priv also offers a wide range of personalisation effects, meaning that you can easily sort the look you want for your device.blackberry priv

The slide-out mechanism is reassuringly solid, clicking out audibly but never feeling fragile, thanks to the reinforced plastic back of the Priv.

Typing is done either via the classic QWERTY keyboard or via touchscreen – the Priv is quite happy doing either, and both are easy to use.

Similar to several past BlackBerry devices, most notably the BlackBerry Classic, you can also use your finger to slide up and down the keyboard to scroll around on the device with needing to touch – similar to the classic scrolling nub on the old devices. If you’ve never used this before, prepare for a surprisingly intuitive experience.

The camera is one of the Priv’s most surprising stand-out features, as it’s capable of some seriously impressive tricks. The 18MP Schneider-Kreuznach lens offers fantastic detail, including HDR capture, and even comes with a range of filters built-in so that you can test out a variety of options before taking the perfect shot.

It’s also able to capture 4K video at up to 30fps or 1080p video at 60fps, with an enhanced video stabilisation feature also allowing you to get the most out of your videos.

This is all backed up by an impressive 3,410mAh battery, far larger than many devices on the market, which easily provided a full-day’s juice during our tests, and also stood up well to streaming live video alongside multiple apps. Recharging was also speedy, and can be tracked thanks to a charging notification bar displayed on the curved side of the Priv, showing how long the powering up will take.

Basically, if you’re a long-time BlackBerry user, you’ll find a lot to like here – and Android fans will also feel very comfortable.

The Verdict

BlackBerry has had such a bad rap over the past few years that it really feels like the Priv could be its last chance to be taken seriously as a device manufacturer.

Luckily, the Priv is a great device to use – offering a perfect mix of BlackBerry’s professionalism and work-friendly tools and Android personalisation and openness.

Blending a great user experience with a surprisingly good-looking design, the Priv is definitely worth a good look if you are searching for a device that will offer a good mix of home and work life.

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