Chip-Monks  ⁄  Blackberry  ⁄  BlackBerry Priv
BlackBerry Priv
Introduction
12 Nov, 2015
Zayer Wadood
  • Manufacturer
    BlackBerry
  • Launch Date
    November, 2015
  • Successor To
    -
  • Colors
    Black

Ever wondered what’s next in the mobile phone market? Where is the future leading us? What is going to happen next and whose going to do it?

Well, BlackBerry seems to want to be a name that comes up at least once in the above questions.

They’ve come up with some answers to the conundrum of what the future holds, for them at least. The BlackBerry Priv is out and it indeed is something that many might have fantasised about but didn’t know could happen.

Sounds grand doesn’t it? Well yes, it is! In every which way you can think of it.

You might argue that it is the last chance for BlackBerry’s revival and it has to do something away from the metaphorical the box to survive. BlackBerry seems to have taken up a gamble. Which if pays off will certainly see BlackBerry back in the scene.

The Priv is a high-end device, of the highest order. It is extremely attractive and credible. There are always things to consider when such a breakthrough comes in any field of life. With this device, there are certainly a lot of unknowns and a price tag to consider as well. So, it is very safe to call it a gamble from BlackBerry.

Nevertheless, it is very exciting to put your hands on this device and the idea of the story of a company ending in big time success is very tempting.

Now, Android inside doesn’t make the Priv a mainstream device. It will still end up in mostly executive hands, plus a small group of true BlackBerry fans. It’s a matching name by the way – officially, Priv stands for both privilege and privacy. Now Privacy has always been BlackBerry’s core business. Security is up to scratch, as usual, but will BlackBerry convince enough people that it’s a privilege as well?

BlackBerry Priv
Display
12 Nov, 2015
Zayer Wadood
  • Display Size
    5.4 inches
  • Display Type
    AMOLED
  • Screen Material
    Gorilla Glass 4
  • Display Attributes
    Matt
  • Aspect Ratio
    16:09
  • Pixel Density
    540 ppi
  • Resolution
    2560 x 1440

You would certainly expect a groundbreaking device to have a stunning display won’t you? Expectations met, I would say. BlackBerry doesn’t seem to cut any corners in this department. The 5.4-inch1440p display along with the Super AMOLED panel, is about as good as it gets. It is a sharp, colourful, vibrant and delightful display.

Super AMOLEDs come with certain expectations. Absolute blacks and infinite levels of contrast and that fits with the nature of the technology itself.

The Priv is the first of Blackberry’ devices that has incorporated the AMOLED technology, yet there absolute blackness is not achieved with this display.

In reality, it not noticeably visible, but still the contrast is not infinite, it rather amounts to 25133. Again, this is not enough for perceivable results.

Not achieving complete darkness means that the backlight is never off. Being able to simply switch off the pixels that are not being used is one of AMOLED’s greatest benefits over LCD and it is the thing that delivers power optimization. This could be a major reason for poor battery performance on the phone – but we have yet to test that.

Sunlight visibility is something that will not cause any problems for you here. The Priv remains easily usable even under direct sunlight. Not to mention that having a physical keyboard is a huge bonus in this respect. Provided you are fluent enough to navigate “blindfolded” for simple tasks.

BlackBerry Priv
Form & Materials
12 Nov, 2015
Zayer Wadood
  • Shape/Type
    Candybar
  • Length
    5.79 inches
  • Breadth
    3.04 inches
  • Thickness
    0.37 inches
  • Weight
    192 grams
  • Body
    Fiber Glass

Leveraging BlackBerry’s immense history with the diverse designs of yore, the Priv seems to be the amalgam of all of the things that worked for BlackBerry in prior devices. Be it the pure Touchscreen like that of the BlackBerry Z10 or elements from what some people consider as the ‘bizarre’ design of the Passport Blackberry (we disagree though).

BlackBerry doesn’t seem to shy away from experimenting. But it seems that all those experiments were leading upto something else, all this time. The Priv?

Keeping that in mind, one can easily confirm that the BlacBerry Priv is a little different from other handsets. This can be mainly attributed to the fact that this is a slider device with a physical keyboard hidden beneath its main display that can be accessed by sliding the screen up.

This design does have its pro’s and con’s, but for old-school BlackBerry users this might be a plus-point. The keyboard does make editing spreadsheets and similar other jobs much easier.

Therein lies another argument though – that from users who’ve grown up using touchscreens and not using their phones as a work device. They might view this addition as unnecessary and cumbersome.

BlackBerry devices, however have always had a business aspect to them, and BlackBerry is not about to forget that happy hunting ground!

Now what this keyboard does for you and in what ways is it not so good for this device may be discussed later but one point that is worth making here is that the keys here are placed quite closely together and you may almost definitely find yourself punching in the wrong key. As a result, after using the device for a few days you may find yourself using the touchscreen keyboard out of frustration. Now this would not have been an issue if it was not for the extra weight that this keyboard adds to the design. This is a little sad as the trackpad functionality works very well, and makes it easy to move the onscreen cursor to the exact point of text you want to edit or highlight without having to awkwardly prod the Priv’s screen.

Despite its hefty weight, I did find plenty to like about the Priv’s design. With the keyboard hidden the Priv feels a little like a BlackBerry-Samsung hybrid.

The Samsung design comparison begins the moment you see the Priv’s screen, which wraps around the first couple of millimeters of the phone’s long sides – like smaller versions of Samsung’s custom “Edge” displays.

However, flip it over and the design becomes pure BlackBerry. The phone has a “woven” carbon fibre back emblazoned with BlackBerry’s logo.

USB Type-C is rapidly becoming the new standard in mobile and tablet designs. It promises to offer significantly faster charging and data transfer speeds than the older Micro USB standard.

Fingerprint scanners are en-vogue in smartphones at the moment, designed to make it easier for users to secure their handsets. They’ve appeared on numerous other top-end Android smartphones, such as theGalaxy S6, Xperia Z, OnePlus 2, Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P.

This device does not inculcate in a fingerprint scanner, which is a little odd. The lack of a fingerprint scanner is partially made up for via the addition of a picture password option. The picture password options make it so you have to drag a chosen number on a randomised grid displayed over a picture to a preset point. The grid changes each time you try to unlock the phone, so people can’t guess it by looking at smudge patterns on the glass!

BlackBerry Priv
Hardware & Performance
12 Nov, 2015
Zayer Wadood
  • Processor
    Snapdragon 808
  • CPU Clock Speed
    1.8, 1.44 GHz
  • Graphics Processor
    Adreno 418
  • RAM
    3 GB
  • RAM Type
    LPDDR3 SDRAM
  • Inbuilt Storage
    32 GB
  • Max Expandable Storage
    200
  • Battery Capacity
    3410 mAh
  • Standby Time (on 2G)
    -
  • Standby Time (on 3G)
    420
  • Wireless Charging
    No

The Blackberry Priv is powered by a hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor and 3 GB of DDR3 RAM. Considering  50,000-plus smartphone space, where octa-core processing is currently all the rage, these specs do not make this device a winner – not that the number of cores means much anyway. But people somehow transform into bean-counters, leavening their decision on a spec-sheet, for some reason nowadays!

In that form of thought, there could never ever be a winner in an F1 race! But people don’t consider that fly in the ointment.

The benchmark scores for a device this expensive are a little low and disappointing. However, in real world use, the phone does run quite hassle free and was more than fast enough for web browsing, video streaming, document editing and 3D gaming 90% of the time.

As for the remaining 10%, the phone does heat up quite inexplicitly. At first, the heating is normal as in just about the amount other handsets get heated up. A few weeks into the use of this device and it does heat up while performing simple tasks like checking Facebook or listening to music. This is very rare but nonetheless is troublesome. Might be a software issue, that BlackBerry may be able to resolve OTA.

BlackBerry Priv
OS & Interface
12 Nov, 2015
Zayer Wadood
  • OS in the Box
    Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • OS Upgradable To
    Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • Manufacturer UI
    None
  • Personal Assistant
    Google Now

The BlackBerry Priv runs using Google’s Android 5.1 Lollipop operating system, not the firm’s BlackBerry OS.

BlackBerry claims it’s taken a very light touch with Android, and hasn’t messed around with the OS’ core code too much – as competing firms, such as Samsung, HTC and Huawei, do with their respective Android skins.

However, this doesn’t mean the Priv is running an untouched version of Android!

BlackBerry has loaded the OS with more custom features and applications than can easily be counted. Previously, reviewers and users both have reviewed this negatively and it is considered as bloatware – for devices from other brands.

With BlackBerry, it is a completely different case. Hats off to BlackBerry for making me use their customization ahead of the default Android icons. Most of the additions are unquestionable and in a way perfect.

BlackBerry’s additions generally focus on two areas: productivity and privacy.
The Blackberry Hub, pop-up widgets and the productivity tab are the main features under the productivity front.

BlackBerry Hub replaces Android’s main email app on the Priv. It works the same way it does on BlackBerry OS and lets you collect alerts and messages from numerous services, including Gmail, Outlook, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Calendar into one place. It also boasts filtering options that let you control which account is displaying at any one time.

Pop-up widgets are accessed by flicking up from the applications’ shortcut icons. They let you set specific peak views to certain features.

For example, on Twitter you can set them to show incoming messages, or mentions, while on email you can use them to bring up a peek view of a specific folder.

The productivity tab is one of a select few features that tries to take advantage of the screen’s curves. It’s accessed by swiping left from the phone’s long right-hand edge. It features customisable shortcuts to four applications. Out of the box these include the Hub, Calendar, Tasks and Contacts apps, though you change them to whatever you want.

My only issue with the Priv’s software is that it can be a little too aggressive at pushing BlackBerry services. Within seconds of powering the phone up I was flooded with notifications telling me I should try out BlackBerry Messenger and use the Hub instead of the email app.

From there I was hounded by the alerts on a near hourly basis. This is fine if you’re happy using BlackBerry’s add-ons, but it’ll be annoying if you want to stick to Google Android’s in-built services.

BlackBerry Priv
Camera
12 Nov, 2015
Zayer Wadood
  • Rear Camera
  • Image Resolution
    18 MP
  • Video Capture Resolution
    3840 x 2160 (UHD)
  • Aperture
    2.2
  • Flash Type
    Dual LED
  • Image Stabilization
    Optical
  • Optical Zoom
    -
  • Digital Zoom
    4x
  • Front Camera
  • Image Resolution
    2 MP
  • Video Capture Resolution
    720 - HD
  • Aperture
    2.8

The camera setup that you get with this device is overall, a very decent one. You get an 18 megapixel rear shooter and a 2 megapixel front facing camera.

The rear camera does tick all the boxes and comes with optical image stabilisation (OIS), phase-detection autofocus and optics made under license from renowned lens specialist Schneider-Kreuznach.

The camera under optimum lighting can take great pictures which are sharp and have excellent colours.

The new camera app also adds some cool features like the manual exposure controls, optional auto-HDR and more colour filters than you can shake a stick at, making it easy for amateurs to take some artistic-looking shots.

The snaps under optimal shooting conditions are as good as they should be, in this segment. The low light shots however, are not at the same level. They are better than some devices but fall behind with the competition.

The auto focus too goes a little haywire when the shooting conditions are not ideal.

The front camera too has the same characteristic with good selfies and videos under lights. Try clicking a snap under low light conditions and you will be left a little disappointed.

BlackBerry Priv
Entertainment
12 Nov, 2015
Zayer Wadood
  • Download & Play Media Directly
    Yes
  • FM Radio
    No
  • Sound Enhancement
    None
  • Stream-out (Wired)
    Micro USB, Aux 3.5
  • Stream-out (Wireless)
    Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-fi, Wi-fi Direct
  • Game Center
    Yes

Entertainment on this device is good enough taking into account the good display and the decent performance of the phone.

The sound quality is also good and can be pegged at ‘a little above average’. The built-in speaker at the phone’s bottom has the same weedy, slightly tinny sound as most smartphones.

However, it’s good enough to take calls on, and the microphone performs well too.

BlackBerry Priv
Business & Security
12 Nov, 2015
Zayer Wadood
  • Parental Controls
    Yes
  • Phone Access Protection
    Pattern, Password, PIN
  • Biometric Security
    None
  • Restrictions
    Tier-2 (Applications Access), Capable
  • Lost Device Locator
    Blackberry Protect, Android Device Manager
  • Remote Wiping of Device
    Yes

BlackBerry Hub replaces Android’s main email app on the Priv. It works the same way it does on BlackBerry OS and lets you collect alerts and messages from numerous services, including Gmail, Outlook, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Calendar into one place. It also boasts filtering options that let you control which account is displaying at any one time.

The Blackberry Priv does not use the in-trend fingerprint scanner. Instead it uses a picture password option. The picture password options make it so you have to drag a chosen number on a randomised grid displayed over a picture to a preset point. The grid changes each time you try to unlock the phone, so people can’t guess it by looking at smudge patterns on the glass.

Next
BlackBerry Priv
USP
12 Nov, 2015
Zayer Wadood
  • Android operating system with BlackBerry services
  • 5.4-inch, Quad HD AMOLED display
  • Qualcomm 808 CPU
  • Physical keyboard

 

 

BlackBerry Priv
Our Verdict
12 Nov, 2015
Zayer Wadood

Rate this Device

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars

If you need a business phone or if you take your privacy very seriously, you can very well consider this the device for you.

The Priv is a great device that has all of Android’s perks and in addition has BlackBerry’s advanced productivity and privacy services atop those.

BlackBerry has also announced an update to Android Marshmallow in the new year, it’s also one of the more futureproof options at the moment.

Having said all that, the design with its physical keyboard is a throwback and also the performance of this phone though reasonable is not up to the standards of the competing devices which is something to consider at a price tag of about INR 50,000.